Family sponsorship opportunities for Calgary immigrants get a boost for 2019

Immigrants living in Calgary have an improved chance to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada as a new round of government sponsorship applications gets underway this month.

Federal government accepting 20,000 applications to bring parents and grandparents to Canada in 2019

Immigration consultant Sujit Kumar Saha says the Alberta economy is still making it difficult for some potential applicants to meet strict financial requirements. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Immigrants living in Calgary have an improved chance to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada as a new round of government sponsorship applications gets underway this month.

The practice of bringing parents and grandparents to Canada to live is popular among immigrants from places like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, to name just a few.

This year the federal government has upped the number of applications to 20,000, from 17,000 last year, with many in Calgary joining the competition for those spots.

"As the children we want to help our parents and we want to support them," said Harpinder Sidhu, who already successfully sponsored his parents to join him and his family in Calgary from India.

"In the northeast we see a lot of new immigrants and all of them want to support their parents. Sometimes they need their parents to take care of their children or they want their children to mix with their family so new immigrants are excited about this program," said Sidhu, who has lived in Canada for 12 years.

Northeast Calgary resident Harpinder Sidhu sponsored his parents to come to Canada in 2010, starting a process that took five-and-a-half years. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The government is scrapping its random lottery system for applicants this year, replacing it with a first-come-first-served system that many believe is fairer.

This year applicants will fill out an 'interest to sponsor' form online and will be invited to apply, if eligible, in the order the interest to sponsor documents are received. 

It can be a long and difficult road for many sponsors, with some describing frustrating waits of up to nine years navigating the system before parents are allowed to make the journey here. 

"We were trying to sponsor our parents for the last three years," said northeast resident Kaniz Fatima, who will try again this year to bring her mother to Calgary from Bangladesh. 

"I am the only one from my family who's living in Alberta and every year I have to fly, which is expensive. My Mum is on her own and she'd be happy to come live with me," said Fatima. "It's really lonely here."

"It's stressful for us to wait to see what will happen," she added.

Strict financial requirements

Relatives have to undergo extensive medicals and sponsors have to meet and maintain strict financial requirements to prove they're able to provide for their parents when they do arrive.

It's a busy start to the year for immigration specialists as they work with families and individuals looking to apply, with many of whom quickly discovering they're unable to meet the financial requirements needed for an application to succeed.

Applicants sponsoring parents need to meet the minimum income requirement of $40,379 for each of the three taxation years preceding the application date.

Add grandparents to that application and that figure rises to $60,271.

This year applicants have to submit an interest to sponsor form online, with applications that go ahead being invited in the order which the original form was submitted. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

This year Alberta's economic struggles are expected to scupper many applications.

"Last couple of years people may have picked up some jobs, good income, however 2015 and 2016 their income maybe was low so they don't meet the requirements," said Sujit Kumar Saha, an immigration consultant based in northeast Calgary.

"The government is encouraging potential sponsors to study what the requirements are before they submit their expression of interest and income is a big thing," said Saha.

Saha says a lot of people don't realize they also have to maintain the minimum income requirements during the process of the application.

But there are positives too.

"The last couple of years the government introduced this lottery system that a lot of sponsors were upset about and this year this is very good news for potential sponsors that's they know for sure if their name has been accepted," said Saha.

"This year the government will accept 20,000 applications. This is an increased opportunity and this is good news for sponsors," Saha added.

People looking to sponsor their parents or grandparents can begin the new process as of Jan. 28.

Saha says processing times for trouble-free applications should be around 24 months, according to the government website.

Rejected applications are non-refundable.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist covering all kinds of stories from northeast Calgary for web, radio, TV and social media, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey