I have written previously about the spousal sponsorship appeal hearing.
This is the most common type of appeal before the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD).
The appeal is from a refusal by an overseas visa officer (Note - there is no appeal for a "In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship") of a spousal sponsorship application. Typically 'red-flags' alert a visa officer - this can be in the form of incompatibilities, such as a disparity in age, education, social/linguistic background; or it could be a poor performance at an interview and the applicant displays a lack of knowledge of the sponsor.
The sponsor (a Canadian citizen or permanent resident) has to file a Notice to Appeal within 30 days of receiving the decision. The Notice of Appeal can be faxed.
The visa officer generally takes issue with the bona fides or 'genuineness' of the relationship. On some occasions, there may be an issue with the legal validity of the marriage (for example, a sponsorship will be refused if the marriage is not in accordance with the laws of that particular country; China/PRC for example does not recognize cousin-cousin marriages; other countries may have an age requirement). If there is an issue with the legal validity of the marriage, it may make more sense to attempt to cure the deficiency and re-apply.
There may be a possibility that the matter may be resolved through the ADR process (see my previous posts on this topic). If ADR is not an option, or the ADR didn't resolve the matter in the sponsor's favour, a full hearing will be scheduled. This is heard before the IAD. Unfortunately, this can take well over a year from the time the Notice of Appeal is filed.
The general practice in the Western Region is to call both the sponsor and the applicant as witnesses (the applicant appearing via teleconference).
Questions are asked as to the genesis, development/evolution of the relationship along with questions that explore the reasons for the visa officer's refusal in the first instance. In most cases, questions will be asked as to the knowledge each of the parties has as to their respective lives. It is essential to establish contact and post-marriage behavior of the parties (I have written previously as to the factors the IAD examines).
The sponsor and applicant should remember that this is an adversarial proceeding - that is, the hearings officer will cross-examine the witnesses and test credibility. This can be an uncomfortable experience, especially if the sponsor and applicant have not been prepared in advance.
If the appeal is granted, the decision of the visa officer is set aside and the visa office is required to continue processing the application for permanent residence. The applicant/overseas spouse will be required to provide updated police clearance/medical examination to the visa office. Unfortunately, it may take another year before the couple is reunited in Canada.
If the appeal is not granted, the couple has very limited avenues of recourse. An application for judicial review to the Federal Court is one option, however, individuals should realize the considerable deference granted to decisions of the IAD.