Over the last few weeks I have written about family reunification in Canada’s immigration system. The focus has been on sponsorship of spouses, partners, dependent children, and in some cases parents or grandparents. This week I will be writing about the special circumstances in which you may be able to sponsor another family member such as a brother or sister, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle or even grandchild.
Can You Sponsor?
In order to be eligible to sponsor certain relatives you have to be:
- at least 18 years old,
- a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered under the Canadian Indian Act, and
- must be able to support the family member you are sponsoring financially.
The financial support requirement is intended to ensure you and the family member you sponsor can meet basic needs for food, accommodation and living expenses and that your relative will not turn to social assistance. Therefore you must be able to demonstrate your income level meets the necessary Low Income Cut Off (LICO) and you must provide an undertaking that your relative will not use social assistance for up to 20 years from the time he or she becomes a permanent resident of Canada.
Who Can You Sponsor?
There are two groups of family members that you may be able to sponsor:
1) An orphaned close relative: If you have a brother/sister, nephew/niece or grandchild who is orphaned, is under 18 years of age and is single, you can apply to sponsor this family member.
2) Other relative: You may be able to sponsor one relative who is related to you by blood or adoption, irrespective of their age, if you can meet all conditions, including:
- a) you can demonstrate that you do not have a relative that you could sponsor instead, such as a spouse, child, parent or grandparent, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, niece or nephew
- b) you do not have any of these enumerated relatives who are already Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
For example, if you are a Canadian citizen and do not have any relatives in Canada and are single and without a child, you may be able to sponsor a cousin that is related to you by blood. However, if you are married or have a sibling or other close relative who is a permanent resident or citizen of Canada, you would not be able to sponsor such a family member from abroad.
Nevertheless, if you have family members in Canada you may still be able to sponsor an orphaned family member if you meet both the remaining conditions.
Irrespective of whether they are orphaned or another relative, the person you are trying to sponsor must meet the requirements for immigration to Canada. The person will need to undergo medical exams, criminal checks and background checks.
What are your Responsibilities Towards your Sponsored Family Member?
Sponsorship applications for family members described in this article currently take on average 33 months to complete. So, what are your responsibilities when your family member finally receives his or her permanent residence and joint you in Canada?
As explained above, you are required to provide a financial undertaking of up to 20 years for the person that you sponsor. Once your family member lands in Canada as a permanent resident there is no way in which you can withdraw your undertaking.
The exact length of the undertaking is determined by the age of person you sponsor and their relationship to you. However, what is clear is that you are financially responsible for meeting the basic needs of your relative for that time.
If the relative that you sponsor uses social assistance during the undertaking period you will be required to pay back the amount to the government. If you owe an outstanding debt for the social assistance used by your relative during the undertaking period, you cannot sponsor any other family member until you have paid off your debt.
If you live in the province of Quebec and wish to sponsor a family member, you must also meet the conditions of the province for you to be approved as a sponsor. In addition to signing an undertaking with the province of Quebec, in some cases you will need to undergo additional steps such as a psychological examination if you are sponsoring a child. The requirements of the province of Quebec are in addition to the federal requirements set out above.
And if your family members are not eligible to be sponsored, they may still qualify under another immigration program, such as the skilled worker program, and may still be able to join you in Canada if they submit a successful immigration application.
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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.