Determining which family members are eligible for resettlement

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

If one family member meets the resettlement criteria, their selection generally applies to the other family members. Pursuant to A42, if an accompanying family member is inadmissible they render the rest of the family inadmissible. This does not apply in the case of non-accompanying dependants who cannot be examined at the time of the principal applicant’s application. If they apply later under the One Year Window and they are found inadmissible, they do not render the principal applicant inadmissible.

For this same reason, when processing private sponsorship cases, it is important to ensure that any family members identified on the principal applicant’s IMM 0008 have also been included in the sponsor’s undertaking and that, where possible, they are processed concurrently.

In cases where the family member is not identified on the undertaking form, the visa office should contact the local Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office or the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O), who will communicate with the sponsor in order to:

  • amend the undertaking;
  • re-assess the settlement plan; or
  • withdraw the sponsorship.

Processing of the principal applicant’s application should not recommence until all family members are included on the undertaking.

Determining family members

Family members, as per R1(3) means:

  • spouse;
  • common-law partners; and
  • dependent children of the principal applicant or of the  principal applicant’s spouse or common-law partner; or
  • a dependent child of a dependent child of the principal applicant or the principal applicant’s spouse or common-law partner, regardless of whether they are at the same location.

DNA testing

The visa officer must consider any documentary and oral evidence provided in support of a relationship. If, after reviewing the evidence provided, the officer is still not satisfied with the relationship, the officer should send a letter to the applicant explaining why a determination cannot be made. The applicant should be offered the option of undergoing voluntary DNA testing (see Appendix K –Sample letter of a request for DNA testing). If the applicant does not notify the visa office of intent to take DNA testing within 90 days, the officer will make a final decision based on the information available on file. DNA testing should be used as a last resort on refugee applications given that refugees often do not have the financial resources to pay for the tests. DNA testing costs cannot be included on an immigration loan (IMM 500)

Determining dependent de facto family members:

Who is eligible?

The accompanying de facto family member:

  1. must be dependent on the family unit in which membership is claimed and not meet the definition of family member. The relationship may be by blood, marriage or strictly through long association (i.e., may not necessarily be a relative). The dependency must be emotional or financial and will often be a combination of both factors. Such persons would normally, but not exclusively, live with the principal applicant as members of the same household and, in many cases, face the same dangers of persecution as the principal applicant.
  2. must be dependent on a principal applicant who is a member of one of the two prescribed classes:

    • Convention refugee abroad class;
    • Country of asylum class.
  3. must meet the definition of Convention refugee or member of the Country of asylum class in their own right. Unlike other family members, a de facto dependant does not derive refugee status from the principal applicant.
  4. must be identified on the principal applicant’s permanent resident visa application IMM 0008.
  5. must demonstrate an ability to successfully establish as part of the family unit, unless he/she is considered vulnerable or in urgent need of protection.

All persons, (including the de facto dependant, who form part of the family unit, should be examined sympathetically. This is consistent with efforts to keep family units together, if at all possible. The family members are assessed collectively on their ability to establish.

A non-exhaustive list of examples of who may be found to be a de facto dependant family member:
  • an unmarried adult daughter in cultures where it is normal for an unmarried daughter to remain dependent until she marries;
  • a widowed sister or sister-in-law who has no means of support in a culture where it is normal that the principal applicant would take on responsibility for her care and support;
  • young children, for whom the family has been caring and whose parents have been killed or are missing.
  • In cases of young children, the officer must take into consideration the best interests of the child and ensure that there are no disputes with respect to custody or guardianship of the child. UNHCR conducts a best interests of the child determination (BID) for cases with minor de facto dependants. If a BID is not included on the GAR referral where a minor de facto dependant is included, please contact the UNHCR before finalizing a case.
  • parents of any age living with the principal applicant and who have no other means of support or other children with whom they could reside;
  • elderly relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) who have resided with the principal applicant  for a substantial period of time and/or who are dependent on the family unit for care, shelter, and emotional support.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of who may be found not to be a de facto dependant family member
  • a married sister living with the principal applicant  who has a husband residing in another known location, unless it is demonstrated to the officer that the sister cannot rely upon her husband for support;
  • a married daughter and her husband living with the principal applicant, unless they can demonstrate to the officer that they are completely dependent on the principal applicant for financial support;
  • an elderly parent who normally resides with the principal applicant , but who is self-supporting; and
  • a person who has been taking care of the principal applicant’s  children and living in the household for an extended period of time, but who is not without family of their own.
What if the de facto dependant does not meet the refugee definition in his or her own right?

In the refugee context, A25.1 (humanitarian and compassionate consideration) may sometimes be an appropriate tool to facilitate the resettlement of de facto dependants who do not meet the refugee definition in their own right but whom the officer believes should be resettled with the principal applicant. If the officer determines there may exist humanitarian and compassionate consideration for a de facto dependant, then the officer should consult procedures in OP 4, The processing of applications under section 25 of the IRPA.

Concurrent processing of family members, including de facto dependants

The concurrent processing of family members who are not at the same location as the principal applicant is important in family reunification.  When the officer becomes aware that family members have been separated but can be located or are being processed at another visa office, every effort should be made to process the cases concurrently. The cases should be cross-referenced. The family members will derive their status from the principal applicant. All applicants should be examined and have visas issued at the same time.

It is important that de facto family members be processed concurrently, as well, as there is a danger that de facto family members who are not processed concurrently may be subsequently found ineligible or inadmissible for resettlement. Unlike other family members, de facto dependants do not derive refugee status from the principal applicant. They must meet the refugee definition in their own right (or satisfy the officer that humanitarian and compassionate consideration exists). The one-year window of opportunity (OYW) does not apply to dependent de facto family members, which makes concurrent processing all the more crucial for these family members.

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