Reuniting Families Through a Game of Chance – Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship

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Many immigrants agree that the most challenging aspect of immigrating is leaving family and friends behind and the immense loneliness. In a bid to reunite immigrants with their parents and grandparents, the Government of Canada introduced the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program (PGSP) that allows eligible immigrants to express their interest in sponsoring their parents and/or grandparents to become permanent residents.  

According to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “the Government of Canada knows how important it is for families to be together. Family reunification, including the sponsorship of parents and grandparents for permanent residence, remains a top priority for the Government of Canada and is an important component of Canada’s immigration system.”  

Solomon Mensah, a permanent resident who was able to sponsor his parents to become permanent residents through this program, says, “having my parents in Canada with me will ultimately help with my integration. I’ll be able to fully focus on my life in Canada without having to worry about my parents’ well-being 1,000 miles away. I’m grateful to be among the lucky few who got invited to apply.”  

Like Solomon said, he was among the lucky few invited to sponsor their parents to become permanent residents in 2020 out of the many that submitted Expression of Interest (EOI). These lucky few were favoured by the lottery system of selection that IRCC currently operates for the PGSP program. Immigrant Muse’s effort to obtain the exact number of EOIs received in 2020 proved abortive.  

IRCC says it is “committed to ensuring that the Parents and Grandparents Program is accessible and fair for all Canadian permanent residents and citizens interested in sponsoring their parents and grandparents. Due to high demand, the number of people interested in sponsoring their parents and grandparents exceeds the number of applications we can accept to meet our admissions targets in the Levels Plan”.  

Before 2011, there was neither an EOI system nor a cap on the number of annual parent and grandparent sponsorship applications. In late 2011, IRCC stopped accepting new applications to process the backlogs and introduced the super visa, allowing parents and grandparents of Canadian permanent residents and citizens to visit and stay in Canada for an extended period. In 2014, the government introduced an annual cap on the number of accepted parent and grandparent applications to respond to consistently high demand for parents and grandparents sponsorship and growing processing times.  

In 2017, IRCC introduced a two-step selection process whereby prospective sponsors first submit their interest (Interest to Sponsor period). After this period, some sponsors are invited to apply to meet the applicable limit. From 2017 to 2021, IRCC used a random selection process to select interested potential sponsors from the EOI pool and invited them to apply. “Using a random selection model ensures that the process is fair and transparent and that all interested sponsors, including those with accessibility issues, have an equal opportunity to submit their interest and receive an Invitation to Apply”, says IRCC.  

This past summer, IRCC invited a record number of sponsors to apply under the 2021 intake. Going back to the EOIs received in 2020, IRCC randomly selected and invited 34,500 potential sponsors to apply to receive at least 30,000 complete applications. From September 23 to October 4, 2021, IRCC sent Invitations to Apply to potential sponsors with 60 days to submit their complete applications.  

After submitting their applications, IRCC will begin processing the applications. Processing time is dependent on whether the application is complete, how easily IRCC can verify the information provided by the applicant, and how long the applicant takes to respond to additional requests, questions or concerns from IRCC.  

While it is commendable that IRCC introduced this program to aid the integration and settlement of immigrants further, the lottery system of selection adds a layer of stress to applicants whose hopes are dashed every year due to no fault of theirs.   

Although IRCC says it cannot speculate on future policy and program decisions, IRCC needs to use a need-based process in the sponsorship application. Agreed, all immigrants need to have their families close to them. However, some immigrants have more need factors than others. These need factors may include being a lone immigrant, health concerns requiring family care, situations requiring more family support, and difficulty visiting family back home. Immigrants who are in dire need of family support on a permanent or long-term basis will benefit from a more structured sponsorship process that does not involve playing lottery. The need-based process doesn’t have to replace the current random selection process altogether. These two processes can share a cap that allows the need-based process to run year-long, unlike the EOI lottery process.  

Adequate research into why immigrants invite family members to visit or reasons that impede family members from visiting may help IRCC uncover some need factors to introduce a need-based process that puts less stress on applicants. Moreso, just like the Express Entry process, this type of selection process will allow applicants to have a sense of their chances of getting an ITA and determine if it’s best to pursue other means of having family members around, such as visitors or super visa.  

Thankfully, the new policy that reduces the processing time for visitor visas for close family members of permanent residents and citizens will alleviate some family reunification issues. 

Oyin Ajibola
Oyin Ajibola

Oyin is passionate about closing the information gap for newcomers and also fostering conversations on issues that matter to the immigrant community in Canada.

Email: oyin@immigrantmuse.ca

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