On April 16, 2018, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced an update to the policy regarding medical inadmissibility under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The changes that will come into effect on June 1, 2018, will enable more applicants for permanent residence to be approved even if they have a medical condition or disability that may have previously rendered them inadmissible to Canada because of “excessive demand” on the Canadian health care and social services system.
In November 2017 I wrote in depth about the requirement for all applicants for immigration to Canada to undergo medical examinations. Some classes of immigration such as spousal sponsorship or refugees are exempt from medical inadmissibility regulations. However, for many applicants, if the applicant or any accompanying family member has a medical condition that “may cause excessive demand on existing social or health services provided by the government” they can be found medically inadmissible.
The threshold for “excessive” demand was set at $6,655 per year (based on 2017 figures), meaning if the officer determined that an applicant would require care and social services in excess of this amount they would be deemed medically inadmissible.
However, this approach has long been criticised as being out-of-date and out-of-touch with Canada’s current approach to inclusion and disabilities.
Annually approximately 1,000 applicants are denied immigration to Canada because of medical inadmissibility, with at least a quarter of these being families that have children who require special education services that will cost more than the minimum threshold. This means hundreds of applicants are refused each year under the provision because they or their children have a health condition or disability that can’t be accommodated by Canadian society.
The new policy that will be effective as of June 1st will make two important changes:
- It will increase the minimum threshold considerably to $19,965 per year (based on 2017 figures), and
- It will change the definition of “social services” so as to remove references to special education, social and vocational rehabilitation services and personal support services that an applicant may need in Canada.
The aim of this new policy on medical inadmissibility is to better balance the need to protect publicly funded health and social services with Canada’s commitment and views on the inclusion of all persons, including those with disabilities.
To make this policy a reality, the federal government is making important administrative changes including creating a centralized office to make decisions regarding medical inadmissibility, ensuring that information on procedures and requirements are presented in plain-language and that the decision makers and medical officers have updated training to support these changes.
The federal government has been reviewing medical inadmissibility since 2016. However these changes will likely not be the last development in this area. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recommended the full elimination of the medical inadmissibility policy and the federal government is collaborating with the provinces and territories to make this recommendation a reality.
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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.