CIMM - Family Reunification and Compassionate Exemptions - Mar 8, 2021
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- 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 this Government, as it is key to Canada’s future, particularly as we work to recover from COVID-19. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), along with our federal partners, is diligently trying to balance any easing of travel restrictions or creation of new pathways with the need to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
- To better support families in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2020 the Government updated its rules to make it easier for immediate family members of Canadian citizens, persons registered under the Indian Act and Canadian permanent residents to travel to Canada. This allows for families to be reunited while the travel restrictions are still in place, while respecting all public health protocols and measures.
- IRCC has introduced several measures to support the processing of permanent resident applications, including spouse or common-law partner sponsorship applications. In particular, a new pilot to digitize spousal applications will allow officers to process them remotely. In 2020, IRCC processed nearly 46,000 spouses, partners and dependent children.
- IRCC has also taken a facilitative approach to allow in-progress spousal or common-law permanent residence applicants more time to provide missing documents due to COVID-19 and will not be refusing their applications for these reasons.
Parents and Grandparents Program
- Despite the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program’s (PGP) intake process was launched this past fall. The Department sent out [Redacted] to apply in early January 2021 (January 5 to January 11).
- IRCC chose to use a randomized selection intake model for 2020, as this model 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 for persons with disability. Additionally, the methodology of this process was improved, including the tool by which the randomization was applied and 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 the fairness of the Parents and Grandparents Program lottery system:
- For the 2020 intake process, IRCC engaged with disability 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 expansive 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 Measures: Orders in Council
- The existing orders in council regime under the Quarantine Act currently sets out the parameters of travel 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 only those who travel for a non-discretionary purpose. Canadian citizens, persons registered under the Indian Act, permanent residents, and protected persons are not subject to entry restrictions. They also set out requirements for traveller testing and quarantine requirements.
- These restrictions have successfully mitigated the risk of importation of COVID-19 into Canada. Data currently suggests that the risk posed by foreign nationals entering Canada has remained stable and low: among international arrivals, which includes Canadians, virus importation rates have hovered consistently around 2%. Foreign nationals represent approximately 30% of daily entries in both the air and land modes.
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. 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 permitted entry to Canada under this Order in council on the basis that their travel is deemed non-discretionary. No foreign nationals are authorized to enter 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. 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 supporting family reunification
Temporary measures while travel restrictions are in place:
- 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 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 under the Indian Act and Canadian permanent residents are exempt from the travel restrictions. They can enter for non-discretionary purposes (if they are intending to stay in Canada for more than 15 days), provided they are admissible, do not have COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus, 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 lived together but don’t meet the definition of common-law
- boyfriends, girlfriends or any other couple in an intimate, loving relationship
- 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 will need to 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 will need to travel with written authorization from IRCC.
- While the Government has continued to accept and process family sponsorship applications, requirements for immigration and sponsorship applications, such as in-person interviews, paper-based documentation and security screening, all face steep challenges in a constantly evolving pandemic situation, with different workplace requirements regionally in Canada and internationally.
- The Government continues to move forward with new and innovative measures to help address processing issues and will communicate these changes to clients as they become available.
Parents and Grandparents Program
- IRCC opened the 2020 Parents and Grandparent (PGP) 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, a maximum of 10,000 applications for the 2020 intake process will be accepted into processing.
- The Department sent out approximately [Redacted] in early January 2021 to potential sponsors to invite them to formally apply as part of the 2020 intake.
- IRCC has also lowered the income requirement and allowed potential sponsors to include all payments made under the Employment Insurance Act in the income calculation for the 2020 tax year. This includes any temporary COVID-19 benefits issued as long as they have not been deemed as social assistance.
- 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 applications
- 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, 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.
- Officers must refuse a temporary residence application, when it is clear the applicant will not leave at the end of their stay. In those cases, permanent residence is the best pathway to apply. This feature had become predominant given that our processing of paper-based permanent residence application had stalled due to COVID health and safety measures. The Department is pleased to report that our operations have resumed, [Redacted], so as to reduce processing times. These applicants have a right of entry under the current public health border measures, and can travel to Canada.
If pressed – On pre-IRPA Assisted Relative Class:
- Prior to the implementation of the IRPA 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
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
- Guardians and tutors are individuals who are responsible for caring for a foreign national minor who is living apart from a parent for an extended period of time, for example to attend a secondary school in Canada. The guardian or tutor should be able to demonstrate that they habitually reside at the same address as the minor. Officers should be flexible in accepting documentary evidence.
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
- 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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