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Canada says it is on track to cut immigration backlog in half


Canada will reopen the Parent and Grandparent (PGP) program for new applications on January 2, 2014, by which time the backlog and wait times in the program are expected to have been cut in half.


“We are on track to meet the goals of cutting in half the backlog and wait times in the Parent and Grandparent program,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.


“It is very important that we continue to make progress and not return to the old broken system with wait times as long as a decade that would be unfair to families.”


Starting in 2012 and through 2013, Canada will admit 50,000 parents and grandparents as permanent residents. This represents the highest level of parents and grandparents admitted in 20 years.


In 2014, Canada will maintain high levels of admissions for parents and grandparents with the acceptance of 5,000 new sponsorship applications.


The Super Visa will become permanent and will continue to provide flexibility for families who access the 10-year multiple-entry visa, allowing visa holders to remain in Canada up to two years at a time.


Over 15,000 Super Visas have been issued since the program’s launch in December 2011 with approval rates averaging 86 per cent.


New qualifying criteria for permanent residency sponsorship of parents and grandparents will increase the financial responsibility of sponsors to ensure they have the means to support those they sponsor, while limiting the program’s cost to taxpayers and Canada’s strained health and social programs.


“These new criteria ensure sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada,” said  Kenney.


“The redesigned Parent and Grandparent program reunites families faster while respecting Canadian taxpayers and the limited resources for health and social programs.”


Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand do not allow grandparents to be sponsored at all or only in very limited circumstances, and they have very restrictive criteria for the sponsorship of parents.


Canadian citizens and permanent residents of at least 18 years of age may sponsor their parents and grandparents (PGPs) and their accompanying family members (such as spouse/common-law partner and dependent children). To be eligible to sponsor, sponsors must sign a sponsorship agreement wherein they commit to provide for the basic needs of the sponsored persons such as food, clothing and shelter for a period of 10 years.


If a sponsored person (PGPs and/or their accompanying family members), after arriving in Canada, obtains social assistance during the undertaking period, their sponsor is considered to be in default and social assistance amounts paid to the sponsored person(s) may be collected from the sponsor.


The new qualifying criteria include:


Increase minimum necessary income (MNI) for sponsoring parents and grandparents equivalent by 30 per cent: The current MNI does not accurately reflect the increased costs associated with being financially responsible for elderly parents and grandparents. The modest increase in the MNI will ensure sponsors are able to meet the financial needs of their sponsored parents and grandparents, which will reduce the net costs to Canadian taxpayers.


Lengthen period for demonstrating the MNI from one year to three consecutive years using CRA notices of assessment: Individuals who seek to sponsor their parents and grandparents and their accompanying family members will be required to demonstrate that they meet the new income threshold for the three consecutive tax years prior to submitting the sponsorship application. Requiring prospective sponsors of parents and grandparents to provide evidence of income over a three-year period, as opposed to 12 months, will help ensure sponsors have income stability and the financial means to provide for the basic needs of their parents and grandparents. It will also guarantee that prospective sponsors are contributing to the public services their sponsored family members are likely to use (for example, provincial health care, public transportation, etc.).


Extend the sponsorship undertaking period to 20 years instead of 10 years:  The current sponsorship undertaking period for parents and grandparents is 10 years. Individuals who seek to sponsor their parents and grandparents and accompanying family members will be required to commit to a lengthened sponsorship undertaking period of 20 years. This means sponsors and co-signers (if applicable) will be responsible for repaying any provincial social assistance benefits paid to the parent and grandparent and their accompanying family members for 20 years.


Changing the maximum age of dependents: The maximum age of dependents will be set at 18 years of age and under for all immigration programs, including the Parent and Grandparent program. This is in line with the standard age of majority in Canada. Those over the age of 18 can apply to visit or immigrate to Canada independently. There will be an exception for individuals, regardless of age, who are financially dependent on their parents due to a mental or physical disability.


 By accepting 5,000 applications in 2014 while maintaining high levels of admissions of parents and grandparents, the government will be able to further reduce the remaining backlog so that families can be reunited even more quickly. Opening the program to an unlimited number of applications as was done in the past will grow the backlog again and increase wait times, undoing the progress made to date.


The rationale behind the changes is that the PGP program generates costs to Canadian taxpayers as parents and grandparents are unlikely to engage in paid employment or to become financially independent when in Canada.


Data show that approximately one in 10 seniors aged 65 years and older participates in the labour market.


Low labour market participation by PGPs means limited contributions to Canada’s tax base, higher likelihood of low incomes and consequently a potential increased draw on social assistance benefits in comparison to economic immigrants, who consistently demonstrate a use of social assistance below PGP and average Canadian levels.


Data show that the incidence of social assistance benefits by PGPs increases significantly after the 10-year sponsorship undertaking period – from about 3 per cent during a sponsorship undertaking, to close to 20 per cent immediately after the undertaking has ended indicating that some PGPs depend on social assistance as an important source of income once the sponsorship undertaking has come to an end.


The increase in the incidence of social assistance by PGPs may be attributed to the fact that after the PGP’s 10 years of residence in Canada sponsors no longer have undertaking obligations towards their PGP.   

 

The PGP program also generates costs to Canadians in terms of health care given that many PGPs enter Canada at a time at which health care costs typically increase.


The average age of a PGP principal applicant at arrival is 65 years.


In Canada, more than 50 per cent of a person’s lifetime health care expenses are incurred after age 65, and consume nearly 44 per cent of all health care dollars.


 The current financial requirements sponsors must meet to be eligible to sponsor their PGPs are insufficient for assessing a sponsor’s capacity to financially support their PGPs.


The current MNI is low (e.g. MNI for a family of six – four in Canada plus two PGPs – is only $55,378), and provides no cushion if a family encounters an economic setback.


As a result, there is an increased risk that sponsors may find themselves vulnerable to even minor economic setbacks which in turn may impact their ability to financially support their PGPs.


The ability to demonstrate income by submitting any type of documentation makes it difficult to detect fraudulent documentation. Common scenarios include sponsors who submit statements of self-employment income that surpass income thresholds; but when asked for further corroborating evidence, they are unable to comply.


A single-year test of income is an insufficient indicator of a PGP sponsor’s ability to support their sponsored PGP over the term of the sponsorship undertaking.


A prospective PGP sponsor could have a “banner year” that would not reflect the sponsor’s true financial health (for instance, prospective PGP sponsors may take on extra work within a given year, thereby temporarily inflating income). 


 The objectives of the proposed regulatory amendments are to:


Ensure an efficient PGP program by better managing the number of PGP applications received through the introduction of more rigorous financial requirements for PGP sponsors, in order to decrease the likelihood of future backlogs and lengthy wait times.


Improve the fiscal sustain-ability of the PGP program by placing greater financial responsibility for a longer period of time on sponsors. Ensure sponsors are better able to support the needs of the PGPs and their accompanying family members by ensuring they have stronger financial stability. This would be achieved by increasing the MNI amount required to sponsor PGPs, requiring strong evidence of their financial stability and assessing their financial situation over a longer period.


Ensure all sponsors are able to support the needs of their sponsored family members at the time their family would be eligible to come to Canada. This would be achieved by ensuring all sponsors subjected to the MNI requirement continue to meet the income threshold for their family size, particularly in cases where more than one year has elapsed since the time a sponsorship application was received, and when it is opened for processing by an officer.


In spring 2012, CIC consulted widely with stakeholders and the public on the redesign of the PGP program. An online consultation questionnaire available for public comment received a total of 6,444 responses – the most of any online consultation hosted by CIC. The majority of responses, 6,390 in total, were from participants who self-identified as members of the general public and who did sponsor, are sponsoring, or intend to sponsor their PGPs.


Fifty responses were received from stakeholders/individuals representing an organization, and four responses were gathered from those representing a provincial or territorial government.


The regulatory amendments will come into force on January 1, 2014. PGP sponsorship applications received before the pause on PGP application intake – implemented on November 5, 2011 – would be assessed based on regulations that were in force at that time. PGP sponsorship applications received as of January 2, 2014, would be assessed based on the proposed regulations.

Posted: Jun 5, 2013

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