By Lisa Ramkissoon
Citizenship and Immigration Canada previously suspended sponsorship of parents and grandparents since November 4, 2011 but announced last Friday that the program will reopen on January 2014. This bar was an Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification in Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada will re-open new program for Parent and Grandparent (PGP) program on January 2, 2014. The government is hoping that by January 2014 the backlog and wait times in the program will be cut in half.
“The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification is on track to meet the goals of cutting in half the backlog and wait times in the Parent and Grandparent program,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “It is very important that we continue to make progress and not return to the old broken system with wait times as long as a decade-that would be unfair to families.”
The Minister introduced on May 10, 2013 Phase II of the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification to provide even faster processing times, reduce the backlog further, prevent future backlogs, ensure that families have the financial means to support those they sponsor, and protect the interests of taxpayers.
Some of the changes to be expected are that first in 2012 and 2013, Canada will admit 50,000 parents and grandparents as permanent residents. This figure represents the highest level of parents and grandparents admitted in 20 years. In 2014, Canada will maintain high levels of admissions to parents and grandparents.
Secondly, the Super Visa will become permanent and will continue to provide flexibility for families who can apply for a 10-year multiple-entry visa, allowing visa holders to remain in Canada up to two years at a time. To date, over 15,000 Super Visas have been issued since the program’s launch in December 2011 with approval rates averaging 86 percent.
Thirdly, the new qualifying criteria for permanent residency sponsorship of parents and grandparents will increase the financial responsibility of sponsors to ensure they have the means to support those they sponsor, while limiting the program’s cost to taxpayers and Canada’s strained health and social programs. The reasoning behind this was outlined in the Regulatory Impact Assessment Statement and mainly as a result of new arrivals applying for social assistance and sponsors failing to maintain their promise of support to parents.
It is proposed that 5,000 new sponsorship applications will be accepted in the program in 2014. By accepting 5,000 applications in 2014 while maintaining high levels, the government will be able to further reduce the remaining backlog so that families can be reunited more quickly. In November 2011 when the bar was placed on sponsorships, the processing time was five to 10 years. The possibility of alleviating the hardships that some parents were facing overseas were becoming far from reality.
Minister Kenny said, “these new criteria ensure sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada.” “The redesigned Parent and Grandparent program reunites families faster while respecting Canadian taxpayers and the limited resources for health and social programs.”
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.
One of the final amendments to come into effect on January 2014 is the reduction age of dependent children who will accompany parents on their immigration to Canada. The current age of dependent children introduced on June 28, 2002 with the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is 21 years and under. The exception to dependent that is over 21 years old was for children who were full time students in school. As of January 2014 the age limitation imposed will be 18 years and younger.
An overall assessment of the upcoming changes, it is not in keeping with the existing immigration objectives of promoting family reunification in Canada. We just have to wait and see if after many consultations by the government, that the qualifying criteria will be amended and that the dependent’s age will also change or remain at 21 years.