A program that allows Canadians to apply for so-called super visas launches Thursday, but the NDP immigration critic is worried that the new 10-year visa for parents and grandparents may be hard to obtain.

The new visa is part of the Conservative government's plan to battle an enormous backlog of about 165,000 parents and grandparents who are trying to join family in Canada.

The so-called super visa will be good for 10 years, but will have to be renewed every two years.

 People applying to sponsor a parent or grandparent will have to show they can support their visiting relatives. To be accepted, the visitors will be required to have private health insurance coverage during their stay in Canada.

 NDP immigration critic Don Davies likes the new super visa for parents and grandparents, but he wants assurances that they will be easy to get, unlike a five-year visitor's visa that has been available for years.

"I have cases in my office in Vancouver where someone's sponsoring their parents, say from New Delhi, and their application is in the lineup for 10 years," Davies said.

 "So they apply for a visitor visa to come and they're turned down because they have a permanent resident application in the queue and the officials think that they won't leave."

 Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that won't be a problem — people who have applied for permanent residency will definitely be eligible for the visa.

"The department informs me that they're confident that the approval rate for these parent super visas will actually be very high," Kenney said last week at an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

Kenney said the new health insurance requirement may make it easier for visa officers to say "yes."

'Really good way forward'

"One of the reasons we are requiring that people demonstrate they have health insurance when they come into Canada, is to add greater certainty for our visa officers that admitting people is not going to end up representing a net cost to Canadian taxpayers," he told the committee last week.

Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, said that overall, the new program is a "really good way forward" in terms of serving parents and grandparents.

She also said the new program would give the government a chance to create a more transparent system.

"It also gives us a chance to ensure that our visa posts are being consistent and fair and transparent in terms of who it is that they're granting visas to," Douglas said.

But she noted that there are still concerns about how visas will be allocated, as well as the health insurance requirement.

"We really do have to pay attention to the fact that the requirement for private health insurance is not disproportionately affecting who we let into Canada," Douglas said.

The new super visa program was announced in early November as part of a broader plan to try and clear the backlog.