By Victor Ing,
Special to The Post
The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) has been busy making changes to Canada’s family reunification programs in December. In consecutive weeks during this holiday season the Minister has announced important changes to how sponsorship applications for spouses and parents and grandparents will be made in the new year. These changes will affect many families, since the Minister has already announced earlier in October this year that his department expects to admit 84,000 new family members to Canada as permanent residents in 2017.
On December 7, 2016, the Minister announced that changes would be made within his department that will allow spousal sponsorship applications to be processed within about 12 months. If true this would be a significant improvement on current processing times averaging about two years.
Just a week later on December 14, 2016 the Minister announced that beginning January 2017 he will be overhauling the sponsorship program for parents and grandparents. Under the existing system, Canadian citizens and permanent residents wanting to sponsor their parents or grandparents to join them in Canada waited for years to have their cases approved because of how popular the program has been. The high demand for the program resulted in significant backlogs to the point where it was common to see cases taking four or more years to be approved.
The Minister’s recent announcement eliminates the first-come-first-serve system of years past to provide faster processing times. Starting in January 2017, Applicants wanting to sponsor their parents or grandparents to Canada must now complete an online application to IRCC to express their interest to sponsor. Once completed the sponsor will be placed into a lottery with other prospective sponsors. IRCC will then randomly select 10,000 sponsors and invite them to make full sponsorship applications within 90 days.
The new family sponsorship announcements in December focus on the faster reunification of families in Canada, which is a key objective of our immigration laws. These changes are consistent with the modernization of immigration’s application intake systems away from paper-based applications in favour of online, invitation-based systems. However, as an immigration lawyer I am all too familiar with the drawbacks of IRCC’s online systems, which can often be unreliable, unforgiving and unaccommodating to an applicant’s personal circumstances. It will remain to be seen whether IRCC will achieve its stated goal of faster processing times, but it is clear that IRCC is moving towards draws and lotteries and that can we expect more of the same in the new year.
Victor Ing is a lawyer of Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre. He provides a full range of immigration services.