January 20, 2014
The Honourable Chris Alexander
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
House of Commons
Dear Hon. Minister:
Re: Strengthening Family Class Reunification
On behalf of a coalition of community based organizations and academics across Canada, we are writing to seek your help to renew Canada's commitment to strengthening the family class immigration program.
We are also writing to commend you on your decision to keep the age of dependent children for the purpose of all immigration applications to under 22, notwithstanding the proposed regulatory changes introduced by your predecessor.
Family class immigrants of all ages and backgrounds contribute significantly to the economic, social and cultural advancement of Canada. They form the backbones of our communities and their presence allows their families to flourish. Canada as a whole is better off because of the sacrifices all of our parents and grandparents make to keep our family strong.
Yet the changes to family class immigration which took effect on January 1, 2014 vis-à-vis the sponsorship of parents and grandparents are making it much more difficult for Canadians to be reunited with their loved ones. These changes are premised upon the unproven and inaccurate assumption that parents and grandparents are a “drain” on the social support systems, while ignoring the immeasurable contributions – both monetary and otherwise - they make to Canadian society.
Moreover, these changes have a disproportionate negative impact on women, refugees, and other marginalized communities who are now facing greater challenges in meeting the hardened financial eligibility for sponsors.
Even without these changes, the Federal Government's retreat from the family class program over the last decade has already taken a toll on many Canadian families. Those who are lucky have to wait for a minimum of 7 years just to be reunited with their loved ones; those who are not may never see their families ever again, thanks to the tough new rules and the restrictive quota for family class applications.
As Canadians in many provinces are getting ready to celebrate Family Day, we ask you to help us mark this important moment by making a commitment to strengthen the family class program through such measures as increasing the number of family class immigrants intake each year, lowering if not eliminating the income requirement for sponsorship, and broadening the definition of family members.
To discuss these and other needed reform to bring family values back into Canada's immigration system, we ask for a meeting with you in person.
We look forward to receiving your favourable reply.
Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Council for Refugees
Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Ontario Chapter
Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change
FCJ Refugee Centre
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
Response from the office of Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration:
Thank you for your correspondence of January 21, 2014, addressed to Mr. Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, on behalf of a number of community organizations which outlined their concerns related to family class immigration.
Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. We admit more parents and family members than most other developed countries.
As you are aware, a proposal to reduce the age of dependents from under 22 to under 19 was pre-published in the Canada Gazette Part I on May 18, 2013, along with the proposed regulatory changes to the Parent and Grandparent (PGP) program. Please note that the proposal to change the age of dependent children did not come into force at the time the PGP program re-opened on January 2, 2014.
Under Phase I of the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, the Government cut backlogs and wait times for sponsored parents and grandparents. Had no action been taken, it was predicted that the backlog could have increased to 250,000 persons with wait times of 15 years by 2015. Because of these decisive actions, wait times are now expected to be just one fifth of that time.
The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification has been a success as the government is meeting all of the commitments outlined in the plan. Just two years after its launch, the backlog has been reduced by nearly 50 percent.
Canada has admitted more than 50,000 parents and grandparents to Canada during 2012 and 2013 and plans to welcome an additional 20,000 in 2014. These numbers represent the highest level of admissions in nearly a decade, demonstrating Canada’s commitment to family reunification.
In consultation with Canadians, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has redesigned the PGP program to ensure families are re-united quicker. These improvements will help ensure processing times are reasonable and help to prevent backlogs. The new criteria and a limit of 5,000 new applications for processing annually ensures that the backlog of applications will not increase.
New eligibility criteria for sponsors will ensure that they have the financial means to support the family members they sponsor, while protecting the interests of taxpayers. The changes to the PGP program include:
• lengthening the sponsorship undertaking from 10 years to 20 years;
• increasing the Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) required to sponsor PGPs by 30%;
• requiring sponsors to provide proof of income for three years (rather than one year), using only documentation issued by the Canada Revenue Agency; and,
• providing officers the authority to request updated proof of income in cases where more than one calendar year has elapsed since submitting an application.
For more information on the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification: Phase II and the new qualifying criteria, please refer to the CIC Website at the following links:
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/backgrounders/2013/2013-05... and http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/sponsor/parents.asp.
Please note that the new criteria came into force on January 1, 2014, and there is no retroactivity. This means that the applications remaining in the queue from before the pause was put in place on November 5, 2011, will be processed under the criteria in place at the time the program was paused.
Furthermore, parents and grandparents who wish to spend extended periods of time with their families in Canada while their application is in process can apply for the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa. The Super Visa is valid for up to 10 years and allows parents and grandparents to come to Canada for up to two years at a time.
The Super Visa is very popular, with approximately 28,000 issued since its launch in December 2011 and approval rates remain high, at about 85 percent. The requirements to obtain a Super Visa are very straightforward and simple. In order to qualify, parents and grandparents must undergo a medical examination, they must purchase Canadian medical insurance, and their child or grandchild in Canada must meet the minimum income threshold. All of the other regular requirements for parents and grandparents to come to Canada on a visitor visa have not changed.
Information about visa assessment criteria and processing times can be found on our Website at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/supervisa.asp.
Thank you for writing and expressing your concerns. I hope that this information is of assistance.