BlogSponsor your parents and grandparents in 2019

6 August 2018

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Families hoping to reunite with their parents and grandparents in Canada will be ecstatic to learn that their chances of helping their loved ones immigrate have drastically improved. Effective July 28, 2018, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has increased the cap on the number of sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents that will be processed each year by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) from 10,000 to 17,000.

Sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents have long been a popular immigration program in Canada. The program allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their parents and grandparents and any accompanying dependent family members to stay permanently in Canada if the sponsors can demonstrate that they meet prescribed minimum income thresholds for each of the past three years.

The program was so popular at one point that it stopped accepting new applications for two years between 2012 and 2013 to allow Canadian immigration officers to process the overwhelming backlog of applications that had developed. When the program reopened and began accepting new applications in 2014, the government imposed an annual cap of 5,000 applications to keep the application backlog from growing again. Since then, a series of significant changes have been made to the sponsorship program for parents and grandparents.

The most important of these changes occurred in late 2016 when IRCC announced that, effective January 1, 2017, sponsorship applications would no longer be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. In its place IRCC introduced an online lottery system whereby 10,000 lucky Canadian citizens and permanent residents who express an interest to sponsor a parent or grandparent would be selected at random for an invitation from IRCC to file their sponsorship applications.

In the first year of operation in 2017, about 95,000 sponsors signed up for a chance to receive one of the coveted 10,000

invitations, equating to about a 10% chance to receive an invitation from IRCC. However, it quickly became apparent that the lottery system was not working as intended.

As time would show, the lottery system suffered from a design flaw. The lottery system was designed based on assumptions that every person who voluntarily joined the lottery would meet the income requirements to be eligible to sponsor their parent or grandparents, and that the applicants for permanent residence themselves would want to and would be able to make a complete application within the allotted time, which is currently set at 60 days after receiving an invitation to apply.

These assumptions did not materialize in 2017 or in 2018. In reality, many sponsors who received invitations did not meet the minimum income requirements to sponsor in the first place, and many more sponsors and applicants who received invitations never went on to make complete applications for permanent residence. This resulted in IRCC issuing further invitations later in the year in order to meet the annual 10,000 application processing cap.

Despite the mixed results of the lottery system, there are important lessons to learn from these experiences.

As a Vancouver immigration lawyer, I know that preparation is the key to success in each immigration application. One of the most important aspects of my role as an advisor is to meet with clients to review their facts to determine what immigration programs are viable based on their personal circumstances and to put together an immigration strategy and timeline to make it happen.

The lottery system, on the other hand, focuses the sponsor’s attention on the end result, namely receiving an invitation to apply, rather than focusing on the process and the preparation necessary to ensure a successful application. Since there is almost no investment of time or cost to submit an expression of interest to the online lottery system, it is unsurprising that many people do not go through with the application process even if they are invited to apply or that they would be unprepared to file a complete application for permanent residence when the time came.

With the annual application cap of 10,000 applications a year being increased to 17,000 a year, Canadian families now have better odds to sponsor their parents and grandparents for Canadian permanent resident status. However, this does not mean that you should wait to receive an invitation to apply before making preparations to file a complete permanent residence application. Make sure you are aware of the income eligibility requirements for your case, and that you will be able to provide all the supporting documents necessary to file a complete application within 60 days of receiving an invitation. The lesson to take away from the lottery experience is to avoid complacency and to aspire to live by these famous words: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

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