IRCC Minister Transition Binder 2019: Family Reunification
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Area at a Glance
Family reunification is comprised of programs that allow eligible sponsors to bring their family members to Canada as permanent residents.
It is a longstanding component of Canada’s immigration system, reflecting the objective of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, “to see that families are reunited in Canada,” and has accounted for approximately 27% of annual admissions in recent years (over 85,000 in 2018).
Categories of persons who may obtain permanent residency through family reunification include:
- Spouses and common-law partners
- Parents and grandparents
- Dependent children: defined largely as under age 22; biological or adopted, including intercountry adoptions
- Other relatives, in special circumstances: e.g. orphaned relatives under 18
Scope of Impact
Family reunification plays an important role in attracting, retaining and integrating immigrants:
- Admissions: Family immigration is a large component of annual permanent resident admissions (27%).
- Connection with other immigration classes:
- Economic immigrants arriving in Canada single and later sponsoring someone from their country of origin.
- Temporary residents (e.g., workers or students) meeting and marrying a Canadian, and subsequently seeking permanent residence as sponsored spouses.
- Economic outcomes: Performance outcomes are, on average, not as strong as economic immigrants, but stronger than refugees and improve with amount of time spent in Canada.
- Social benefits: Admission of family members is also considered to have a beneficial impact on “anchoring” family members and their communities.
- Demand: Given demand typically outstrips admissions space, a key dynamic is the length of time reasonable or appropriate for reuniting close family members.
- Family reunification represents a significant proportion of overall immigration admissions.
- Program criteria is centred on the relationship to a sponsor rather than human capital considerations.
- A Sponsor:
- must be Canadian or a permanent resident residing in Canada.
- signs an undertaking to support their family member for a period of time – between three years (spouses and partners) and 20 years (parents and grandparents).
- is responsible for provincial social assistance payments made to sponsored person during undertaking period.
Two Core Programs
Spouses, Partners, and Children
- Admissions target set at 68,000 for 2019.
- No intake cap or income requirement.
- Two spousal categories:
- Overseas spouses and partners
- In-Canada spouses and partners who reside with their partner.
Parents and Grandparents
- Admissions target set at 20,500 for 2019.
- Annual intake caps since 2011 to manage inventory and processing times.
- Intake traditionally re-opens in January to meet future admission levels.
- Sponsors must demonstrate sufficient income over the last three tax years (in Quebec, sponsors must meet Quebec’s income requirements).
Family Class Admissions, 2009-2018
Text version: Departmental spending trend graph
|Year||Admissions||Percentage of total immigration admissions|
|Category||Percentage of admissions|
|Sponsored Spouse or Partner||74%|
|Sponsored Parent or Grandparent||21%|
|Sponsored Extended Family Member||1%|
Spouses & Partners – Processing Times
- Processing times have been significantly reduced since 2016 and processing times for new applications (12 months) are now stable. This is the result of process redesign and alignment of admission space with projected application volumes.
Parents & Grandparents – Intake System
- The process for the annual intake system has been adjusted several times in recent years to address concerns and criticism about fairness.
- The 2019 system was widely criticized and resulted in litigation claiming it was unfair to some persons with disabilities.
- Since 2017, intake is managed using a two-stage process:
- Each year, interested sponsors have an opportunity to submit an “Interest to Sponsor.”
- The Department manages a process to invite a limited number of interested sponsors to submit complete applications.
Quebec – Family Class
Family reunification is an important and significant component of Canada’s immigration program.
Pressures in the program arise from demand routinely outstripping capacity for admissions and processing, and from the advocacy of newcomer communities for further facilitation and fairness.
Program demand and pressure is likely to continue given the effect of overall increased temporary and permanent immigration and later sponsorship (i.e., recent immigrants’ propensity to be family sponsors in years after landing).
Given the need for new Ministerial Instructions before January 2020, an early briefing is recommended on considerations and options for the 2020 intake of the Parents and Grandparents Program.
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