CIMM – Family Reunification – March 3, 2022
- Family reunification continues to be a priority for the Government of Canada as it plays a significant role in attracting, retaining and integrating immigrants who contribute to our success as a country, particularly as we work to recover from COVID-19.
- Canada’s family class aimed to grant permanent residency to over 103,500 individuals in 2021. It allows for the sponsorship of spouses, common-law and conjugal partners, dependent children, children to be adopted, parents, grandparents, and other foreign nationals in situations described in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
Measures Implemented to Support Processing
- Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the Department has introduced several measures to support and accelerate the processing of family class applications, while ensuring the health and safety of those who live in Canada.
- These measures include file digitization, remote processing, conducting remote interviews, the use of Advanced Analytics, the introduction of an online application portal for clients and representatives and an increased number of decision makers assigned to family class applications. These implemented measures identify and mitigate risks to uphold the integrity of the family class as it pertains to anti-fraud and quality assurance.
- Our government is also developing plans to deliver on the Prime Minister’s mandate letter, including commitments to reduce application processing times; introduce electronic applications; and implement a program to issue temporary resident visas to permit travel to Canada for spouses, partners and children during the processing of their application for permanent residence.
2021 Parents and Grandparents (PGP) Program Intake
- The number of people interested in sponsoring their parents and grandparents always significantly exceed the number of applications the department can accept. For the 2020 PGP program intake, the Department received over 200,000 Interest to Sponsor forms.
- For the 2021 PGP program intake, potential sponsors were randomly selected from the remaining pool of Interest to Sponsor forms received in 2020, with a goal to accept up to 30,000 complete applications. In order to ensure the selection process was fair, and to provide equal opportunity to be invited to apply, alternate submission methods were provided to those with accessibility issues, and duplicate entries were removed. Furthermore, the transparency, security and integrity of the randomized selection is ensured by the ability to trace and audit the entire process.
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) knows that many families living in Canada have experienced financial difficulties because of the pandemic. For this reason, we implemented a more facilitative income requirement for the 2020 and 2021 taxation years.
Parent and Grandparent Super Visa
- Parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents 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 valid for up to ten years that allows for stays of up to two years at a time.
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 control the entry of foreign nationals into Canada, mainly limiting it to those who are fully vaccinated. They also set out requirements for traveller testing and quarantine requirements.
Measures within the border closure orders that support family reunification
- Under current border measures, all foreign nationals entering Canada must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Exemptions remain for limited cohorts of unvaccinated travellers.
- Vaccinated immediate and extended family members of Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, persons registered under the Indian Act, and protected persons are permitted to enter Canada under the provisions in the Orders in Council that pertain to fully vaccinated travellers.
- Unvaccinated immediate and extended family members of Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, persons registered under the Indian Act, and protected persons are not permitted to enter Canada under the Orders in Council at this time, unless they qualify for one of the limited remaining exemptions.
- One remaining exemption in the Orders in Council that supports family reunification is the exemption for certain minors under the age of 18. Minors under the age of 18 may enter Canada if they are:
- Accompanied by their parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor who is fully vaccinated OR is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act;
- Seeking to enter Canada to be with an immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act; or,
- Seeking to enter Canada to be with an extended family member who is Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act.
- Minors that are eligible to enter Canada per the above-mentioned provisions are not required to apply and receive approval from IRCC. IRCC no longer pre-adjudicates exemptions for family members under the Orders in Council.
Processing applications under the Family Class
- While restrictions on on-site presence limited processing capacity in the early months of the pandemic, IRCC has ensured to put in place various initiatives to enable remote processing. Processing times continue to be impacted by clients’ ability to fulfill all requirements.
- Overseas, processing has been impacted by local conditions in countries where our IRCC offices are located. Where there have been more severe impacts of COVID-19, offices have had to abide by local regulations, by working from home or limiting footprints within the office. In addition, local security and IT concerns have affected who may work remotely (i.e. locally engaged staff may not work from home in some locations with higher security concerns). This has limited productivity in some locations, but also served as a catalyst to increase activity-based processing and further integrated the work of our overseas and in-Canada offices.
- Previous and 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 Class.
- 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. The use of digitized applications allows IRCC offices to process applications remotely, both in Canada and abroad.
- In March 2021, the Department launched the Permanent Residence Online Application Portal to enable some applicants and representatives to submit applications electronically for the first time. Applications for 20 paper-based lines of business, including the majority of Family Class categories, are now being accepted through the Portal. Since June 2021, IRCC has been conducting all virtual landings for clients that are in Canada through the Portal. Through the Portal, clients are able to declare their physical presence in Canada, submit their mailing address and photo which will be used to print the permanent resident card, confirm their permanent resident status and obtain their Confirmation of Permanent Residence document.
- The Department has devoted additional resources to speed up processing, including the expansion of our office in Sydney, Nova Scotia by hiring of new staff to help in reuniting families faster.
- The Department has also started conducting limited remote interviews for eligibility purposes, using telephone and MS Teams, for 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 an Advanced Analytics pilot project for Spouse and Common-Law Partner in Canada Class (SCLPC) applications, which sets out to expedite eligibility approval of certain low-complexity applications. Advanced Analytics was implemented to support employees in managing the increasing volume of applications, optimize our processing steps, allow for wait times to be reduced, and thereby increase processing efficiencies.
- Due to processing delays on spousal applications, there were public campaigns and advocacy groups who flagged issues around the issuance of temporary resident visas to those with spousal applications in progress, which were namely high refusal rates. 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.
- The Prime Minister’s mandate letter includes a commitment to implement a program to issue temporary resident visas to spouses and children abroad while they wait for the processing of their permanent residency application. The department is examining ways to implement this commitment.
- The Government continues to move forward with new and innovative measures to help address processing challenges while ensuring to uphold program integrity, The department will communicate these changes to clients as they become available.
2021 Parents and Grandparents Program intake
- In the fall of 2021, IRCC randomly selected potential sponsors from the remaining pool of Interest to Sponsor forms received in 2020. A total of 34,500 Invitations to Apply were sent out by October 5, 2021, with the goal of accepting up to 30,000 complete applications into processing.
- Sponsors invited to apply as part of the 2021 intake process must have had their application received by the department within the period of 60 days after the day on which the department sent the sponsor an Invitation to Apply. The final deadline to receive all applications for the 2021 intake was by 11:59 PM EST December 6, 2021. Those invited to apply as part of this process were required to submit their application electronically through the the Permanent Residence Online Application Portal for clients or representatives, unless they were unable to submit an application using electronic means because of a disability. This is part of our commitment to modernize Canada’s immigration system, and will speed up and simplify the application process.
- Since many sponsors may have been affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, the income requirement to sponsor a parent or grandparent for the 2020 and 2021 taxation years have been reduced to the minimum necessary income, instead of the minimum necessary income plus 30%. Also, all family class sponsors are able to count these benefits in their income calculations for the 2020 and 2021 taxation years only:
- 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
- This measure ensures a facilitative approach to the income requirement for potential sponsors during the pandemic.
Pre-Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 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 to 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 family members set out in the orders are broader than the definitions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its Regulations. The current definitions in the Orders in Council are outlined below.
Immediate family members in respect of a person are:
- A spouse or common-law partner of the person;
- A dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
- A dependent child of a dependent child, as defined above;
- A parent or step-parent of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or,
- A guardian or tutor of the person.
Extended family members in respect of a person are:
- A sibling, half-sibling, or step-sibling of the person; or,
- A grandparent of a person.
- The immediate family member definition is used to facilitate a number of exemptions under the OICs. For the purposes of the exemption for unvaccinated minors under 18, the minor is exempted from travel restrictions if seeking entry to reunite with their dependent child, parent or step-parent, guardian or tutor immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or persons registered as an Indian under the Indian Act.
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