Immigrating: Now That I am in Canada, how do I bring my family?

by Durriya Bharmal, B.A.
CSIC Member, Mamann Sandaluk Immigration Lawyers

How do I bring my family? This is a question that many new immigrants ask. In most eastern cultures, parents reside with their children. The children immigrate to Canada and cannot add their parents as their dependants. Additionally, some parents have to leave their older children behind as they were no longer considered dependants under immigration law.

For parents, the answer is a family class sponsorship. As a sponsor, you need to meet a Low Income Cut Off (LICO) amount if you are sponsoring your parents. If you are sponsoring a spouse or dependant child (under 22, and if 22 an older, a full time student or medically dependant since before the age of 22) the financial test is not applicable.

The income is a set amount published and revised each year by Statistics Canada. LICO is based on the size of your family unit i.e. the number of persons currently dependent on you, the sponsor, persons you have sponsored in the past (on valid undertakings), plus the number of persons you wish to sponsor and their dependants. LICO is calculated by determining the income earned in Canada in the last 12 months prior to the date of filing the sponsorship application.

For example, a family consisting of a husband, wife and two children in Canada wish to sponsor the wife parents (with no dependant children) to Canada. LICO to be met will be for six persons i.e. four people in Canada and the two to be sponsored. LICO for six people for the year January to December 2009 is $51,498.

The income may be earned in less than 12 months and therefore, you do not have to wait for a 12 month period in order to begin the sponsorship application.

The processing time for such applications is a whole different story. The department has developed huge backlogs over recent years on parental sponsorship applications. The application is a two-step process. The first part, the determination of the sponsor eligibility, takes approximately two years in Canada. Once this step has been passed, the applicants (parents) portion is transferred to the visa office responsible for the country where the parents live. The visa office can take anywhere between one and two years to process the application. Therefore, parents are generally looking at a three to four year wait-time prior to being re-united with their children and families in Canada.

Children who were left behind in the country of origin due to the fact that they were over the age of 22 years (and not full time students dependant on their parents) when their parents applications were finalized and no longer qualified to immigrate with their parents may not have any straight forward answers to their plight. They will likely have to qualify on their own as skilled workers. If they are fortunate to be working in one of 38 occupations recently announced by the Minister, they may well be in Canada within six to 12 months.

In very rare circumstances, depending on the hardship being faced by the child overseas, they may be able to apply by arguing humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It is important to note that separation from their immediate family does not necessarily constitute hardship and individual circumstances have to be analyzed which have to be far more serious than mere separation from family before making such an application.

Unfortunately, there are no expedited options available to bring family to Canada permanently.

CNM