Who qualifies as a “dependent child” in a Canadian immigration application? The answer to this important changed on October 24, 2017 when new regulations came into effect allowing certain young adult children to be included in their parents’ immigration application. The aim of these changes is to allow more families to remain together as a family unit and avoid breaking apart families with a view to making Canada a more attractive immigration destination.
Under the age definition of “dependent child”, an applicant for immigration can include his or her children who are below 22 years of age and are unmarried and not in a common-law relationship. In certain circumstances a child who is 22 years and older but has relied financially on his or her parents due to a physical or mental condition may also fit under the definition of dependent child.
This is a return to a similar maximum age that was in effect before August 2014. Prior to August 1st, 2014, if your child was a young adult they could be considered a dependent child until the age of 22 years and in the case of children over 22 years old they could still be considered a dependent if they were full-time students since before turning 22 and were dependent financially on their parents. After August 1st, 2014, the maximum age was set as “less than 19” and did not allow for any exceptions, other than with respect to children who were financially dependent on their parents due to a physical or mental health condition.
The latest changes take us back to a similar maximum age that was in effect prior to August 2014, with one important difference: a clear cut-off for the maximum age to be included as a dependent child. It was previously possible for a child to be over 22 years old but included in his or her parents’ immigration application as long as he or she could demonstrate that he or she was in full-time, continuous education. Assessing whether a child met this definition was not clear and was often a very time consuming process. The new definition is clear: to be included in his or her parents’ immigration application, he or she must be under 22 years of age (apart from a case where there is a documented physical or mental health condition as explained above).
What is the date at which age becomes “Locked-in”?
This is a very important question and will determine whether your child will meet the definition of dependent child or not. Generally, the locked-in age is determined at the time when a complete immigration application for permanent residence is received by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
In cases involving immigration through Quebec, the locked-in date is when the complete application is received by the Quebec immigration authorities. However, there are many immigration programs that are effectively a two-step process and no complete application is submitted until later. For example, many provinces currently have an “Expression of Interest” system in place where interested applicants submit preliminary applications and wait to be selected to proceed with their application.
Similarly, under the “Express Entry” system, you first create a profile with all of your eligibility information and you cannot submit a complete immigration application until you receive an “Invitation to Apply” from IRCC.
In these cases, it is important to note that even if your child is under 22 when you first start the process but they have become 22 years old before you submit your complete immigration application, they will not be locked in and generally will not be deemed to be a dependent.
Limited Time to Add Previously Excluded Young Adult Children to Your Immigration Application
I have been asked by applicants who have recently landed or who have application still under process about how this change in definition will affect their children who were 19, 20 or 21 at the time they submitted their immigration application. The answer will depend on exactly when you submitted your application and how old your child was at that time.
The good news is that for many children who were 19, 20 or 21 at the time their parents applied for immigration between August 1, 2014, and October 24, 2017, and who are unmarried and not in a common-law relationship, there may be an opportunity to either add your child back to your application or apply to sponsor your child. There is however a very limited period of time to act as you must inform IRCC about your dependent child before January 31, 2018.
Whether your application is still in process or you have landed in Canada based on an application between August 2014 and October 2017, the best course of action is to seek legal advice and find out what you can do for any dependent children that was not included in your application before the January 31, 2018, deadline.
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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.