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BlogUnderstanding age cut-offs for dependent children

18 April 2023

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The ‘age lock-in’ is a critical factor in assessing a child’s eligibility as a dependent in Canadian immigration applications

Navigating the age limit for dependent children in Canadian immigration applications can seem challenging. However, being well-informed about this process is vital for optimizing your children’s inclusion in your own immigration application. We aim to clarify the age limit for dependent children in Canadian immigration applications and offer examples to help you better understand this process.

Updated Age Limit for Dependent Children in Canada

Historically immigrant applicants have been able to include their dependent minor children in their own applications. However, realizing that many children remain dependent on their parents for several years after reaching the age of majority, the age limit for dependent children in Canadian immigration applications has increased from “under 19” to “under 22” for all new applications submitted on or after October 24, 2017. This adjustment applies to permanent residence applications.

Criteria for Dependent Child Status in Canadian Immigration

According to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) definition, a dependent child is one who is below the age of 22 and is not married or in a common-law relationship.

An exception exists for children who are “over-age” dependents. They qualify as dependents if they:

  • Have relied on their parents for financial support since before reaching the age limit
  • Are unable to financially support themselves due to a physical or mental condition
The Importance of the Age Lock-In Date in Canadian Immigration

The age lock-in is a critical factor in assessing a child’s eligibility as a dependent. It refers to the date when IRCC accepts an application for processing and the dependent child’s age is “locked-in” for the duration of the processing. The application must also be considered “complete” for the benefit of the age lock-in date to apply. If for any reason the applications are not complete (for any applicant) the application will be returned and the dependent child will not benefit from the lock-in provision. Common examples of an incomplete application include not paying the proper application fees or not properly signing an application in accordance with IRCC requirements. It can often take several months before an immigration officer will make an initial assessment of an application during which time a dependent child may no longer meet the age threshold for being included as a dependent in an application for permanent residence.

Examples of Satisfying the Lock-in Date for a Dependent Child:

Example 1: Age Limit for Dependent Children

A family of four is applying for permanent residence in Canada and seek to include their two children: a 17-year-old and a 21-year-old. Both children are unmarried and have no common-law partners. Since both children are under 22 years old, they qualify as dependent children, and the family can include them in their immigration application. The application must be received by the IRCC prior to the elder child turning 22 years of age.

Example 2: Over-age Dependent Child

A family is applying for permanent residence in Canada. Their 23-year-old daughter has a severe physical disability, rendering her unable to work and requiring ongoing care. She has relied on her parents for financial support her whole life. In this case, even though she is above the age limit, she may still qualify as a dependent child due to her condition and financial dependence on her parents.

Example 3: Age Lock-in Date and Application Processing Time

A couple and their 21-year-old son apply for permanent residence in Canada. Their application is submitted on April 1, 2023, which becomes their son’s age lock-in date. The immigration process takes a year, and during that time, their son turns 22. However, because he was under 22 years old at the time the application was received by IRCC, he remains eligible as a dependent child despite his age increase during the processing time.

Understanding the Age Limit for Dependent Children and Age Lock-in Date in Canadian Immigration

A child’s eligibility as a dependent is determined by their age on the date of receipt of a complete application by IRCC which sets the age lock-in date. If a dependent child meets the age requirement (under 22) and other criteria (not having a spouse or partner) on the age lock-in date, they will still be considered dependent even if they turn 22 during the processing period.

Understanding the age limit for dependent children and the IRCC concept of a lock-in date is crucial in the Canadian immigration application process. By familiarizing yourself with the requirements and staying up to date with any changes, you can ensure that your application has the highest probability of success.

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