- The parental sponsorship program reopened in January after 2 years of catching up with backlog applications.
- New tougher criteria were introduced with a low quota of only 5,000 applications for the year
- Canadians are divided as to whether or not they see elderly immigrants as a burden to the welfare system
With its generous immigration policy, Canada allows sponsorship of parents and grandparents living abroad. It's clear that immigrants need support because the settling process is long and strenuous; money is scarce, so traveling overseas usually becomes possible only after several years of hard work and intensive saving. In fact, some of the new arrivals in Canada may never see their parents again.
On January 2, 2014, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) re-opened the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship program, which was put on hiatus back in 2011. The Canadian government decided to stop accepting applications at the time because it had to deal with a backlog of some 165,000 applications, with a waiting period estimated at eight years.
To speed up the process, a new Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification was initiated. As a result, more applications were reviewed, and, subsequently, a lot of visas were issued. The statistics show that in 2012 and 2013 over 50,000 parents and grandparents came to Canada as permanent residents. That's the largest number in more than 20 years.
However, when the Program was relaunched at the beginning of this year, it introduced new tougher criteria and a limit of 5,000 applications. Despite that limit, the government will issue a total 20,000 because it's still tackling that backlog.
Remi Lariviere, a spokesman for CIC, was quoted by Canadian media as saying that the applications will be considered in the order they've been received. He also noted that it was “premature to speculate” on how fast would that limit of 5,000 applications be reached. However, forms with missing information will be disregarded and returned. If an application was submitted after the cap has been filled, it will be sent back to the sponsor, according to Lariviere.
Basic Requirements for Becoming a Sponsor
Every potential sponsor must:
- be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident over 18 years of age;
- prove their relationship to the individual(s) they want to sponsor;
- sign a parental sponsorship agreement declaring that they will financially support newly arrived relatives;
- meet the minimum financial criteria for the past three years.
- The Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) increases by 30%. If you wish to sponsor a parent or grandparent, your MNI for the last three years will be considered, and it must exceed the minimum requirement for the Program. The Government just wants to make sure that you are financially capable of caring for an elderly family member. For instance, before the new regulations, a family of three needed a minimum income of $34,646 to sponsor a relative. Now, it jumps to $45,039.
- Extending the period for proof of income from one to three years, using only documents issued by the Canada Revenue Agency.
- The parental sponsorship period is being extended from 10 years to 20 years after the relative obtains status as a Canadian permanent resident. If the sponsored parent or grandparent receives any social assistance benefits during that period, the sponsor must repay them back to the province of residence.
The official critics of the Program and many ordinary Canadians believe that immigrant elderly parents and grandparents are a burden on the country's welfare and health-care system. However, no solid evidence has been presented so far to back up such assumptions.
On the other side, CBC News has quoted Jamie Liew, a refuge lawyer and an assistant professor of law at the University of Ottawa, who said that the government is sending a “message of mistrust” by imposing the tougher regulations. Canadians may get the impression that, so far, their taxpaying interests have not been protected, and that is not the case. "Painting a picture that persons coming from abroad may not be contributing members of society is untrue," Liew said.
Defending the government's decision, Citizen and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in October that the new requirements are only to ensure that families have the means to financially support their loved ones.
Opponents, however, say that to reunite families should be a moral concern instead of an economic calculation. Immigrating to a foreign country causes enough emotional anguish. Leaving one's parents behind indefinitely only adds to the agony. The worst part, they say, is that the Program directly excludes low-income immigrants, robbing them of the possibility of reuniting with their family. Plus, the permitted 5,000 applications immediately spell out disappointment for the hundreds of thousands of new immigrants admitted into Canada every year.
So if you are thinking of preparing a parental sponsorship application, search for the right information and seek help. That way your chances will increase despite the low quota.