SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon woman says she’s holding out hope for the day she can see her husband, currently stuck in Honduras, who is awaiting a spousal sponsorship application to go through.

“It’s been about seven months since I’ve seen him,” said Erinn Beech from her Silverwood Heights home. “At this point, I don’t know because I have been having my hopes up and it doesn’t work out. My hope is that I will get to travel soon and get so see him but right now it’s not looking optimistic.”

The reasons for the delay? According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the COVID-19 pandemic means spousal sponsorship applications are taking longer than expected, and Ottawa is prioritizing paperwork for Canadians looking to get back to Canada.

Another hurdle is the shutdown of the Honduran border with no flights coming in and out of the country until at least August, Beech said.

In 2016 after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, Beech travelled to Honduras to teach. There she meant her future husband Felipe.

Beech returned to the Latin American country in 2017 and that’s when Beech and Felipe started seeing each other.

By Dec. 15, 2018 the two were hitched in Honduras before Beech returned to Canada on New Year’s Eve.

A couple of weeks later she filed a spousal sponsorship application with the federal government, hoping to sponsor her husband, bringing him to Saskatoon so they can start their lives together.

According to Canada IRCC, the application process should take about 12 months. But Beech’s application for her husband has been in limbo for 18 months.

“Once we reached that 12-month mark I was really discouraged because I had high hopes that, you know, we did everything correctly, his medical was done and I was approved as his sponsor,” Beech said.

On its website IRCC states due to COVID-19 it cannot process applications normally or provide accurate processing times. The federal agency said in addition to prioritizing applications from Canadians trying to return to Canada, it is also focused on vulnerable people and applications for people who perform or support essential services.

Beech said she and her husband text daily, sharing voice-messages whenever they can, but Beech said she longs for the day he can join her family in Saskatoon.

Finding support on Facebook

Frustrated over the lengthy process to bring her husband to Canada, Beech said she found a Facebook group full of stories from people in situations just like hers. The group is called Canada Spousal Sponsorship Applicants Affected by COVID-19, a private Facebook group.

“They are spouses that are in different countries and they are separated,” she said. “This Facebook group is trying to petition the government, make it aware of our situation and how hard it’s been.”

Beech said the group has been trying to sway Ottawa to resolve the application processing time, keeping them to the 12-month benchmark in place before COVID-19. In a letter to Ottawa, the group states that processing spousal immigration applications should be an essential service during COVID-19.

Beech said she hopes the pandemic turns a corner so she has the ability to travel to Honduras to see her husband.

“We have hope every day that hopefully it will reach the peak and things will be able to change,” Beech said.