Proposed immigration sponsorship changes will keep families apart

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The changes to family sponsorship announced recently by the federal government will make it more difficult to sponsor children, and parents and grandparents and will ultimately keep Canadian immigrant families apart.

The proposed changes with respect to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents, and dependent children were announced on May 10 by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney.

The proposed regulatory changes were published in the Gazette on May 18, 2013. Members of the public can send comments on the proposed changes within 30 days of the notice, by June 17, 2013.

The changes are to come into effect in January 2014, which is also when Canadians will be able to submit a new application to sponsor parents and grandparents. The federal government put a moratorium on the program in December 2011. Applications already submitted will not be affected by the proposed changes.

Well-to-do Canadians can reunite with parents and grandparents

The federal government is proposing to increase the financial threshold to qualify to sponsor parents and grandparents to 30% above the minimum necessary income (MNI), and increase the period to demonstrate the income requirement from one year to three years. The sponsorship undertaking period (period when the sponsor is financially responsible) is to be extended from ten years to twenty years.

The combined changes will mean that only well-to-do Canadians will be able to reunite with parents and grandparents. The federal government has said that it will retain the Super Visa initiative, which can allow a successful applicant to stay up to two years in Canada as a visitor. However this option too is limited only to those Canadians who can afford to pre-purchase at least one year of private medical insurance, which can cost more than $5000. And it should be stressed that a visitors' visa is not an acceptable proxy for family reunification.

The government proposes to limit the number of new applications in 2014 to 5,000. Admission numbers in 2012-2013 is to be 50,000, which would be based on processing applications that were submitted before the moratorium in December 2011. The current backlog of applications is said to be more than 160,000.

Racialized Canadians and women will be disproportionately affected by the proposed changes, since they are over-represented among those who are living in poverty. Far from being a burden, the presence of parents and grandparents can support the settlement and integration processes of immigrants, particularly facilitating their participation in the workforce.

New age criteria can separate Canadians from their children

The federal government is also proposing to reduce the maximum age of a dependent child from 21 years to 18 years, and to eliminate the exception for full-time students.

These changes will apply to all applicants who apply for permanent residence in Canada and want to include their children in the application. The only option that will remain for those children is to submit an application independent of their parents.

Canadians in general will agree that their 19 or 20 year old unmarried children are still part of the family and need their parents' support. In fact the 2011 Census has found that 42.3% of young adults aged 20 to 29 years lived with their parent, representing a significant increase from 30 years ago. The rates were much higher for young women, which is consistent with practices in countries around the world.

With these changes, Canadians born abroad will be denied the possibility of reuniting with their children. Given Canadian and global trends in the living arrangements of young adults, young women will be disproportionately affected. In some cases, they may face a higher level of risk of abuse and exploitation because they are not allowed to migrate with their parents.

OCASI encourages its members to voice their concerns about these changes to our federal government by submitting comments that speak to the hardship that these regulation changes will have on individuals and families, highlighting the differential impact on working families, racialized communities and women.

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For details on the changes see Canada Gazette Notices in Vol. 147, No. 20 — May 18, 2013.

Click here for: Regulations on age of dependents.

Comments should cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Caroline Riverin Beaulieu, Assistant Director, Immigration Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 365 Laurier Avenue West, 8th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1 (email: Caroline.RiverinBeaulieu@cic.gc.ca).

Click here for: Regulations on parents and grandparents.

Comments should cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Fraser Fowler, Assistant Director, Social Immigration Policy and Programs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 365 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1 (tel.: 613-946-7123; fax: 613-954-0850; email: Fraser.Fowler@cic.gc.ca).

Click here for news release from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.