BlogParents and Grandparents Program returns in January 2019 with major changes

4 December 2018

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Christmas came early this year for Canadians and permanent residents who have parents or grandparents living abroad and who are wanting to come to immigrate to Canada. Starting in January 2019, the parents and grandparents sponsorship program (“PGP”) will be re-opened on a first-come-first served basis to accept 20,000 applications to help families reunite in Canada.

The PGP, which is part of the Family Class stream of immigration, has always been very popular because it allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their parents and grandparents and their dependents to stay permanently in Canada if they can demonstrate through tax returns that they meet prescribed minimum income thresholds for each of the past three years. Ironically, it is the PGP’s popularity that has caused significant and frequent changes to be made to the program over the past several years.

In late 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that, effective January 2017, the program would become a lottery system where a maximum of 10,000 lucky Canadian or permanent resident sponsors would be picked at random to make applications to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada. This was an unpopular feature that was widely criticized as being unfair and arbitrary.

With the introduction of the lottery system in 2017 and 2018, dissatisfaction with the PGP lottery system escalated when it became public knowledge that numerous lottery winners who received invitations to apply (“ITA”) did not actually go on to qualify for permanent residence as their sponsors were clearly ineligible for failing to meet the required income thresholds. This led to a series of significant changes to the PGP this past summer.

The first change announced this summer to address the shortcomings of the PGP included an increase in the intake of applications from 10,000 to 17,000 per year. Shortly after this change was made public, IRCC made a major announcement in late August 2018 that they were reversing course entirely – the PGP would no longer be operated as a lottery but instead will return in January 2019 to the first-come-first-served system that it was before 2017, together with an increased cap of 20,000 applications.

With all these rapid changes, here is what you need to know: Canadian citizen or permanent resident sponsors who wish to participate in the PGP in 2019 will need to complete and register an online “Interest to Sponsor” form as early as possible in the beginning of January 2019 because only the first 20,000 registrants will be granted ITAs to make applications to sponsor their family members. If you are not chosen as the first 20,000 registrants, however, you should not lose hope. As with prior years, additional registrants may receive an ITA even if they were not initially chosen because it is very likely that IRCC will not receive 20,000 qualifying or complete applications to meet their target. This can happen for many reasons, including cases where incomplete applications are submitted to IRCC or due to a change of heart from either the sponsor or the applicant about going through with the permanent residence application process.

With the new year fast approaching now is the time to find out more about the PGP process, including how to register an Interest to Sponsor and what the permanent residence application process will entail once an invitation to apply is received. Preparing now to understand the process will no doubt reduce the stress of trying to ensure that you are among the first 20,000 successful registrants in January 2019, and we wish you the best of luck in the new year.

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Sas and Ing Immigration Law Centre LLP

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