Changes Coming to Parent/Grandparent Sponsorships for the Beginning of 2019

Update: As of December 28, 2018, the Government has not yet announced the details of how they will accept online Expressions of Interest for parent/grandparent sponsorships and have also not indicated the date when they would start being accepted (other than saying that the program would open sometime in January 2019).

At the end of August 2018, the Government of Canada announced that it would be making changes to its intake system for parent and grandparent sponsorship applications when the program re-opens at the beginning of 2019, and that they would also be increasing the number of sponsorship applications accepted from 17,000 to 20,000.

The parent/grandparent sponsorship program seems to get a disproportionate amount of attention compared to the number of immigrants who actually come to Canada as sponsored parents or grandparents (only 5.7% of Canada’s immigrants came under the Parents/Grandparents Sponsorship Program in 2016),

The attention placed on the program is likely due to their being two countervailing schools of thought when it comes to parents and grandparents.  On one hand, there are many immigrants to Canada (the majority of whom immigrated to Canada under economic immigration streams based on their skills or ability to contribute to Canada) who long to have their families together in Canada.

On the other hand, there is a perception from some segments of the population that sponsored parents/grandparents are less likely to be economic contributors and instead represent a potential drain on the Canadian economy.

While the majority of Canadian immigrants are selected on the basis of their ability to contribute to the Canadian economy, I believe that there should always be room for family reunification as part of the Canadian immigration system. There are many benefits to allowing individuals to have their parents with them in Canada, benefits that are not easily quantifiable.  Having their parents with them in Canada will often have an immeasurable impact on an immigrant’s happiness, wellbeing, and productivity.  Having access to these types of family relationships in Canada can often improve an immigrant’s ability to integrate with and contribute to Canadian society.  For example, parents or grandparents often contribute to a family’s economic well-being by provided trusted child care and allowing their adult children to more easily pursue schooling or to contribute meaningfully in the Canadian labour market.

With their recent announcement, the Government of Canada seems to have recognized the importance of the parent/grandparent sponsorship program by implementing modest yearly increases to the number of parents and grandparents that will be admitted as Canadian permanent residents.

The procedural changes being made to the intake system for parent/grandparent sponsorship applications were a response to complaints surrounding the lottery system that has been in place for the past couple of years.

The current lottery system was introduced at the beginning of 2017 as a way to make the system fairer than the one that was in place when the Liberal government took office.  Prior to the introduction of the lottery system, applications to sponsor a parent or grandparents were received on a first-come first-serve basis, according to the time that complete sponsorship applications were physically received at the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

At the beginning of each year potential sponsors had to scramble to make sure that their applications arrived in Mississauga before the quota was filled.  In order to improve their chances of having their applications accepted within the quota, some sponsors began relying on expensive specialized couriers who charged hundreds of dollars to stand in line hours before the Processing Centre opened to try to ensure that their clients’ applications were among the first to be received by the government.

Because the applications needed to be delivered to Mississauga, applicants from outside of the region were at a clear disadvantage, so were individuals who did not know about or have the ability to pay for the specialized courier services.

In 2017, to address this unfairness the current government introduced a lottery system in which individuals had an opportunity at the beginning of each year to submit an online “Interest to Sponsor” form.  After this initial period, Immigration would randomly select a certain number of interested sponsors and invite those lucky few to submit parent/grandparent sponsorship applications.  In 2017, there was roughly a 1 in 10 chance of being selected -over 95,000 people completed the online “Interest to Sponsor” form and 10,000 sponsors were randomly selected and invited to submit their parent/grandparent sponsorship application.

While the lottery system was certainly fairer than the previous first-come first-serve system, many applicants were strongly opposed to it as there was perception that it was too arbitrary of a way to decide a matter of such personal importance.  While a random selection of interested sponsors treats all interested parties equally and is by definition inherently fair, for unlucky individuals who were not drawn in successive years there was a perception of “unfairness” and complaints that the government was “gambling” with their families’ futures.

While the full details of the new system have not yet been announced, Immigration has indicated that when they recommence accepting applications at the beginning of 2019 that sponsors will still be required to complete an online Interest to Sponsor form.  However, instead of randomly selecting sponsors to apply, sponsors will be invited to submit applications based on the order that they submit their Interest to Sponsor forms.  Essentially, the government has replaced their random lottery process with something that resembles the process of trying secure online concert tickets for a popular musical act.  At the moment that the program reopens in 2019, I envision thousands of interest sponsors clicking frantically through Immigration’s online forms in an effort to submit first, just like a diehard fan trying to secure a hot concert ticket when it first goes on sale – but with immeasurably higher stakes.

I am concerned that the new parent/grandparent sponsorship selection system will favour individuals with more powerful electronic devices and faster internet speeds and that individuals from remote areas or with limited access to the highest internet speeds may find themselves at a disadvantage.  Furthermore, as with many of these types of first-come first-serve online systems, I am concerned that certain individuals will find a way to exploit some sort of technological advantage, or that Immigration’s online systems may struggle to handle the tremendous number of applications that are going to be submitted concurrently once the program re-opens.  It remains to be seen how the Immigration department will address these potential issues.

While I am not sure that the new system is actually an improvement over the existing lottery system, I understand that some would-be sponsors may feel some increased comfort now that their fate is not left to a random draw and that they instead have some degree of control over whether they are ultimately successful.

If you are interested in sponsoring your parents or grandparents for permanent residence, we would suggest that you look out for the full details of the new system at the end of 2018 and that you be prepared to submit an online Interest to Sponsor form immediately once the program re-opens at the beginning of 2019.

If there is one thing that we have learned about the parent/grandparent sponsorship stream over the past few years, it’s that demand for the program will greatly exceed the number of applications that will ultimately be accepted.

McCuaig Desrochers LLP, a general practice law firm with Edmonton’s largest group of immigration lawyers (www.mccuaig.com). This article first appeared in the April 2018 edition of the Millwoods Mosaic – the Multicultural Voice of Southeast Edmonton and is intended to provide general information only and should not to be relied on as legal advice or opinion. We invite you to contact one of the members of our experienced immigration group for assistance.