Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

No perfect system:

The federal government has made changes to a problem-plagued lottery program for those wishing to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada, but immigration lawyers warn the updated system is still deeply flawed.

The 2018 sponsorship program for parents and grandparents opened Tuesday. This year, those interested will have to provide more information about who they want to sponsor and whether they meet the program’s income requirements before their names are entered in the lottery. The change is an attempt to winnow out those who aren’t eligible to apply, after thousands of people selected last year failed to follow through with their applications.

“Helping more people reunite with their parents and grandparents in Canada demonstrates the government’s commitment to keeping families together, leading to successful integration and stronger ties to Canada,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in a statement from Dec. 22, when the 2018 program was announced.

But Elizabeth Wozniak, a Halifax-based immigration lawyer, said the lottery system is “just a bit of a crapshoot.” She believes ineligible applicants will still submit the initial paperwork, bogging down the system and making it harder for those who do meet the criteria to bring their loved ones to Canada.

“Anyone can throw their name in once again, same as last year,” she said. “It’s just going to be more of the same.”

In years past, the sponsorship program for parents and grandparents was first-come, first-served. People submitted full applications during the earliest days of the new year, and the first 5,000 would be processed. In 2016, that number was doubled to 10,000.

But last year, the government decided to change the rules and use a lottery system instead. Those interested had to submit only basic information using an online form between January and February, after which 10,000 names were randomly selected to submit complete applications.

The change was intended to make the system fairer for those living further afield and for those who couldn’t afford a lawyer to help them prepare the full application on time.

Last year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada received 95,000 online forms, and randomly chose 10,000 of them. But according to information presented by Hussen in the House of Commons in December, the department only ended up receiving 6,020 applications.

Wozniak said the program’s income requirements are the biggest obstacle for would-be applicants. The government requires that sponsors prove they meet income thresholds for the previous three years, which vary depending on the size of their family.

But the 2017 online form didn’t ask for any information about income, which meant ineligible people could be selected from the lottery and only then realize they couldn’t actually apply.

This year, the new online form asks whether would-be applicants meet the income thresholds — but it doesn’t require proof. Wozniak said that’s not good enough. “Ineligible people can still be selected and they won’t be vetted out,” she said.

Last year, the immigration department eventually sent out a second round of invitations to make up the rest of the 10,000 spots. The applications were due in December. The government has yet to say whether it reached its target.

Wozniak said she had about 25 clients who were in the pool last year, and none were selected in either draw. “It was a real letdown for people who were eligible,” she said.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery said the new online form is a “definite improvement” over last year, but cautioned that it will still be difficult to weed out ineligible applicants.

“At the end of the day, I consider the process arbitrary and unnecessary,” he said. “It boils down to luck. So someone who’s qualified to sponsor their parents and has been for a long time, if they’re unlucky, they may never be able to sponsor their parents.”

He believes the 10,000-person limit should be scrapped altogether, and said he thinks the income threshold and other requirements are enough to limit the number of applicants.

Wozniak said the old first-come, first-served system was working fine.

“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t perfect… but we had no issues getting eligible people into processing,” she said. “It’s much more certain and it was faster, easier, more predictable.”

As for her 25 clients from last year, she said, their parents and grandparents would be permanent residents by now under the old system: “No doubt.”

Source: Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

Subsequent article with some of the comments during consultations on the changes: ‘Cruel’ immigration lottery system relaunched after angry backlash – Kathleen Harris

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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