The federal government will start issuing open work permits to help the spouses of Canadians already living in the country but waiting for permanent residency, under a one-year pilot program launched today.
The one-year pilot program comes after the CBC Go Public team reported that thousands of Canadian families are living in limbo, unable to work and without health coverage, due to lengthy processing times in their sponsorship applications.
"As we promised, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is launching a pilot program that will allow spouses being sponsored under the Inland Spousal Sponsorship program to receive their work permits much sooner while we process their applications," a spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander told CBC News on Monday.
"This ensures that they can provide for their families and contribute to Canada's economy at the same time," Kevin Ménard told CBC News in an email.
Blair Hacche, a New Zealand man and his Canadian fiancée Jenn Ward live in Dorchester, Ont., with their 13-month-old son Dexter and six-year-old Ewan — Ward's son from a previous relationship.
Hacche, who has been in Canada since February 2013, was facing more than a year wait when he submitted his application for permanent residency this past July.
"[It's] definitely been a struggle financially to keep the mortgage paid and keep up with all the bills. That's definitely the biggest strain," Hacche told the CBC Go Public team last Monday.
'Godsend if it works out'
Reached by CBC News after the details of the pilot program were made public, Hacche said he would fill out the necessary forms right away.
"I will be posting an application today and hoping for quick processing. It will be an absolute godsend if it works out and happens reasonably quickly," Hacche said in an email to CBC's Rosa Marchitelli.
Existing applicants, who have been waiting in certain cases upwards of 18 months, could see their open work permit applications processed within a matter of weeks, while new applicants could see their permit applications processed within four months.
An open work permit allows applicants to work for any employer for a specified period of time while their permanent residence applications are processed.
This would also allow the applicants to receive provincial health coverage while awaiting permanent residency.