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On November 5, 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) imposed a two year moratorium on new applications to sponsor parents or grandparents. A new option was provided where parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents could apply for the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa in order to visit Canada. This procedure would allow parents and grandparents to visit Canada for up to two years and the visa would be valid for ten years.
The halt in accepting parents and grandparent sponsorships was to allow CIC to reduce its large backlog in these types of applications. It was taking as long as eight years to process these sponsorships to completion.
Citizenship and Immigration Minster Jason Kenney in a news conference held on May 10, 2013 described the problem as follows:
If we applied that [old] policy, we’d be on track for a backlog of 272,000 people by 2015 in this program, waiting for 16 years. That’s not acceptable. That’s not good enough for new Canadians. Instead, as a result of these efforts, we're on track for a backlog of 43,000 in 2015 and one to two year wait times.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration then announced that Canada was reopening the sponsorship of parents and grandparents in January 2014. However, a limit was being placed on the number of applications that will be accepted in this category.
According to CIC Parent and Grandparent admission levels are being set at 20,000 in 2014. A limit of 5,000 new applications are being set for new applications for a total expected of 9,000 new sponsored parents and grandparents coming to Canada. Efforts are to continue to reduce the backlog for these types of sponsorship applications.
Change in financial criteria
Minister Kenney also outlined at the press conference the significant changes that were being made to the Parental and Grandparent Sponsorship program. The current criterion is that the sponsors "must have a minimum necessary income that’s established at the low income cut-off, which means above the poverty line effectively."
"That is why, as part of our reforms," Minister Kenney announced that "as of 2014, to qualify to sponsor your parents or grandparents; the minimum necessary income will be assessed at 30 per cent above the low income cut-off (LICO)."
Objective financial information required
Another important change is that sponsors will be required to submit their notices of tax assessment from the Canadian Revenue Agency as proof of income for the preceding three years. Previously one year of proof of income was required. No other form of evidence of financial status is now going to be accepted.
Sponsorship undertaking lengthened
Also being changed is the length of the Sponsorship undertaking. CIC is now imposing a 20 year sponsorship undertaking instead of the previous 10 year undertaking. This undertaking meant that the sponsor and the co-sponsor were responsible for the sponsored individual for all of their living expenses for the length of the undertaking.
The government found that when the 10 year undertaking expired that many sponsored individuals were going on social assistance. To stop this "abuse" the period of responsibility was being extended to 20 years.
Change in definition of dependent
A significant change was also made in the defining of the age of dependents that were to be allowed to be sponsored into Canada with their parents. Previously the age of dependents was until the age of 22 or they were still a full time student and dependent on their parents. The new policy being imposed was that dependent children had to be 18 years or younger. There still is an exemption for medically or handicapped dependent children.
This change in the definition of who qualified as a dependent will also affect the dependents of Immigration Applicants in all categories.
It appears, however, that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is rethinking this proposed change. This change is presently on hold.
It remains to be seen what CIC will do with this proposal to change the definition of Dependent Child. However, if you are applying to immigrate to Canada and have dependents who are over the age 18 you should file those applications on an urgent basis. Applications must be completed using new forms.
The New Parent and Grandparent program re-opened on January 2, 2014. There are new forms that must be used. According to a notice posted on the new CIC website, the new forms were to be made available on December 31, 2013. No new applications were to be accepted for processing before the program re-opened.
It remains to be seen how these substantial changes will affect the parental and grandparent family class sponsorship process. Some of the changes like lowering the age for dependent children could drive away some families as their dependent children are still in school but over the age of what Canada now defines what is a dependent child. Canada stands to lose a fair number of foreign educated university graduates as well as their parents if they do not want to leave their children over the age of 18 behind.
The changes to parent and grandparent immigration to Canada certainly addresses the problem of a lengthy backlog in the parent and grandparent sponsorship process by the imposition of limits on the number of applications to be accepted each year. Extending the period of financial responsibility for sponsored individuals from 10 years to 20 years should reduce abuse of the social safety net and potentially reduce some pressure on the Canadian health care system.
Canada, however, needs to remember that we are not the only country that accepts immigrants. Canada needs new immigrants to help maintain the necessary number of individuals to maintain and grow our economy and to support our social safety net for all Canadians.
It remains to be seen how these new changes will impact Canada’s immigration program. Chris Alexander, Canada’s new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who was appointed in July 15, 2013 and succeeded Jason Kenney, will have to deal with these questions.
Edward C. Corrigan is a lawyer certified as a Specialist in Citizenship and Immigration Law and Immigration and Refugee Protection by the Law Society of Upper Canada in London, Ontario, Canada. He is also a graduate of the University of Western Ontario. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: flickr/Jeff Nelson