CIMM - Family Reunification and Compassionate Exemptions - June 2, 2021
- Canada’s family reunification program aims to grant permanent residency to over 103,000 individuals in 2021. The program allows for the sponsorship of spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, dependent children, adopted children, parents, grandparents, or orphaned relatives under the age of 18.
- Family reunification continues to be a priority for the Government, as it is key to Canada’s future, particularly as we work to recover from COVID-19.
- We also recognize it’s important to keep families and loved ones together—particularly during difficult times. That’s why a process was introduced in October 2020 to create exemptions from entry prohibitions set out in the Quarantine Act Orders in Council for compassionate cases, and to reunite extended family, including long-term couples. This is in addition to the exemptions from the travel restrictions for immediate family members of Canadian citizens, persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act, permanent residents of Canada, or, with authorization, temporary residents of Canada.
- IRCC has introduced several measures to support the processing of permanent resident applications, including family reunification applications. Where required, written travel authorization is also issued to foreign nationals who meet the exemptions under the OICs (primarily extended family members, including conjugal partners).
- The Department is now digitizing various paper Permanent Resident applications to allow IRCC offices to process applications remotely. This has allowed for a more seamless redistribution of work to better make use of all available resources.
- IRCC has also taken a facilitative approach to allow in-progress spousal or common-law permanent residence applicants more time to provide missing documents if they provide a reasonable explanation of how COVID-19 has impacted them.
Parents and Grandparents Program
- Despite the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program’s intake process was launched in October 2020, with a target of 10,000 applications. All Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and Status Indians have the opportunity to submit an interest in sponsoring their parents or grandparents to come to Canada as permanent residents. In January 2021, the Department selected sponsors using an audited randomized process, and sent out invitations to apply to those selected.
- IRCC chose to use a randomized selection intake model for 2020, which ensured that the process is fair and transparent, and that all interested sponsors had an equal opportunity to be invited to apply to the program, including persons with accessibility issues. Additionally, the methodology applied ensured the security and integrity of the randomization process.
- Those interested in bringing their parents or grandparents to Canada, but who did not receive an invitation to apply will have an opportunity in future intakes. Information and timelines for the 2021 Parents and Grandparents Program will be posted on IRCC’s website as soon as they’re available.
If pressed on immigration pathways for older adults and seniors:
- Older adults are welcome to apply to immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident if they meet established criteria of Canada’s economic or family reunification programs.
- Individuals may also apply for a temporary resident visa through any of our available streams, including the parents and grandparents super visa, which is a multiple-entry visa that allows for stays of up to two years.
If pressed on approvals to date:
- As of May 18th, 32,730 family class applications have been processed. This includes applications received under the parents and grandparents program.
If pressed on the fairness of the Parents and Grandparents Program random selection model:
- For the 2020 intake process, IRCC engaged with disability empowerment focused organizations and explored options to redesign the program intake. A random selection model was chosen as it ensures that the process is fair and transparent, and that all interested sponsors, including those with accessibility issues, have an equal opportunity to submit an interest to sponsor form and receive an invitation to apply.
- The randomization process is cryptographically secure, mostly automated, witnessed live by auditors, visually recorded and fully logged for auditability. The process cannot be manipulated from inside or outside IRCC and ensures true randomization occurs giving each entry the exact same chance of being selected.
If pressed on why Canada’s family class immigration is “narrow”:
- Canada has one of the most generous and comprehensive family reunification programs in the world. While Canada has used a broader approach to family-related immigration in the past, the program was streamlined to allow Canada to optimally balance its overall immigration objectives, including the welcoming of family, economic immigrants and refugees.
COVID-19 Border Closure Measures: Orders in Council
- The Orders in Council regime under the Quarantine Act sets out the parameters of entry restrictions and requirements for quarantine, isolation, and other obligations upon entry to Canada. These requirements aim to tightly control the entry of foreign nationals into Canada limiting it to mainly those who travel for a non-discretionary purpose. They also set out requirements for traveller testing and quarantine requirements.
The Orders in Council include:
- The order in council for travellers entering Canada from the United States restricts all foreign nationals from entering Canada if their purpose of travel is for a discretionary or optional purpose, unless exempted from that requirement. Foreign nationals with approved permanent residence applications and who are seeking entry to Canada from the United States, in order to establish themselves here, are not prohibited entry to Canada under this Order in Council on the basis that their travel is considered non-discretionary. Foreign nationals are prohibited entry to Canada if they show COVID-19 symptoms.
- The Order in Council for travellers entering Canada from a country other than the United States restricts all foreign nationals from entering Canada if they do not meet one of the listed exemptions (see below) and are traveling for a discretionary or optional purpose, unless exempted from that requirement. No foreign nationals are authorized to enter Canada if they are symptomatic of COVID-19.
- The Order in Council for quarantine, isolation, and other obligations requires all individuals traveling to Canada undertake pre- and post-arrival testing as well as mandatory quarantine measures, unless exempt, as detailed below.
Measures within the border closure orders that support family reunification
- In June 2020, the Government amended the Orders in Council as they relate to immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to facilitate their travel to Canada, while respecting all public health protocols and measures. If intending to stay in Canada for more than 15 days, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act and Canadian permanent residents do not need to demonstrate a non-discretionary purpose of travel.
- Immediate family members of foreign nationals temporarily in Canada who are travelling from any country other than the US require written authorization from IRCC in order to be exempt, and must be travelling for a non-discretionary purpose. Those travelling from the US do not require written authorization but must still be travelling for a non-discretionary purpose.
- As of October 8, extended family members (i.e. exclusive adult dating partners and their dependent children, adult children and their children, siblings and grandparents) of Canadian citizens, persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act and Canadian permanent residents are exempt from the travel restrictions if they have a statutory declaration attesting to their relationship and written authorization from IRCC. If intending to stay in Canada for more than 15 days, extended family members of Canadian citizens, persons registered under the Indian Act and Canadian permanent residents do not need to demonstrate a non-discretionary purpose of travel, and are coming to join their family members.
If pressed on process for clients in an exclusive dating relationship:
- Regardless of where they are travelling from, extended family members such as those in an exclusive dating relationship, must request and obtain written authorization from IRCC. An exclusive dating relationship means that both partners are adults (over the age of 18), the person is in a romantic relationship with a Canadian citizen, person registered under the Indian Act, or permanent resident, have been in the relationship for at least 1 year and have spent time in the physical presence of that person at some point during the relationship. Examples of an exclusive dating relationship include:
- committed romantic partners for at least 1 year who don’t meet the definition of common-law
- boyfriends, girlfriends or any other couple in an intimate, loving relationship; including couples in different- and same-sex relationships.
Processing of requests for exemptions under the Orders in Council
- The Department strives to respond to complete requests within 14 business days of getting a travel restrictions exemption request. However, if multiple requests with different information are submitted, the processing of the authorization may be delayed. In addition to meeting all regular eligibility and admissibility requirements for travel and entry to Canada,
- Extended family members must travel with both this authorization, as well as the statutory declaration, to be permitted to travel to and enter Canada.
- Foreign nationals travelling from a country other than the United States seeking to reunite with immediate family members temporarily in Canada must travel with written authorization from IRCC.
Processing applications in the Family Reunification Program
- Permanent residence applications such as those under the Family Class are paper-based and require on-site presence of staff to process them. The reduced capacity in our processing offices due to global health restrictions has impacted the department’s abilities to process these applications normally, resulting in increased processing times across all immigration programs.
- Ongoing international travel restrictions, border restrictions, limited operational capacity overseas and client behavior (clients unwilling to travel in the current environment) have created barriers within the processing continuum, hindering IRCC’s ability to finalize applications and land clients, which in turn impacts processing times.
- The Government continues to move forward with new and innovative measures to enhance our capacity to process permanent residence applications, including those made under the family reunification program.
- The Department began digitizing various paper Permanent Resident applications through a third-party vendor. The digitization initiative currently includes: in-Canada and overseas spouses/partners and Parents and Grandparents. The use of digitized applications allows IRCC offices to process applications remotely, both in Canada and abroad.
- Furthermore, IRCC has devoted additional resources to speed up processing, including the expansion of our Sydney office in Nova Scotia by hiring of 62 new staff to help in reuniting families faster.
- IRCC also has started conducting remote interviews, using telephone and MS Teams, for eligible in-Canada spousal applicants who would have otherwise required an in-person interview in order to help address processing issues.
- In April 2021, the Department launched a pilot project for In-Canada Spousal and Common-Law partner applications, which sets out to help officers to identify applications that are routine and straightforward for thorough but faster processing and to triage files that are more complex for a more thorough review. This technology was implemented to support employees in managing our ever increasing volume of applications, streamline the process and allow for wait times to be reduced, leading to families being reunited in Canada more quickly and efficiently.
- The Government continues to move forward with new and innovative measures to help address processing issues while ensuring to uphold program integrity, and will communicate these changes to clients as they become available.
Parents and Grandparents Program
- IRCC opened the 2020 Parents and Grandparent Program intake in October 2020, which was delayed to allow the Government of Canada to prioritize its efforts to contribute to the whole-of-government response to the global pandemic. Despite these challenges, the Department aims to receive a maximum of 10,000 applications for the 2020 intake process.
- The Department sent out invitations in early January 2021 to potential sponsors to invite them to formally apply as part of the 2020 intake.
- Since many sponsors may have been affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, the income requirement for the 2020 tax year has been reduced to the minimum necessary income, instead of the minimum necessary income plus 30% for the Parents and Grandparents Program. Also, all family class sponsors will be able to count these benefits in their income calculations for the 2020 tax year:
- regular Employment Insurance benefits (rather than just special Employment Insurance benefits)
- any Canada Emergency Response Benefits issued under the
- Employment Insurance Act or
- Canadian Emergency Response Benefit Act
- other temporary COVID-19 related benefits
- as long as they’re not part of provincial social assistance programs
- The number of people interested in sponsoring their parents and grandparents always exceeds the number of applications IRCC can accept. Those interested in bringing their parents or grandparents to Canada, but who did not receive an invitation to apply will have an opportunity in future intakes. Information and timelines for the 2021 Parents and Grandparents Program will be posted on IRCC’s website as soon as they’re available. Alternatively, the parent and grandparent super visa is another good option to explore, which allows them to visit family in Canada for up to two years at a time. It provides multiple entries for a period up to 10 years.
Temporary resident visa issuance to spousal applicants and Dual intent
- IRCC is aware that there have been public campaigns and advocacy groups that have flagged issues around the issuance of temporary resident visas to those with spousal applications in progress, namely high refusal rates. Given processing delays on spousal applications, this issue has become more acute.
- That said, analysis has shown that the refusal rate from 2019 to 2020 has remained almost unchanged. In 2019, top refusal grounds for a temporary resident visa for spousal sponsorship applicants were due to the inability to establish that the person would leave at the end of their authorized stay (R179(b)) and related to either purpose of travel, family ties, assets, travel history or current employment.
- Dual intent refers to clients who apply for temporary status in Canada, while also having declared an intention to immigrate to Canada permanently through a permanent residence stream. This is recognized in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
- To provide further guidance on dual intent in persons who apply for both temporary and permanent residence, the Department updated instructions to officers by providing factors for consideration specific to sponsored spouses and partners, such as whether the sponsorship application has been approved and what the applicant’s plan is should their application for permanent residence be refused.
Private Member’s Bill C-291
- On April 29, 2021, Bill C-291 was introduced to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide that a foreign national who is the subject of a family sponsorship application may remain in Canada as a temporary resident until a final determination in respect of the application is made. It also provides that they may not be refused entry to Canada as a temporary resident solely on the grounds that they have not established that they will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay, unless there is evidence of a history of non-compliance with requirements to leave Canada or any other country.
- IRCC is analyzing the proposed IRPA amendments and potential implications.
Pre-IRPA Assisted Relative Class (If pressed on why Canada’s family class immigration is “narrow”):
- Prior to the implementation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2002, Canada had an Assisted Relative Class in addition the Family Class. Assisted relatives, which could include extended family members, had to be sponsored and had to meet selection criteria as economic immigrants with sponsorship awarding them additional points.
- Immigrants who arrived under the Assisted Relative Class, had difficulty surpassing the pass mark during the application process, and, after arrival, took longer to catch up to the national earning average than economic principal applicants.
Immediate vs Extended Family Definitions in the Orders in Council under the Quarantine Act
The definition of immediate family members set out in the orders are broader than the definition of family members in subsection 1(3) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. The definitions in the orders in councils are outlined below.
Immediate family members in respect of a person are:
- the spouse or common-law partner
- the dependent children of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
- any dependent children of a dependent child
- parents or step-parents
- parents or step-parents of the spouse or common-law partner
- guardians or tutors
Extended family members in respect of a Canadian citizen, person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act or permanent resident are:
- an individual who is 18 years of age or older, is in an exclusive dating relationship with the person, has been in such a relationship for at least 1 year and has spent time in the physical presence of the person during the course of the relationship
- a dependent child of the person in the exclusive dating relationship
- a child of the person, of their spouse or common-law partner or of the person in the exclusive dating relationship, other than a dependent child
- a dependent child of a child (that is, a grandchild)
- a sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
- a grandparent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
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