Interview on the New Parental/Grandparent Family Class Sponsorship Program

I discussed the new (but old) immigration lottery process for Parents and Grandparents with Danielle Smith on CHQR AM770 on October 14, 2020. It’s been a bit of a merry go round with this non-economic, family class program.

Parents/grand-parents are still subject to medical assessment; the sponsor is still required to meet minimum necessary income levels.

Transcript follows:


Danielle Smith:                  I have talked to Raj Sharma many times about this immigration process to try to repatriate families, parents, and grandparents. It looks like they have made another mess of it. That’s my interpretation of it. Maybe they’ve improved a few things from the time that we last spoke, but Raj Sharma is going to tell us what the deal is with this essentially immigration lottery that they have returned to. Raj Sharma is a Calgary immigration lawyer who joins me now. Raj, thanks so much for being with me today.

Raj Sharma:                        My pleasure.

Danielle Smith:                  I feel like this is something that you criticized in the past and they came up with something that was worse and now they’re going back to this, but I don’t know that it’s improved. Do you see that this is a better system? Or are there going to be some big problems?

Raj Sharma:                        I think it’s a bit of a merry-go-round, so what’s old is new again. What we had in the past was an unworkable system that both the liberal and conservative governments just never touched because immigration, touch, let’s say a sacred cow in Canada. For the longest time, they just allowed anyone that met financial eligibility requirements or thresholds to sponsor their parents and grandparents. By the time of the late oughts, you had processing times of seven, eight, nine years to bring your parents here.

Danielle Smith:                  Oh, my goodness.

Raj Sharma:                        People would queue up, pay their taxes, work hard, try to sponsor their parents. It would take almost a decade for them to get here. Along the way mom, dad, or grandparent might die or might become ill or eventually become medically inadmissible.

Raj Sharma:                        It was an untenable situation that Jason Kenney grasped, and again to use another bovine metaphor, grasped the bull by the horns. Suspended the program in 2012 for a year or two, and increased the income threshold for sponsors to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada. Increased the undertaking period from 10 years to 20 years, and then imposed limits as to only processing that, only taking in that which they could process. I believe in the initial years, about 5,000, increase that to about 10,000 or so.

Raj Sharma:                        We then had this strange lottery system. People would race to put in complete applications in a place in Mississauga, Ontario. This thing would basically fill up, and if you were trying to send in an application from Vancouver or Nunavut or Yukon, you really had to time the courier just right. That was a bit of a farce and that existed for a number years as well.

Raj Sharma:                        You then had this sort of similar to the US system, a lottery system where you put in the applications and then they would be drawn randomly. That was the state of affairs until last year’s fiasco, which was basically some sort of Black Friday door crasher sale, where you do an online expression of interest where it literally filled up in eight minutes or nine minutes, and people with disabilities were out in the cold.

Raj Sharma:                        Now what we have is we have, we’ve gone back a couple of iterations to this expression of interest where individuals will indicate their interest to sponsor their parents and grandparents. Over a three week period, there will then be a draw of 10,000 for the 2020 intake, 30,000 for the 2021 intake, so huge numbers. Then if they’re drawn they’re then to apply or provide a complete application for permanent residence.

Danielle Smith:                  Okay, so let me give my feedback based on what you’ve told me. It seems like, number one, having a longer period where you can do an expression of interest that eliminates this weird system that we had, where essentially the closer you live to a processing center, the more likely you were to get your application in. Also, the weird system where it closed within 10 minutes, so that seems to be a positive.

Raj Sharma:                        Yes.

Danielle Smith:                  Keeping the online application seems to be a positive.

Raj Sharma:                        Yes.

Danielle Smith:                  Keeping 10,000 seems to be a positive because that allows for more people. Going up to 30,000 seems to be a positive, so it seems like they’ve addressed a number of the issues from the perspective of those trying to bring their parents and grandparents. Are there still some problems likely to emerge here?

Raj Sharma:                        I think so, and I’ve been saying this for years now, but they need to… I think in my opinion, there’s still no upfront verification of income. Everyone’s going to apply online, but they may or may not be eligible. If they’re not eligible they’re base… and if they get selected, they’re basically taking up a seat or a position that someone else could’ve had. I think there’s still some tweaks that could be addressed. One of which is upfront determination of whether the sponsors actually meet income requirements or thresholds.

Danielle Smith:                  Let me pause you on that because I wonder what that looks like? We have to put on our taxpayer hat and I know it can sound a little bit cruel to talk about money, but we have to do that. Because I think that’s one of the reasons why they’ve created such a mixed up system is because if you’re bringing in individuals who are older, they may have health needs. They may have long-term care needs, and we need to understand what requirement there is on the sponsoring family to cover those costs because I think you’re quite right.

Danielle Smith:                  You’ve mentioned this before, is if you’ve got the money that should be already a prequalification. If you don’t, that should be one that automatically excludes you. It seems so obvious that they would add that and I’m sort of perplexed why they haven’t.

Danielle Smith:                  Raj Sharma is my guest. He’s a Calgary immigration lawyer. We’re talking about, I don’t know, round ten of trying to fix the family reunification system? It sounds like they’ve made some improvements, but there’s still a little ways to go. We’ll talk about that when we return on Corus Radio.

Danielle Smith:                  All right. Raj Sharma is my guest, Calgary immigration lawyer with Stewart Sharma Harsanyi, and we’re just talking about the lottery that is now been announced, longer time periods. If you’ve got loved ones you’re trying to bring in through the family reunification program, you’ve got three weeks to be able to put your application in. The question is, what does success look like?

Danielle Smith:                  Before the break, Raj, you talked about having this income verification. I guess here’s the issue that I have is, if you’ve got a family member who’s still relatively young and healthy and is going to live at home with you and maybe has modest medical needs, for instance, maybe some medications, there isn’t a really huge cost associated with supporting that family member if you’ve got extra space.

Danielle Smith:                  But it’s when they might need to be hospitalized or they might need to go into long-term care, that is the problem, and that could be, I don’t know, 10, 20 years after they arrive. How does that get balanced in the application process?

Raj Sharma:                        It gets balanced in the sense that there’s always been medically inadmissibility under Canada’s immigration laws. Those thresholds have been tweaked to some degree, but we routinely refuse immigration and admission to individuals that would pose excessive demand to Canada’s system. Excessive demand means both cost, but also impact in terms of waiting lists or transplants. For example, individuals with liver failure or liver issues or renal failures are routinely, or cardiovascular issues, are routinely denied admission into Canada.

Danielle Smith:                  Okay. What is the obligation on the part of the family? I was just reading one story about someone who wants to bring in their 87 year old relative. I guess my perspective on that would be if you’re 87, you might be not that far away from needing long-term care and around the clock support, so does that factor into it at all?

Raj Sharma:                        It does. There are those thresholds in terms of medical inadmissibility. Of course, the sponsor does have a 20 year undertaking period as well. We are doing our best to balance. We do know that older immigrants, they’re coming under the non economic class. It’s the family class, it’s family reunification, so we’re balancing competing objectives under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.

Raj Sharma:                        One of the objectives is family unification, but one of the objectives is also to protect the health and safety and security and economic well-being of those of us that are already here. Sometimes it’s a give and take. Now, in my opinion, when you talk about parents or grandparents, the parents and grandparents actually do contribute.

Raj Sharma:                        Specifically, in my own community I see a lot of older immigrants that come over. They’re Punjabis, there’s this work ethic. They continue to work and contribute to the economy even after coming here. They also provide childcare, which frees up their children and daughters-in-laws or sons-in-law to the work force as well. There is perhaps a trade-off, but on the whole I think they do add, obviously, to society in a variety of different ways.

Raj Sharma:                        Personally, if we’re talking about the system we have a shortfall of immigrants, for example, this year because of COVID, a massive shortfall in terms of our projection and planning. If you look at… one thought that I had was why not increase the age of brothers and sisters that are on those applications to sponsor parents and grandparents?

Raj Sharma:                        As of right now, you can sponsor your parents, and if you have a brother or sister that’s under 22, that person can be on that application. If we do have a short fall, and if we do need to address demographics, one idea is that you just simply increase the age of the dependent child, so to allow a 25 year old, a 26 year old, a 27 year old brother or sister to come, and that will help offset the cost of older immigrants.

Danielle Smith:                  That would make a good deal of sense. Tell me, just so I understand, when you say that if you have this income verification requirement, what would that be? What do you need to have as income in order to even get in the queue and start the process? Because that seems like it would be a pretty easy thing to add.

Raj Sharma:                        You need to have, you need to meet a minimum necessary income. That’s 30% above and beyond the LICO, the low-income cutoff figure that we obtain from Statistics Canada. If there’s husband and wife and a child here in Canada, and you want to bring mom and dad from overseas, you’ll need to meet about $65,000 or so in taxable income per year for the prior three years preceding the application.

Raj Sharma:                        That’s a requirement already for the sponsorship. If you don’t meet it, then you might be able to appeal that shortfall, for example. But if demand… resources will never meet demand, and so if you have, let’s say 100,000 plus sponsors, and you’re allowing 10,000 per draw per year, you’re always going to have individuals that are going to be left out of the equation.

Raj Sharma:                        But I guess the issue is this. If income requirement is necessary, why wouldn’t you front load that? We have to show notice of assessment in the actual completed application. Why not require that notice of assessment to be provided at the time of the expression of interest?

Danielle Smith:                  It makes so much sense. I know you’ve had some success in pushing along some positive improvements, maybe next time round they’ll add that one. But thank you so much for explaining the changes to us. Appreciate your time today.

Raj Sharma:                        My pleasure.

Danielle Smith:                  That’s Raj Sharma, Calgary immigration lawyer with Stewart Sharma Harsanyi. Thanks for listening to the Danielle Smith podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review for free on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, or wherever you find your podcasts, and join the conversation. You can reach me on twitter@ABDanielleSmith, or by email at Talk to you next time.