It was May 2013 and I was getting set to give a presentation at the Canadian Bar Association’s National Immigration Conference in Montreal. Along with representatives from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, I was scheduled to speak to immigration lawyers from across the country on the topic of “family class immigration”.
At the time, immigration lawyers were anticipating that the government would soon be announcing changes to family class immigration, particularly when it came to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents.
The morning of my presentation, one of my co-panelists from the government confirmed that Jason Kenney, then the Minister of Immigration, would be announcing his long awaited changes to the parent & grandparent program at the precise time that I was trying to give a presentation on the same topic. Not knowing what Minister Kenney would announce until after I spoke, I started my presentation by joking that it would be the first time in the conference’s long history that a presentation would be rendered out of date literally while it was being given.
As it turned out, the changes announced that day represented a substantial shift in the government’s approach towards allowing Canadian citizens and permanent residents to be reunited with their parents or grandparents in Canada.
One of the main changes that were made to Canada’s longstanding parent & grandparent program was a 30% increase in the minimum amount of income that must be demonstrated before someone is able to sponsor his or her parents’ or grandparents’ immigration to Canada and a new requirement that the minimum necessary income that a sponsor must show now needed to be shown for the previous three years rather than just the previous year.
For example, for an application submitted in January 2015, a married couple with one child would need to have reported to the Canada Revenue Agency a family income of $63,833 in 2013, $62,023 in 2012 and $60,905 in 2011 before being eligible to sponsor one set of parents. The increase in the income requirements has had the practical effect of putting parental sponsorship financially out of reach for a large segment of the population.
Of the changes announced in May 2013, the most significant was the introduction of a cap on the number of parent/grandparent applications that the Federal Government would accept each year. As a result of the change, only 5,000 applications are now being accepted each year. Once 5,000 complete applications had been received, all further applications are returned and the category is closed until the following year.
As the number of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who wish to sponsor their parents’ immigration far exceeds the number of applications that the government is willing to accept each year, the 5,000 application limit has proven to be a significant barrier to start the sponsorship process. This was recently illustrated in how the category almost instantaneously reached full capacity when it opened for business at the beginning of 2015.
In 2015, the parent/grandparent program reopened on January 2 at 8:00 a.m. EST. On January 16, only two weeks after it opened the program, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced that it had already received 5,000 new complete applications and that any further applications would be returned.
Many Canadian citizens and permanent residents who had hoped to start the process of bringing their parents to Canada will now have to wait until 2016 and hope, again, that theirs will be one of the first 5,000 applications received.
For those hoping to be among the lucky few who have their applications accepted in 2016, they would be well advised to ensure that have compiled all of the necessary documentation and completed the required paperwork in time to ensure that their application is received by CIC immediately upon the program reopening in 2016.
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 February 2015 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.