Interview on CBC Alberta at Noon -Discussing the New Family Class Sponsoring Your Parents or Grandparents October 20, 2020
Judy Aldous: The challenges of trying to help your family immigrate in the middle of a pandemic. This is Alberta at Noon, I’m Judy Aldous. The next two weeks will be stressful ones for Albertans who want to sponsor your parents, your grandparents to immigrate. The first step in this sponsorship system is a lottery and that’s open now for another two weeks. It’s all been delayed and restricted also because of the pandemic, so today if you are someone who’s put your name in that lottery, get in touch. If you’re someone in the middle of trying to bring family to Canada, what has that been like trying to navigate a complex system during the pandemic? We have an immigration lawyer to hear your stories and answer your questions.
Judy Aldous: Seven minutes after 12, welcome to the show for a Monday. Hope you had a nice weekend. Last year … I imagine you probably will remember this … Ottawa tried out what was called a first come, first served process for people wanting to sponsor their parents or grandparents and it wasn’t pretty. It was fraught with problems so they have returned back to this lottery, which opened October 13th. It closes in two weeks. Right now, 10,000 spots are up for grabs although the demand is expected to be much higher. Maybe you are someone who has put your name into that lottery to bring over your parents or grandparents. What’s that been like? What do you think of this move back to a lottery system? 1-866-468-4422 is the number for you to call.
Judy Aldous: If you already have family who have been accepted as immigrants but aren’t here yet, what has that been like for them trying to get here during COVID-19? Here’s that phone number again. 1-866-468-4422. You can email us. We’re AlbertaAtNoon@CBC.CA. On Twitter, @AlbertaAtNoon. And our guest for the hour is Raj Sharma. He is an immigration lawyer in Calgary. He’s with us til one. Hello, Raj. Welcome back to the show.
Raj Sharma: Thanks for having me on.
Judy Aldous: I want to go back a year and a half, if we can. I’m going to start by playing-
Raj Sharma: Please.
Judy Aldous: Yeah.
Raj Sharma: Please don’t.
Judy Aldous: I know. Listen, it’s actually you. This is a clip of you talking on CBC radio. Ottawa has just introduced this first come, first served system for sponsorship. Problematic. Let’s just say so. Have a listen to you.
Raj Sharma: We had to operate under this new parental/grandparent first come, first served regime and it sort of ended up being a little bit like Black Friday door crashers. The program went live Monday, January 28th, 10 AM Mountain Standard Time. And within a matter of minutes, the program was shut down. They had received the limit.
Judy Aldous: That’s you, year and a half ago under the old system. What’s your memory of that?
Raj Sharma: Disappointment. Frustration. Individuals that come to Canada, they are permanent residents, they’re Canadian citizens. They want to bring their family here. And we already know. We know that the family class system … We always know that… Demand will always exceed resources. And so, they had an opportunity to make the system as fair as possible. Instead, they came out with this fiasco and this debacle, which, unfortunately, a lot of individuals that suffer from mental and physical challenges, a lot of individuals that weren’t savvy online or with technology were left out in the cold.
Judy Aldous: Yeah. Okay, so now, to be fair, Ottawa has returned and abandoned that. It has returned back to the lottery process. Was that the right decision, in your mind?
Raj Sharma: I think it was the right decision. I think, again, everyone is going to have concerns regarding fairness. And Canadians are okay with a transparent but fair system. There may be ways to tweak the system, make this system better, but it is certainly much better than the last iteration. There’s a bit of a merry-go-round. We’ve gone back to a lottery draw, which will randomly draw individuals. Now, unfortunately, given probability, theory and randomness, it’s entirely possible that people will put in their expression of interest to sponsor their parents and grandparents and never be selected.
Judy Aldous: Yeah. What are the odds this year? I know the numbers that they’ll accept through the lottery are lower than they have been in the past. Do you have a sense as to what the odds are if you enter into this lottery process?
Raj Sharma: I think the odds are very good. I think that if you look at this year you have a 10,000 draw for 2020. You have 10,000 that will be drawn. For 2021, they’ve already announced 30,000. That’s 40,000 in terms of a draw in the next six months to next eight months. Historically, you have about 100,000 sponsors that have expressed their interest in bringing over their parents and grandparents and reuniting with them, and so you have a very, very good … chance of being selected 2020/2021.
Judy Aldous: Those numbers are good? They don’t strike me as being good. That’s like a 10 to 20 percent chance of being accepted. But in your world, those are positive numbers, are they?
Raj Sharma: For an immigration lawyer, those are great odds. You’ve got 40,000, let’s say, potential draw and you’ve got about 100,000. I think that you’re approaching a 40% selection.
Judy Aldous: Okay.
Raj Sharma: Some individuals will have some advantages. Some people will have more than one child in Canada that’s eligible to sponsor and so they’ll have multiple kicks at the can.
Judy Aldous: Okay. And it’s been delayed, right? The reason why you’re saying the next draw will happen within eight months is because this one has been delayed because of the pandemic, right? And so, they’re trying to do one every year?
Raj Sharma: That’s correct. It was supposed to be drawn in April.
Judy Aldous: All right. My guest right now, immigration lawyer Raj Sharma. He is a partner with the firm Stewart Sharma Hasanyi. He’s with us today hearing from you about what it has been like over the past six-eight months trying to navigate the immigration system. Specifically, we’re hearing that the lottery system for people who are immigrants in Canada but want to bring over family members, bring over parents/grandparents, the sponsorship system. The lottery for that has now opened. It’s open for another two weeks, and so if you are someone who is engaged in that specific process, love to hear from you about what that process has been like and why you want to bring over your parents or grandparents and the role that they’ll play in your family in Canada.
Judy Aldous: If you have a question, Raj Sharma, open to answering that as well. All right. Here’s the phone number. 1-866-468-4422. It’s toll free. Wherever you are in the province, love to hear from you. 1-866-468-4422. All right. Raj, people put their names into the lottery. They have another two weeks to do this. If you win, what happens?
Raj Sharma: If you win, you’ll be invited to submit a complete application. The complete application will obviously look to your circumstances, look to your family circumstances. They obviously have to provide fulsome details of their history. Your family members will also be expected to provide proof of medical and security clearances.
Judy Aldous: Do you need to provide … What do you need to provide just to enter the lottery? Do you need to provide some sort of income verification when you’re actually just applying for the lottery part of it?
Raj Sharma: No, and this has been part of my criticism of the expression of interest in terms of parents and grandparents. There is no income verification upfront, and so individuals provide proof of status. That is their permanent residence or proof of their Canadian citizenship. But they’re not expected to provide proof of income. Sponsors do need to meet minimum necessary income for three years preceding the application. And I find that a little unfortunate because you may have a situation where individuals apply that don’t meet the necessary income and may be selected and essentially taking up or displacing the position of someone that does.
Judy Aldous: Was it always that way with the lottery system? That income verification wasn’t required?
Raj Sharma: Yes.
Judy Aldous: And so, this is a change that you would … something you would like to say changed, going forward?
Raj Sharma: Again, Canadians do value fairness and transparency, and so if we have a selection based on all eligible sponsors, then I think that’s more palatable to Canadians.
Judy Aldous: Raj Sharma, immigration lawyer based in Calgary, our guest today on the show. 1-866-468-4422 is the number for you to call. So then, assuming there are these 10,000 people, at least this year, who get through this lottery process and are invited to proceed, what kind of requirements do you have to meet if you want to sponsor your parents or grandparents?
Raj Sharma: Number one is that you have to be a permanent resident or a Canadian citizen. That’s first and foremost. Number two is that you do need to show that you have minimum necessary income, which is 30% over and above a low income cut-off that we derived from Statistics Canada. In terms of the applicant side, again, they have to clear medical and security clearances. But that’s about it in terms of threshold eligibility.
Judy Aldous: In terms of income, what kind of income do you need to prove as a family to bring over your parent or grandparent?
Raj Sharma: It’s been adjusted a little bit for 2020 and I do appreciate that given how much havoc the pandemic has reaped on individual’s income and earnings. And so there has been – … adjustment for 2020. Let’s say you have husband, wife or partners in Canada with a child and you’re looking to sponsor parents from another country. That’s a family size of five. For a family size of five, you can expect … Outside of 2020, expect to show income of about $65,000 per year.
Judy Aldous: Tell me, the people that you work with, your clients who are trying to bring over their grandparents and their parents, what are the stories that they tell you about why it’s so important for them to do this?
Raj Sharma: A lot of it is cultural. A lot of it is filial piety. You have different cultures where parents are expected to live with their sons post-retirement or in their old age as opposed to daughters, for example. A lot of it is simply family reunification. They’ve come to a new country. They’ve come to a strange country. They’re strangers in a strange country, so to speak, and so they want to recreate or have that feeling of home again. And, necessarily, that means including your parents or grandparents. This is close to the heart of many communities. And there may be some cultural considerations at play, as well.
Raj Sharma: These individuals, when they come, a lot of them grew up and for generations they’ve been living in joint homes and extended families. Not the nuclear family. The nuclear family is a recent advent; 40-50 years let’s say. But a lot of my clients grew up in joint families and it’s almost expected that there’ll be a couple of generations living under one roof.
Judy Aldous: A lot of help with childcare often, too, isn’t it?
Raj Sharma: Well, that’s the thing. This is technically a noneconomic stream, but from my perspective I think that it is, in fact, an economic stream as well because the individuals that come here, the parents that come here, very often they do actually work after immigrating to Canada. They may be frontline workers, they may be cleaners, they may be low skill but they do, in fact, work. They do provide childcare, which frees up their children or grandchildren to then enter the workforce or return to the workforce. And, of course, they impart cultural and linguistic and language down to those grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
Judy Aldous: It must be hard during a pandemic, as well, to watch … First of all, to not be able to see your family and then to watch them living through other countries where the experience with the Coronavirus is a lot worse than it’s been here.
Raj Sharma: Yes, absolutely.
Judy Aldous: All right, well-
Raj Sharma: And if you look at the different experiences of countries … You look at the experience in terms of India, which I believe is now … It’s up there. Whether it’s India, US or Brazil, these are very, very challenging to see these news reports in terms of infection rates and knowing that your parents and grandparents are there in these particular countries.
Judy Aldous: All right. I’m sure our listeners listening in carefully, thinking about their own stories, their own situations and coming up with questions. I’ll give you the phone number again and would love to hear from you. We’ll get to some of your phone calls in just a minute. The number is 1-866-468-4422.
Judy Aldous: All right, so for the people, Raj, who get through this first lottery system that we’re in and then they are accepted to sponsor grandparents or parents, what do we know about how long it will take before it can get here? And I’m thinking back to the days when we used to hear it was multi-year waits. How have things improved over time?
Raj Sharma: Well, it’s definitely an improvement over the past. If we go way back, prior to 2011, the situation was that the liberal and conservative governments alike would not touch the family class. It was a bit of a sacred cow, shall we say. And so, we allowed everyone to apply. They had to meet a lowered threshold in terms of finances. And then, the processing would take whatever the processing would take because the intake was irrespective of process and capability. And so, you had processing times of seven, eight, nine, 10 years of those old applications, which I think was a disservice because by the time they got to finalization, the parents or grandparents would be either dead or medically inadmissible to Canada.
Raj Sharma: What happened in 2011 was that the then federal immigration minister, Jason Kenney and now the leader of this province took the bull by the horns and suspended the family class program. And revamped it and then initiated processing and intake levels to be commensurate. That first year, let’s say 2011/2012, was about 5,000 intake cap. And so, at least we had more timely reunification of families, albeit we had to live with a cap in terms of how many applications we could submit. They’re now telling us 20 to 24 months. I have no idea how we can make predictions given the year that we’ve just lived through.
Judy Aldous: Right.
Raj Sharma: Given the nine months that we’ve just lived through in terms of Corona and COVID. I think in terms of immigration policy, I get the distinct impression that the government is fixing the plane while it’s flying it so I don’t know how they can predict that they’ll be able to finalize this in 20 to 24 months. But hope springs eternal, I suppose.
Judy Aldous: I’m wondering what it has been like trying to help people with immigration issues during a pandemic, just even broadly speaking. Because the border, of course, is … I don’t think you would have ever seen a border shut as firmly as it has been over the past six months, right?
Raj Sharma: This is the first time we’ve had a hard border. This didn’t even happen after September 11th. This is an unprecedented disruption to immigration law. The pandemic, the Corona and the response to the virus has impacted all immigration business lines from visitors to would be citizens. In terms of practicing immigration law, it’s challenging just keeping current. Every day it seems like there’s a new announcement on the website. Calling it a fluid situation would be an understatement. It’s a time of great uncertainty. But the last few days and weeks, it has sort of felt like the first days of Spring after a long Winter.
Judy Aldous: Even with the snow storm? You’re getting-
Raj Sharma: Metaphorically.
Judy Aldous: Yeah, metaphorically. You’re getting some sense that you can see a future, right? You can see a time when we might be able to return to allowing people to immigrate, right?
Raj Sharma: Yes.
Judy Aldous: Okay. All right. Raj, we have lots of people who want to talk with you, so why don’t … I’ll give out the phone number one last … well, not one last time but one more time and then we’ll go to the phone lines. 1-866-468-4422. All right, let’s start first of all with Barbara. Barbara’s on the phone from Grand Prairie. Hello, Barbara.
Barbara: Hello there.
Judy Aldous: Hi. Barbara, what’s your immigration related question or story you wanted to share?
Barbara: Well, actually it’s my husband’s story and he’s right here so he’s probably the best one to share it.
Judy Aldous: Okay.
Barbara: I’ll pass the phone.
Judy Aldous: All right.
Ian: I have an issue with the time it takes to get a permanent residency card reordered. Mine ran out in May and I should have done something about it but unfortunately I had a stroke in April and it kind of sidetracked me a bit. Anyway, by the time we got over that and we got our act together, we put our application in and were told it was going to be about 160 to 180 days. So, I contacted my MP to see if I could get something happening on that and was told that [inaudible 00:17:37] now is over a year. This is very disheartening. The website that you have to use to get your documents to fill in to send off to the government in … Where is it? In …
Barbara: Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Ian: Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Judy Aldous: Right. Okay.
Ian: It doesn’t seem to want to work with McIntosh computers, so you can’t get the paperwork and you have to go and plea to the local … And they were very helpful, Service Canada. They were very helpful. They printed out the documents and then the next set of documents I needed and then they actually let me use their equipment to pay for the application to get it processed.
Judy Aldous: But you’re s-
Ian: But that was over a month and a half ago.
Judy Aldous: Right. So your question … And you know, we don’t know your name. We don’t want to refer to you as husband of Barbara, so can we find out your name?
Ian: Oh, my name is Ian. Yeah. Ian.
Judy Aldous: Oh, hello Ian. Nice to meet you, Ian.
Ian: Nice to meet you. Great.
Judy Aldous: So, your question is you are a permanent resident, it ran out last April and you’re wondering about how long … the complications around getting it renewed. Am I getting that right?
Judy Aldous: Okay. All right.
Ian: So, if I want to go to Mexico I have no idea how I get back into Canada because we talked to immigration in Edmonton and they said it was basically up to the carrier to stop me from getting on the plane if I didn’t have the right documentation.
Judy Aldous: Right. Although I’m not sure you’re going to be going to Mexico anytime soon, are you? But that aside, let me just let Raj Sharma in on the conversation a bit here. Raj, what are you thinking when you hear Ian’s story?
Raj Sharma: I feel bad for Ian, but there are thousands of immigration officers that are not working. In terms of applications that are seeing progress, they’re electronic applications. One silver lining, if there can be a silver lining to the pandemic and Corona, is that it’s going to accelerate what we should have done prior. So, the permanent resident renewal process is a paper application and paper application are the ones that they’re not really touching right now. And the electronic applications, they are. But the permanent resident renewal process is paper-driven. It does go to Nova Scotia.
Raj Sharma: Now, the permanent resident card is required to return to Canada. You don’t need a permanent resident card to leave Canada, so if Ian does want to go to Mexico in the midst of this pandemic, he can certainly leave. Now, the issue is how does he come back? To come back, he needs to … He can go with an expired permanent resident card. He can come back and request something called a PRTD, a permanent resident travel document. So, there are workarounds and I understand that timing vacations is not that easy, but it can be done.
Judy Aldous: Having any kind of vacation’s not that easy these days. Right. Okay, you said, Raj, something interesting in there. You said a lot of immigration officers aren’t working right now. Why is that?
Raj Sharma: A lot of them aren’t working, for example … And again, it was just … Again, there was not quite the fog of war but there was a great deal of uncertainty in terms of form … sort of transmission. Are we going to get infected from handling documents, for example? So, thousands of immigration officers were not working or trying to work from home. Now, working from home only was possible when you were dealing with an electronic application. And here, again, the permanent resident travel … permanent resident document renewal forms-
Judy Aldous: Is a paper one.
Raj Sharma: -are sent to Nova Scotia.
Judy Aldous: Interesting.
Raj Sharma: And of course, there’s also secondary and tertiary issues, which is what if there’s an immigration officer, single parent, for example, or childcare is an issue? If the children are at home, can this individual go in as well? So, it was a time of great uncertainty and massive disruption in terms of processing.
Judy Aldous: Okay. Let’s go to a caller on line 10 here. Eatonosa with us here on the phone. Eatonosa, hi.
Eatonosa: Hi. Good afternoon.
Judy Aldous: Nice to have you on the program. Tell us a little bit about your story and the way in which this sponsoring parents or grandparents might help your life.
Eatonosa: Yeah. It’s actually going to help in a very, very large way. I have three kids and then putting them in the daycare costs me about $3,000 and that’s up to my mortgage. One costs me $950 the other costs me $750 and then the little one costs me about $1,000 because of the year. So, with the pandemic my wife is staying at home instead of going to work. If my parents were here, my wife would actually have to return back to work. Because right now my wife is staying at home, I’m the one working. I had to change from a very good position to a position where I have to work nights so my wife and I can switch whereby she goes to work in the morning and then she gets back in the afternoon and then I get some sleep and then I go to work so somebody can look after the kids, right?
Judy Aldous: Oh my. That doesn’t sound … And where are your parents, Eatonosa? And have you applied? Have you put your name into the lottery system?
Eatonosa: Yes, I have. And I’m from Nigeria, anyways, so it’s a huge challenge for immigrants here with kids with no extended family or close family around. It’s a huge challenge. And then 10,000, that’s a little spot for … They’re thinking about two-point-something million immigrants in here just in the [inaudible 00:23:18] sector. And then having 10,000 spots. Uh-uh. That’s not going to work. I believe they should increase the spots for this year because next year is going to be 30,000 and then immigration … People fly into this country every single day and people actual giving birth. They’re talking about immigrants having kids … more kids and all of that. So, having the increments and the number of sponsors coming in … I mean grandparents and parents coming in … would make a long way.
Judy Aldous: Okay.
Eatonosa: Just like your guest was talking about, it might not be an economical thing but some parents do work. Do front line cleaning and all that stuff.
Judy Aldous: Yeah.
Eatonosa: My mom was a teacher while she was working. She’s retired now but experienced. She can actually look after the kids and then maybe in the evening when we’re back from work she can go help watch after other kids or do some nanny stuff and all that.
Judy Aldous: Yeah.
Eatonosa: Yeah. It’s a win/win in many ways.
Judy Aldous: Okay. Eatonosa, thank you so much for your phone call. And are you working tonight?
Judy Aldous: You got-
Eatonosa: I am.
Judy Aldous: You got your night shift tonight. Wow. That sounds like a challenge. All right. But thank you. And I hope things go well for you with the lottery system, so thanks for giving us a call. It was great to hear a first-person story like that.
Eatonosa: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Judy Aldous: All right. Raj Sharma, I’m sure you want to weigh in a little bit on what you’re hearing from Eatonosa, but we’re going to have to wait for a second to do that just because we have to take our break for the news now, but we will return to his story in the next half hour of the show. My guest, Raj Sharma, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, partner with the firm Stewart, Sharma and Hasanyi. And we also have a lot of other people on hold waiting to speak to us. We will get to your calls ahead on the show, but it’s 12:30. 12:31 now. So, we’ll hand things over to Don Bell. He’s in our newsroom. Hello, Don.
Don Bell: …
Judy Aldous: That’s CBC’s Don Bell. I’m Judy Aldous. This is Alberta at Noon; a Monday edition of the program. Well, it is a lottery and if you enter your odds are decent but the stress is high. Today we are talking about the immigration lottery process for parent and grandparent sponsorship. It is available for immigrants who want to bring their family members over to Canada; people like Eatonosa. We just heard from him, who has applied to bring his parents over from Nigeria to give he and his wife a bit of a break with their three kids and just to have the family together.
Judy Aldous: All right. You have another two weeks to enter that lottery. Right now, 10,000 spots up for grabs. Last year it was 20,000, next year it’ll be 30,000. We’re hearing your stories and trying to answer some of your questions. Get in touch. 1-866-468-4422. Our guest today, Raj Sharma, an immigration lawyer. Raj, thanks for staying with us.
Raj Sharma: My pleasure.
Judy Aldous: I want to read an email. I’m sure you’ll want to respond. It’s from Brandon. He says, “My question is with this lottery system and permanent residents wanting to bring over their grandparents/parents, isn’t this a drain on our healthcare and social assistance programs? The people being sponsored have not contributed to our taxation and given the current state of our economy, how is this feasible to continue? And let’s not forget, our underemployment rate. It just doesn’t make sense to me.” That’s from Brandon. What would you say to him, Raj?
Raj Sharma: What I would say to Brandon and what I’d say to Eatonosa … Eatonosa wants more and Brandon wants less and what I would say to both of them is that there’s a balancing exercise here. We’re balancing competing objectives under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. One of the objectives is family reunification but one of the objectives is also protect the health and safety and security and economic wellbeing of those of us that are already here. This is always a balancing exercise. When we talk about older immigrants being a drain, I would tend to agree with Eatonosa. I’ve assisted 1000s of immigrants to Canada. I don’t believe that they’re a drain on our system because many of them continue to work. Many of them provide childcare.
Raj Sharma: That may not show up in terms of the economic input, but it does free up someone else to work. And let’s face it, many of the frontline workers during the pandemic have been immigrants and racialized individuals and so we do have an economic benefit. Now, there is a balancing. Older immigrants do technically cost the taxpayer more money. That’s why we have a requirement that the sponsor meet a minimum necessary income, which is 30% above and beyond the low income cutoff. That is why we have the sponsor sign off on a 20-year undertaking that their parents and grandparents will not go on the public bill, so to speak. So-
Judy Aldous: They might get healthcare but they’re not allowed to apply for …
Raj Sharma: That’s correct.
Judy Aldous: … welfare. That’s really good.
Raj Sharma: If you look at our overall makeup, in terms of immigration, 60% … around 60% of our intake is economic class. 40% is noneconomic class, such as refugees, humanitarian exemption application and parents and grandparents. If you look at the United States, 60% is noneconomic intake and 40% is economic. These are the carefully considered balancing of perhaps competing objectives. And every year we gauge what we can do and what we can’t do, but it is a fact that during the pandemic we have relied on immigrants, new immigrants, racialized individuals to carry us through this. And I think that … And again, it’s not just permanent residents bringing their parents and grandparents here. These are Canadian citizens as well. They’re eligible to sponsor.
Judy Aldous: Atul is on the phone now from Edmonton. Hi, welcome to the show.
Judy Aldous: Hello, Atul. Yeah, you’re here with us on the program. How’s everything going with you today?
Atul: Thank you. So far, good. I have very … I need some little explanation on minimum income requirements, like … I was reading guidelines somewhere we need to earn some little amount of money last three years. So I was confused. If somebody is away from last three years, like 2017 and 18. And like me, I was sent to US for some training. I’m in the discovery program, so I’m residing there and filing tax there, so am I eligible for that or not?
Judy Aldous: Raj, you want to jump in?
Raj Sharma: Great question. We do require income. We need income for the three tax years right before the day you apply. For this year’s intake, it’s going to be 2020, 2019 and 2018. So, I would probably-
Raj Sharma: -talk to the accountant or whoever else. You probably do need to acquire … You probably are required to file some sort of taxes in Canada as well, but if you look at the three years preceding the application, it’s 2020, 2019, 2018. And unfortunately, immigration is a bit of a stickler. They really want to see that line 150 of the notice of assessment to ensure they meet the MNI for that particular year.
Judy Aldous: So, if he has American tax … If we was working in the states … Atul said he was sent there to do some training, would that not count?
Raj Sharma: It wouldn’t. We really are looking at taxes remitted to the Canadian public purse.
Judy Aldous: Okay. Atul, tell us about who you would like to see … who you would like to sponsor to come.
Atul: I was looking to invite my parents here. Actually, I’m actively working in the University of Alberta in their discovery program, so it’s … My wife is also in same profession. It’s always helpful emotionally to keep our family united, so that’s what … I tried first time this year, so once I looked into those guidelines I was a little confused about-
Raj Sharma: Well, Atul … Atul, actually-
Atul: [inaudible 00:33:20][crosstalk 00:33:20] Yes?
Raj Sharma: Sorry. Sorry to interrupt. Atul raises an interesting point. Atul could indicate the expression of interest whether or not he meets the requirements or not. And if he does get selected and even if it’s eventually refused, he has a right of appeal. So again, this sort of highlights my concern as to the lack of-
Atul: I agree.
Raj Sharma: -upfront assessment.
Atul: I agree. I agree. Yeah, I got your point. Yeah, it was a little confusing for me to be a Canadian or [inaudible 00:33:51]. I file taxes in Canada saying that my worldwide income, like stating somewhere that I earn money in US but it’s filed there. But it still shows zero on line 150.
Raj Sharma: Understood.
Judy Aldous: But wouldn’t …
Judy Aldous: No to get too much into the details of Atul’s specific situation, but doesn’t it … When you’re applying through the lottery system, Raj, isn’t it combined income of your husband and wife to meet that threshold?
Raj Sharma: It can be is the wife is a co-signer to the application.
Judy Aldous: Okay.
Raj Sharma: Or the husband is a co-signer of the application, visa versa.
Atul: Actually, we both were sent to … for our university together.
Judy Aldous: Ah, right.
Judy Aldous: All right, well Atul …
Judy Aldous: Thanks for your phone call. It was really nice to meet you on the radio and best of luck with the process.
Atul: Thank you very much.
Judy Aldous: Okay. Why don’t we take a call from Frasier in Lac La Biche. Hello, Frasier.
Judy Aldous: Hi.
Frasier: Good afternoon, how are you?
Judy Aldous: I’m doing great. Yeah, you’re listening in. Is this lottery something that affects you personally, or you just have thoughts on the overall program?
Frasier: It doesn’t affect me personally. I just had one thought, though. In Alberta, I’m a big game hunter and when you apply to certain licenses, if you’re unsuccessful in a given year you actually build priority points so then the next year if you reapply you have a higher chance of being picked. And I was wondering if something like that could be instituted in this lottery where an applicant … Rather than having just a random chance every year, applicants that weren’t successful in one year could update their application the next year if they’re still interested and just have those applicants build a system of priority where they have a better chance at being selected after those years [inaudible 00:35:34][crosstalk 00:35:34]-
Raj Sharma: Frasier, you are brilliant. That is brilliant.
Judy Aldous: And is it happening?
Raj Sharma: No.
Frasier: Well, thank you [inaudible 00:35:42][crosstalk 00:35:42]-
Raj Sharma: I’ve argued for a weighted draw … Sorry. Sorry, Frasier. Sorry to cut you off.
Frasier: No, no. No problem. Sorry. Go ahead.
Raj Sharma: I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’ve argued for a weighted draw for many, many years. The draw … As it stands right now, in terms of probability or randomness, a person could apply every single year under a random lottery system and never be picked over 10 or 20 years. That’s just the nature of probability. We need to have a weighted draw. The weighted draw could have different factors, which is how many times you applied before, just as Frasier’s mentioned right now. It could be weighted on the basis of the applicant’s age. Obviously, we want someone that’s older to come here faster or earlier than someone that’s 50 or 55. We want … For example, perhaps there’s more ties there than versus back home. And so, I’ve argued for a weighted draw, but Frasier’s phrase … He put it in such a way that cuts to the chase of it very, very quickly.
Judy Aldous: I liked drawing the analogy back to big game hunting and getting tags for that. Yeah. All right, Frasier, well it sounds like you got the … you got a good idea going there, so we’ll throw that one out into the world. Frasier, thanks for your phone call.
Frasier: Hey, thanks for your time. Have a good day.
Judy Aldous: Right. Let’s go straight to … Raj, we have another call. Mohammad on the phone in Calgary. Hello, Mohammad.
Mohammad: Hello, how are you?
Judy Aldous: I’m doing well, Mohammad. Tell us about your story, your family. Yeah.
Mohammad: Yeah. I’m currently … We are PR here, me and my wife. And we have three kids.
Judy Aldous: That’s permanent-
Judy Aldous: Just let me jump in. That’s permanent resident, right? For those who-
Mohammad: Permanent resident.
Judy Aldous: Yeah. K.
Mohammad: Sorry for the … Yeah, sorry about that. And my in-laws are here as tourists. They came before the pandemic came and they had to stay here in Canada. Then the situation in Lebanon got worse. Then there’s no money and the explosion and along the way, all of that happened. I’m currently the only one making money, so I know I’m not in the threshold to be able to help my wife to sponsor her parents. But they’re American citizens so they have no problem staying for … by extending their statuses here in Canada. Hopefully they keep extending until … I don’t know what happens in Lebanon. But I was wondering if I should form part of this draw and then on the application ask the government of Canada to consider through humanitarian compassionate considerations my threshold not to affect application. Or should I just to start an application myself under humanitarian compassionate? That’s my question for Mr. Raj.
Judy Aldous: Mohammad, stay with us because Raj Sharma might have some questions for you, as well. All right, Raj.
Raj Sharma: Thank you. It’s a good question and it’s a question that I encounter on a regular basis, which is if we can’t have access to the parental/grandparent class, do we put in a standalone humanitarian compassion application for individuals that are already here? That’s a complex … It’s a simple question, it’s a complex answer, which is it depends. It depends on … And I understand Lebanon. I’ve been working on files from Lebanon for 15 years and Lebanon right now is perhaps [inaudible 00:39:01] it’s very, very challenging circumstances in Lebanon right now, so I understand where Mohammad is coming from.
Raj Sharma: Here, you could potentially run two applications to consider a humanitarian compassion application. You could go in … Because there’s no upfront verification of income, you could put in that sponsorship application. If you are selected, you’ll be refused because of the shortfall. You could then appeal that to the immigration appeal division, which can consider agency grounds or you could do a standalone agency. Probably, you’d want to do the first option. And that first option would get you in front of a judge and you could explain the challenges and the hardship.
Raj Sharma: Now, of course, they’re US citizens so they’re not technically going back to Lebanon, so that’s a complex question. You probably should see an immigration lawyer, not necessarily myself. You can see whoever you’d like but I think you got the right idea. You understand the considerations. This is a question that cannot be answered on a call-in show.
Mohammad: Okay. Thank you.
Judy Aldous: Mohammad, just a question for you.
Judy Aldous: Were your parents …
Judy Aldous: Were they in Canada when the explosion in Beirut happened?
Mohammad: My mother-in-law was because she came when my wife gave birth in February. Then my father-in-law came and right after, like a small period of time, the explosion happened. They cannot go back to the US because they’ve been in Lebanon, residing there for about 25 years so they have no more … like anyone, family or connection back in the US although they are US citizens. I was wondering because they have three grandchildren here …
Judy Aldous: Yeah.
Mohammad: … On the best interest of the kids, the case could be … I know it’s a complex scenario but if it could work somehow because my kids now got used to their grandparents. Like my mother-in-law, she cooks every day pancakes for the kids in the morning, so they got used to her around. And they’re three under three so they’re very emotionally attached to their grandma, especially.
Judy Aldous: Yeah. Anybody can see why you’d want to keep them here. All right, well, Mohammad, best of luck …
Mohammad: Thank you very much.
Judy Aldous: … with your search. Why don’t we go to another call? We’re getting lots of great calls here coming in with great questions, Raj. Mike is on the phone now from Calgary. Hey, Mike.
Mike: Hey there.
Judy Aldous: Hey.
Mike: I was wondering since we live in Canada and everything’s geared towards central Canada, how … is there any geographical or region consideration? Like when you … What made me think about it was when you said it closed at 10 o’clock our time. Just wondering, in theory, could all of the successful applicants be in Ontario and Quebec?
Judy Aldous: Okay, so the closing at 10 o’clock, that was the old first come, first served system. Now it’s a lottery system for this sponsorship-
Judy Aldous: -so you have three weeks to apply. Yeah.
Mike: And I was just wondering if there’s any … like 20% goes to wherever.
Judy Aldous: Right. Okay.
Mike: Or is it all … Ontario and Quebec could get everyone? That’s my question.
Judy Aldous: Right. Okay. Mike, we’ll let you go. Raj, I think we’re talking about two separate things here, Mike’s question, right? I think you and I started off, Raj … you and I talking about the sponsorship program, right?
Raj Sharma: There was a concern, Judy, back in the early days after the revamp, 2012/2013, where it was completed applications submitted January second or third and they had to be received by CPC Mississauga Case Processing Center in Mississauga, so you really had to time the currier just right. And so, there was a situation where just by dint of logistics, someone in Ontario or GTA would have a bigger shot at getting their application in than someone, say, submitting an application from Vancouver Island or Nanavut. That is now behind us. We do have this three-week open window, which is a welcome change. And I will, of course, give credit where credit is due.
Judy Aldous: But speaking more broadly, Mike’s question about whether or not considerations … and even around people who are sponsoring, want to sponsor their parents/grandparents, is region or location a factor at all?
Raj Sharma: No.
Judy Aldous: And is it, more broadly, when talking about economic class immigrants?
Raj Sharma: Not generally. I suppose people immigrate where they know someone and so, if that’s the case, most immigrants do tend to choose Toronto first, Montreal and Vancouver. Calgary comes out, perhaps, fourth. And so, if you have more applicants they may tend to choose a particular area based on who they know or relatives that have come before them. My father, for example, picked Toronto just because someone from his village had immigrated a few months prior to him.
Judy Aldous: Can we spend a moment, Raj, just talking really broadly. You mentioned earlier on the program what a challenge the pandemic has been, of course, for immigration and how it sort of froze things. Can you outline for us what the biggest challenges have been for people trying to immigrate to Canada in the last few months?
Raj Sharma: That’s a big question, Judy, because the Corona has had an impact on all immigration lines. We can start from temp or foreign workers. We can go to visitors. Obviously, there was border restrictions and restrictions in terms of travel on visitors, even if these individuals held valid visitors they could not come to Canada unless they were deemed essential or immediate family members. And so, we had the website being update on almost a daily basis. We had individuals that applied for citizen … Citizens in waiting and their oath ceremony was ready to go and it was delayed and it was canceled. We had passport services that have been suspended, essentially, even until today, which is except for urgent processing. We’ve got students … international students that were expecting to come. We had students that had gone back home that were expecting to return.
Raj Sharma: Just for foreign nationals, for that sector, we had massive disruption. In terms of the family class, the family class itself, parental and grandparents, was just suspended or put over from April. We had individuals that were trying to bring their common-law partner, their conjugal partner, their husband or wife here. Processing was delayed there as well. In terms of hearings, all hearings were suspended for months. So, we had refugees that were turned back from the hard border, the border that just, essentially, closed. We had refugees being turned back. Refugee hearings were put over because we weren’t doing hearings. Spousal appeals. You tried to sponsor your spouse or common-law partner, it was refused. You were waiting a year plus, maybe more, for your appeal date. That was canceled.
Raj Sharma: So, a huge issue in terms of access to justice as well, in terms of immigration appeals, in terms of refugee hearings. Federal court was … that overlooks these decisions was also delayed. And, of course, the backlog grows and delays are unnerving and the uncertainty was just palpable almost. This is the first time in 17 years that I’ve experienced something like this. I was with the federal department of justice when 9/11 occurred and subsequent to 9/11, We had 10s of 1000s of individuals crossing that border, thereby initiating the Safe Third Country Agreement. The Third Country Agreement six months ago was struck down and the government is trying to delay that and argue against that even now. Even 17 years later when it first made an appearance, the safe Third Country Agreement is at issue right now. And so, you have this unprecedented time.
Judy Aldous: Can we just spend a moment, Raj, circling back in, focusing in just on this family sponsorship program? The lottery being open right now. Sarabjit phoned in, wasn’t able to stay on the phone, but did have a question, which is how many months will it take if he … I guess Sarabjit has entered the lottery. If he wins the lottery, how many months would it take for him to get his dad over from India? I know we addressed this a little earlier in the show, but worth giving Sarabgit an answer to his question, too.
Raj Sharma: Sarabjit is Punjabi and if he was on the line I would respond to him in Punjabi, but basically I don’t want to give him false hope. But what they tell us is 20 to 24 months. And that being said, as Ian told us at the very start of the hour, to get a PR card renewed is now approaching a year. So, they’re telling us 20 to 24 months. I have a hard time believing it and I don’t want to give false hope to my clients that may be desperately looking for false hope.
Judy Aldous: Yeah. Here’s another question from a listener who, not unlike Mohammad … Remember, Mohammad was a Lebanese man who had … his in-laws were here, they’re American citizens, he’d like them to be able to stay. This listener says that their in-law, also currently in Canada … it doesn’t say what nationality they are. Can we apply for the lottery and if approved, would … it must be a mother-in-law … would she need to leave Canada to then be accepted as an immigrant.
Raj Sharma: That’s a great question, actually. Normally, these applications … There was a big issue back under the old act as to where you submit an application; inside Canada, outside Canada. Now, I think those things are about to change fundamentally. I think Corona and COVID has sparked a very, very necessary change to immigration processing. I think it no longer matters or will no longer matter where you are when you apply, which office deals with it. I think there’s going to be a great deal of flexibility. If you are selected, try to proceed with that selection, indicate the parents are here. Remember, Jason Kenney gave a bit of a carrot with the stick when he revamped the family class program. And when he revamped the family class program he brought in something called the super visa, which allowed parents and grandparents to enter Canada and stay here for up to two years as long as they could show income from the inviters and medical insurance.
Raj Sharma: Individuals are here. They are going to be applying. You should go ahead and do so and then wait for … Let’s see what changes come in terms of actual processing protocols.
Judy Aldous: Interesting. That was, of course, prior to him being premier when he was federal immigration minister. All right, Raj, I am afraid we’ve come to the end of the show so we’re going to have to leave it there. But we covered a ton of ground today so thank you so much for all of your expertise. It was great having you on the show.
Raj Sharma: Thank you for having me.
Judy Aldous: Raj Sharma, an immigration lawyer based in Calgary. He is a partner with the firm Stewart Sharma and Hasanyi. And I know we weren’t able to answer all of your questions or get all of your phone calls today on the program, but I think we really had a lot so I hope that was as interesting for you as it was for me.
Judy Aldous: …