Processing family members as part of a resettlement sponsorship application

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.

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Determining which family members are eligible for resettlement

An application for resettlement to Canada must include all family members regardless of whether or not they are accompanying the principal applicant to Canada. Family member is defined in subsection R1(3) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

So long as 1 accompanying family member (usually the principal applicant) meets the eligibility criteria for resettlement (A96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or R147), their selection applies to all other family members (accompanying or not) included in their application.

As per A42, if a family member, whether accompanying or not, is inadmissible they render all family members inadmissible. For this reason, it is important to ensure, whenever possible and regardless of their country of residence, that all family members (accompanying or not) are in the same Global Case Management System (GCMS) application and are processed concurrently.

DNA testing

The migration 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 and justify their decision in notes. 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 migration office of their 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].

Concurrent processing of separated family members

Simultaneously processing family members who are not at the same location as the principal applicant is important for family reunification and program integrity.

When a migration officer becomes aware that family members have been separated but can be located and are available for examination within a reasonable time period, every effort should be made to process all family members on the same GCMS application.

Important: In all scenarios, regardless of whether the family member is accompanying or is available for examination, all declared family members should always be added to the GCMS application. This facilitates the task of identifying declared family members.

Scenarios for processing family members

Scenario 1: If separated family members intend to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant and are available for examination at a different location, they are accompanying family members and should be processed on the same GCMS application. See scenario 1 processing steps.

Scenario 2: If separated family members do not intend to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant and are available for examination, they are non-accompanying family members and should be processed on the same GCMS application. See scenario 2 processing steps.

Scenario 3: If separated family members do not intend to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant and are not available for examination, they are non-accompanying family members who cannot be examined. These family members must still be included on the GCMS application. See scenario 3 processing steps.

Note: For all 3 scenarios, at the time of the examination of the principal applicant, if the separated family member is inadmissible, regardless of whether that family member is available for examination or accompanying, the principal applicant is inadmissible under section A42. Section A42 will not apply once the principal applicant is in Canada as a protected person.

For privately sponsored refugee cases, all declared family members, regardless of whether they are accompanying or available for examination, must be included on the “Undertaking/Application to Sponsor” form [IMM 5373]. Sponsoring groups are obliged to commit to provide support to all accompanying and non-accompanying family members.

Scenario 1: Processing separated family members who intend to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant

Government-assisted refugees will normally have the location of their family members listed on their referral forms. Migration officers should confirm whether the principal applicant is in contact with their separated family members and obtain contact information for examination.

Privately sponsored refugees will normally have the location of their family members listed on the IMM 008 application form.

The primary office is to acquire contact information of separated family members, for example:

  • at the interview
  • via Schedule A
  • via Schedule 2

Step 1: Notification (primary office)

When an officer becomes aware that there is a separated family member who is accompanying the principal applicant to Canada, once it is determined that the principal applicant is eligible, they will notify the mission responsible for the country of residence of the family member (secondary office) of the case and add them as a secondary office in GCMS. The primary office will enter a note in GCMS indicating if there are specific concerns regarding eligibility or admissibility which should be assessed at interview. The primary office will ensure that any relevant documents are uploaded into the GCMS file; at a minimum, the Schedule A of the family member concerned should be uploaded in GCMS by the primary office to assist the secondary office in their assessment.

The primary office retains carriage of the file and should manage timelines, respond to any file enquiries, update GCMS and make all assessment decisions in consultation and coordination with the secondary office.

Step 2: Assessment of separated family members – biometrics, eligibility, security and medicals (secondary office)

The secondary office will assess eligibility under section R1(3) and admissibility of the separated family members either at interview or on paper, as determined by an officer. They will schedule and collect biometrics and update GCMS accordingly. The secondary office will also schedule the immigration medical examinations for the family members located in their region.

Once the secondary office has completed its eligibility and admissibility assessments they will inform the primary office via email that processing can resume.

Step 3: Finalization (primary and secondary office)

For government-assisted refugees, once assessments for all family members are passed, the primary office will send a destination matching request (DMR) to the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O) for destining purposes. A note should be entered to clearly identify all of the following:

  • the situation
  • which applicants are travelling from which location
  • that all applicants must be destined to the same city

In addition to sending the DMR via GCMS, the primary office is to follow up with an email to ROC-O, copying the secondary office. ROC-O will advise the local office that the entire family unit will be destined to their city. Once the DMR is completed by ROC-O, the primary office can approve the file. Standard office procedures should then be followed to request itineraries clearly indicating which family members are travelling from which location.

For privately sponsored refugees, once assessments for all family members are passed, the primary office will advise the secondary office. Standard office procedures should be followed to request itineraries from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) clearly indicating which family members are travelling from which location.

For all cases: Visas for separated family members should be sent to the print queue at the secondary office. Both primary and secondary offices should alert their local IOM contacts to the situation. They must ensure that travel arrangements are made such that the principal applicant arrives in Canada first and that the separated family members travel as soon as possible thereafter and within the validity of the visas.

Note: For privately sponsored refugees, ROC-O will only send a pre-Notification of Arrival Transmission (pre-NAT) for the arrival of the principal applicant.

Scenario 2: Processing separated family members who do not intend to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant and are available for examination

Under paragraph R30(1)(f), non-accompanying family members in the refugee class are exempt from medical exams; however, they must be examined, where possible, for other inadmissibilities.

The primary office should request the IMM 008 Schedule A for the non-accompanying dependent and assess the separated family member. If the primary office is able to render a decision, there is no need to involve a secondary office.

Scenario 3: Processing separated family members who do not intend to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant and are not available for examination

Migration officers should attempt to examine non-accompanying family members for admissibility. Paragraph R30(1)(f) exempts non-accompanying family members in the refugee class from medical exams and biometrics are not required when the person is inaccessible to a migration officer.

Determining dependent de facto family members

Who is eligible

The accompanying de facto family member must do the following:

  1. 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 (in other words, they 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. be dependent on a principal applicant who is a member of 1 of the 2 prescribed classes
    • Convention refugee abroad class
    • country of asylum class
  3. 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. be identified on the principal applicant’s permanent resident visa application [IMM 008]
  5. demonstrate an ability to successfully establish as part of the family unit, unless they are 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. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (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 government-assisted refugee referral where a minor de facto dependant is included, the officer should 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
  • 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, section 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 on the processing of applications under section A25.

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