Posted on - Oct 13, 2015

By Catherine A. Sas, Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

Canada’s Family Class immigration program has historically allowed for Canadians to be able to sponsor their parents and grandparents. However, in November of 2011, Canada’s immigration program for parents and grandparents was suspended to allow for a backlog of nearly 165,000 applications to be finalized. The Minister of Immigration introduced the “Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification” increasing processing levels from approximately 15,000 parent and grandparent applications per year to 25,000 applicants for each of 2011, 2012 and 2013. The program was re-opened on January 1, 2014 with a limit of only 5,000 applications per year and a promise of speedier processing for this class of applicants. With a finite limit of new applications set at 5000 per year, and processing levels increased, has the “Action Plan” actually worked?

As mentioned above, at the time of the suspension of the program for parents and grandparents, a backlog of approximately 165,000 applicants had built up. Let’s see how the increased processing levels and reduced intake have actually worked out over the past four years?

Backlog Target for New cases Actual cases Processed
2011 167,466 25,000 25,000
2012 142,466 25,000 21,815
2013 120,661 25,000 32,318
2014 88,343 20,000 20,000?
2015 68,000? 20,000? 20,000?
Current Backlog 48,000?

The figures above are taken from the CIC Backgrounders on Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the “Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification” as well as from the Annual Reports to Parliament on Immigration for 2012 – 2014. The Annual Report for 2015 is due by the end of this month so I have projected figures for 2015 based upon the same figures for 2014. As you can see above, there is likely a remaining backlog of approximately 50,000 applicants. This does not take into account the 10,000 new applications accepted for processing in each of January 2014 and 2015.

The Family Class sponsorship process is a two step process. The first step is for the sponsor to submit the application to the Case Processing Center ( CPC) in Mississauga, Ontario where an evaluation is made to confirm that the Canadian sponsor meets all the eligibility criteria.
The current processing times listed on CIC’s website ( as of Sept. 29, 2015) indicates that this initial phase is currently taking 46 months. Once the assessment of the sponsor is approved, then the second step of the application process starts where the actual applications for permanent residence for the individual parents or grandparents are sent to the corresponding visa post overseas. Each geographic region varies in their processing times but the most recent figures indicate a range of 22 – 80 months – roughly 2 – 6.5 years. As is indicated on the CIC website, you need to add the figures from Steps 1 and 2 together. So presently the time frame for sponsoring a parent or grandparent is in the range of nearly 6 to 10 years!

Has this delivered speedier processing times for the this class of application? The CIC Backgrounder dated Dec. 18, 2013 notes that the projected results of the “Action Plan” will result in “Backlog and wait times to be cut in half by 2014”. Graphs demonstrate that as of 2010/2011 the 167,466 applicant backlog has an anticipated processing time of 8 years. Fast forward to 2015 and, as indicated above, parent and grandparent applications are still facing a 6- 10 year processing time. The promise of wait times being cut in half has not yet materialized. Furthermore, with an outstanding backlog of approximately 50,000 applications, it will be a further two to four years until processing times can be realistically be improved.

Family reunification has always been a cornerstone of Canada’s immigration program. Our ability to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest immigrants requires that we maintain our immigration stream for allowing Canadians to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada. While the goals of the “Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification” are commendable, the results are disappointing. Increased processing levels must continue for the foreseeable future until the backlog of applicants is eliminated and speedier processing times for parents and grandparents can become the reality rather than the goal.

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 5 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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