By Zeynab Ziaie-
One of the important objectives of Canadian immigration policy is family reunification. There are opportunities, albeit limited, for citizens and permanent residents to be reunited with their closest family members. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor spouses, dependent children and in some cases their parents or grandparents if they meet the criteria set out by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Canada’s programs have become more restrictive over the past two decades. Specifically the parents and grandparent sponsorship program (PGSP) was closed for three years and reopened in 2014 with a quota of just 5,000 applications. The program operated on a first-come, first-served basis and in each year the annual quota was filled in a matter of days. This year, IRCC announced that it would increase the quota to 10,000 applications and introduced a new lottery system for selecting those who can apply to sponsor.
Interested applicants were given the opportunity to register their interest to apply for the PGSP online. It is estimated that more than 95,000 people registered their interest to participate in the program between January 3 to February 2, 2017. On April 24, 2017, IRCC began sending responses to the thousands of successful and unsuccessful registrants. The responses were only sent by email and applicants have been provided with a limited time to apply. The deadline for submitting complete applications is 90 days from the date the notices were sent (around July 24th) and is fast approaching.
There is an important catch: even those who have been lucky enough to be selected in this year’s lottery should carefully assess if they are eligible to apply and meet all the requirements of the program. There was no assessment of whether the 95,000 registrants met the minimum requirements, which means that there are going to be registrants who received good news emails but cannot submit a successful application to sponsor. All registrants who receive positive emails from IRCC should ensure that they meet all the legal requirements (such as having the necessary minimum income for the three years preceding the date of application: see summary below) and that they submit a complete application. Incomplete and ineligible applications will be returned by IRCC.
IRCC’s latest efforts are an attempt to make the system more fair and further reduce the backlog of sponsorship cases, which at their peak reached upwards of 100,000 applications in 2011. Up to now IRCC has received less than 1,000 applications from the 10,000 invitations they sent out in April. While more applications are anticipated to reach IRCC as we get closer to the deadline there may not be enough applications to fill this year’s quota. It is not yet clear what IRCC will do but there is a chance that they may run another lottery for qualified applicants later in the year.
If you are not one of the lucky qualified applicants invited to apply this year, do not worry. There are still other options for inviting your parents or grandparents to join you in Canada, albeit on a temporary basis such as the Super Visa or a multiple entry visitor visa. And, of course, there is always next year or the next round of the lottery.
Eligibility Requirement for Parent & Grandparent Sponsorship
In order to sponsor, you must:
- be 18 years of age or older;
- be a Canadian citizen, Registered Indian or permanent resident;
- be sponsoring your parent or grandparent;
- live in Canada;
- sign an undertaking promising to provide for the basic requirements of the person being sponsored for a period of 20 years;
- sign an agreement with the person you are sponsoring that confirms that each of you understands your mutual obligations and responsibilities;
- prove that you have sufficient income to provide the basic requirements for your family members in Canada as well as the persons included in your sponsorship undertaking. You may also have a co-signer.
The minimum necessary income requirement is based on the size of your family and the number of people you are sponsoring and is assessed based on your income from the three years preceding your application. For example for a family of three sponsoring both their mother and father, the applicant (along with a potential co-signer) would need to show income of at least $64,791 in 2014, $65,377 in 2015 and $66,654. This amount varies based on the number of people in the family and those being sponsored. The income is verified based on proof of income from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Note: This information is not intended as legal advice or opinion. You should always seek specialized legal advice with regards to your situation as the facts of each case are unique and the application of law varies in every case.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.