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January 16, 2014

Sponsorship of parents and grandparents dramatically changed

Edward C. Corrigan

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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.[1]

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.[2]

Minister Kenney added, “We actually have by far the highest levels of immigration in the developed world and the highest sustained levels in our history.”

We also have the most generous family reunification programs. We’re one of the only countries I know of, for example, that even allows grandparents to be sponsored. We allow far more parents and family members to be sponsored than most other developed countries in relative terms, but there are limits. Governments over the course of the past few decades, on average, have chosen as a matter of policy to admit on average about 17,000 parents and grandparents per year.[3]

Minister Kenney, at the press conference, explained why Canada was limiting the number of parents and grandparents coming to Canada.

Well, let me state the obvious reason. Elderly people place a much greater burden on the public health care system, a public health care system that is already in crisis, where costs are growing much faster than the economy, much faster than the population, where emergency wards are overcrowded, where wait times are enormous.

We also know that people over the age of 65 consume over 40 percent of health resources in our system, which is why the vast majority of Canadians oppose the immigration of senior citizens, because they understand that, as much as we love our elderly family members, that there are limits to Canada’s generosity, particularly in our health care system….

But I understand that family reunification is an important part of our tradition of immigration and that we want to permit a responsible degree of family reunification, an amount that we can afford. But what can we afford? We estimate that an average individual between the ages of 65 and 84 consumes some $200,000 in resources in our publicly-ensured health system. That’s one person. Two people, that is to say a sponsored mom and dad coming from abroad at 65 years of age, will consume $400,000 in lifetime healthcare resources, which constitutes about 44 percent of provincial healthcare spending.

Only a very small fraction of sponsored seniors are actually in the workforce. On average, their incomes are extremely low, I think in the range of $13,000 of reported income for sponsored parents and grandparents. … You all know about the problem of healthcare wait times. If we bring in more elderly people, that means there will be longer wait times for everyone, including Canadians, including new Canadians to receive health services.[4]

Minister Kenney also explained another problem with the existing parent and grandparent sponsorship program.

Another challenge we’ve been facing is that a growing number of sponsored seniors end up going on welfare. As you know, for the first ten years of the residency of the sponsored parent, the family in Canada has undertaken to cover any income support costs. If the sponsored parent goes on welfare, then their children have to essentially pay for that. They have to reimburse the government for it. But what we find is, as soon as that ten year sponsorship undertaking period is over, we see a huge increase in the number of sponsored seniors going on welfare.

In fact, over a quarter of the sponsored seniors are receiving welfare benefits after the ten year undertaking, which is a great concern. Families say to me they want to bring their parents to Canada, not to be a burden on Canadian taxpayers, but apparently a large and growing number actually do end up being a burden. This is not reasonable.

I also have to tell you that, recently, I’ve been receiving a growing number of expressions of concern from municipal public housing authorities who tell me that they are seeing a growing number of sponsored senior citizens qualifying for and moving into subsidized social housing.

I simply do not understand why someone would apply to bring their parents to Canada from the other side of the world only then to put them into social housing. If this was about family reunification, what is going on? It seems to me that sort of thing constitutes an abuse of Canada’s generosity. That’s why we need to have reasonable limits on this kind of program, in line with the limited resources of Canadian taxpayers.[5]

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Kenney then went on to explain the changes that were being made to the Parental and Grandparent Sponsorship program.

First of all, I can announce that we plan to continue with the high level of admissions of parents and grandparents as permanent residents. As I’ve said, we’ve been admitting in 2012 and 2013, 25,000 a year. I anticipate we will continue at about that level. We make that decision on an annual basis, but I anticipate you’ll continue to see historic high levels of admissions as we clear the backlog.

Secondly, I’m announcing that we are making the super visa a permanent feature of our immigration system. Again providing a wonderful and flexible long-term option for visits by parents and grandparents.[6]

Under the Super Visa program visitors must pass medicals and also have private health care coverage in order to be approved to come to Canada. Minister Kenney explained that for elderly visitors to Canada: “This gives them that flexibility, but it also protects Canadian taxpayers because it ensures that they do not become entitled to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of benefits in our public healthcare system.”[7]

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 Application that will be accepted in this category.  Kenney indicated that, “We will only be receiving 5,000 applications in 2014, so that we can continue to reduce the backlog.” He added, “the 5,000 applications actually represents more people because typically we get about two people in each application. Effectively, this means that 10,000 persons will be eligible to apply for the permanent residency sponsorship in 2014… We expect it to stay at around that level of 25,000 a year.”[8]

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.[9]

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 percent above the low income cut-off “(LICO). The Minister explained:

Currently the minimum necessary income to sponsor for two people in Canada to sponsor two people from abroad creating a household of four people would be $42,000 currently. With the increase in the minimum necessary income, that will go up to $55,000. This is a relatively modest increase. It ensures that the program continues to be accessible to people, to middle class families, but it helps to ensure that people do not become a burden on Canadian taxpayers, which is what people say they want to avoid in any event.[10]

The following chart outlines the new financial requirements. [11]

Size of family unit, with

Current Minimum  (MNI)

Plus 30%

2 persons

$28,182

$36,636

3 persons

$34,646

$45,039

4 persons

$42,065

$54,684

5 persons

$47,710

$62,023

6 persons

$53,808

$69,950

7 persons

$59,907

$77,879

For each additional person

$6,099

$7,928

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.[12]

SPONSORSHIP UNDERTAKING LENGTHENED

  1. 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.[13]

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. This was a reduction from the previous 22 year limit and also eliminated the full time student category.  Once an individual reach the age of 19 they were no longer eligible to be sponsored in as a dependent.  There still is an exemption for medically or handicapped dependent children.[14]

Once an individual reached the age of 19 they would have to apply as a skilled worker or under the Canadian Experience Class or by way of a Spousal sponsorship or another Immigration category.

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 statement was taken from the CIC website on December 20, 2013.

A proposal to reduce the age of dependents from under 22 to under 19 was pre-published in the Canada Gazette Part I on May 18, 2013, along with the proposed regulatory changes to the PGP program.

The proposal to change the age of dependent children will not be coming into force at the time the PGP program re-opens on January 2, 2014.[15]

 

Below is the current definition of a Dependent Child.

Dependent child

A child who depends on their parent for financial and other support. A son or daughter is considered a dependant of their parent when the child is:

  • under 22 years old, and does not have a spouse or partner, or
  • a full-time student on an ongoing basis since before the age of 22, and has depended largely on a parent’s financial support since that time, or
  • 22 years old and over, and
  • became a spouse or partner before the age of 22, and
  • has been a full-time student on an ongoing basis since before the age of 22,and
  • has depended largely on a parent’s financial support since they became a spouse or partner, or
  • 22 years old and over, and has depended largely on the parent’s financial support since before the age of 22 because of a physical or mental condition.

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-opens on January 2, 2014. There are new forms that must be used. At the time of writing the new forms are not available on the CIC website. According to a Notice Posted on the new CIC Website the new forms are to be made available on December 31, 2013. No new applications will be accepted for processing before the program re-opens on January 2, 2014. Fee payment to the Receiver General for Canada will be accepted by credit card or certified cheque only.

This is the Notice posted on new Citizenship and Immigration web site on December 21, 2013.

New parent and grandparent sponsorship application forms, guide and information on how to apply will be available on December 31, 2013.

All new applications must be completed using the new forms.

No new applications will be accepted for processing before the program re-opens on January 2, 2014.

To allow for the counting of the cap in a fair and equitable manner, applications must be individually packaged and delivered to CIC’s Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, Ontario exclusively by mail or by courier only.

Fee payment to the Receiver General for Canada will be accepted on or after January 2, 2014 by credit card or certified cheque only.[17]

As noted by CIC on their web site “Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand do not allow grandparents to be sponsored at all or only in very limited circumstances, and they have very restrictive criteria for the sponsorship of parents.”[18]

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[19] 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 corriganlaw@corrigan.ca or at (519) 439-4015.

_____________________________

[1] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/times/perm/fc-parents.asp.  Downloaded December 17, 2013.

[2] Link at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/speeches/2013/2013-05-10.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2013/2013-05-10.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[10] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/speeches/2013/2013-05-10.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[11] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/action-plan-fam.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013. 2013.

[12] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/action-plan-fam.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[13] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/speeches/2013/2013-05-10.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[14] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/speeches/2013/2013-05-10.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[15] See  http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?q=821&t=14 Accessed December 19, 2013.

[16] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/glossary.asp#family_members. Accessed December 20, 2013.Accessed December 20, 2013.

[17] Link at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/sponsor/relatives.asp. Accessed December 17, 2013.

[18] See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2013/2013-05-10.asp.  Accessed December 17, 2013.

[19] See “Harper aims to breathe new life into government with cabinet shakeup,” by Gloria Galloway, Josh Wingrove, Steve Chase and John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail, July, 15 2013.

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