Is there a better way to reunite families? Thousands left in lurch by chaotic immigration application process

By Nicholas KeungImmigration Reporter
Fri., Feb. 1, 2019timer4 min. read

The chaos around a new application process to bring parents and grandparents to Canada has left advocates and would-be applicants wondering if there is a better — and more fair — way to reunite families.

The immigration department’s new first-come-first-serve online application process launched Monday saw 27,000 “expression of interest” spots snapped up in mere minutes, leaving tens of thousands of other potential sponsors frustrated and angry at being shut out.

“Whatever system we have, there’s always the question of fairness,” said Surrey, B.C., lawyer Marina Sedai, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration division. “No one can come up with a perfect solution that satisfies the needs of all Canadians.”

For decades, any Canadian citizen or permanent resident interested in sponsoring parents and grandparents could apply in an “all-in” system where they simply waited for their turn, based on the order applications were received. However, due to overwhelming interest and limited resources, the backlog had grown to 165,000 people and applicants had to wait for up to eight years for their relatives to arrive.

In 2011, the then-Conservative government suspended new applications for two years before reopening the process and, in 2014, imposing a cap of 5,000, to be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis. Paper-based applications had to be sent by mail or registered courier to a single government processing centre in Mississauga and were assessed in order of their time stamp. Applicants complained that this forced them to spend large amounts of money on couriers each year in an attempt to make it into the top 5,000 spots.

In 2016, the Liberals raised the annual quota to 10,000. And in January 2017, Ottawa introduced the lottery process. Sponsors were asked to submit an expression of interest form, and from that pool, people were randomly selected to continue with the application process. That year, some 95,000 would-be sponsors vied for the 10,000 spots; only 6,020 applications were completed because some were deemed ineligible, others never completed the process, and multiple entries by the same applicants were discarded.

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Frustration builds as 27,000 spots to sponsor parents, grandparents snapped up in minutes