Parent and grandparent immigration lottery doesn't answer hard questions
New method an improvement, but what applicants will be the priority?
In December, the federal government announced a number of "improvements" to the immigration system to strengthen family reunification.
While these announcements are generally positive, two basic questions remain unanswered. First, are these improvements real or cosmetic? Second, and more importantly, should family reunification be a priority of our immigration system?
The first major announcement made was a pledge to reduce the wait times for Canadians and Canadian permanent residents who wish to bring their spouses to Canada from 18-26 months to 12 months. While this is clearly an improvement for which the government should be congratulated, when viewed in light of the fact that these applications used to be processed in as little as six months when this program was first introduced, reducing processing times to 12 months is not a monumental accomplishment. An immigration system that separates newlyweds for 12 months instead of 26 months is still not a source of pride.
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The second major announcement was regarding the process for selecting grandparents and parents for immigration to Canada. Instead of maintaining a first-come, first-served system — which resulted in families having to hire couriers at high rates to ensure the application was filed quickly — the government has introduced a lottery system. Families had until the beginning of this month to file their online requests for their parents and grandparents. They should soon find out if they are one of the 10,000 lucky lottery winners.
Numbers don't add up
While changing to a lottery system is an improvement, it does not address the real issue. Does Canada really want parents and grandparents to immigrate here?
Canada's immigration plan calls for 20,000 "visas" to be issued to people in the parent/grandparent class this year. However, because each parent and grandparent "application" can contain a "principal applicant," "dependent spouse" and "dependent children," 20,000 visas may not be enough to process the 10,000 applications that will be accepted this year.
For instance, if each parent and grandparent application contains, on average, a person's mother, father and one younger sibling, 30,000 "visas" will be needed. As a result, taking in 10,000 applications could actually lengthen the time it takes for a parent or grandparent to get a visa from what is already a wait time of over three years.
If the federal government wants to be serious about reuniting Canadians with their parents and grandparents, the focus should be on increasing the total number of visas, not tinkering with a lottery system.
It is pretty clear that the federal government will not increase the number of parents and grandparents allowed into Canada each year. So, the question then becomes whether the federal government is prepared to tackle more difficult questions on the best way to select parents and grandparents for immigration.
Who should be prioritized?
The first difficult question that needs to be addressed is whether the government should prioritize the immigration of parents over grandparents? If a person already has his or her parents in Canada, it is not fair that they should be able to sponsor their grandparents to Canada when other Canadians are still waiting for their parents to arrive.
More controversially, since we limit the number of parents and grandparents who can immigrate to Canada, the next question is whether we should implement an economic test for parents and grandparents? For instance, should we choose parents and grandparents who speak English and French over those who cannot communicate in either official language? Should we prioritize younger parents who can join the workforce over those who are of retirement age? Should we prioritize parents and grandparents who have university degrees and college diplomas over those with no post-secondary education?
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On the other hand, instead of an economic test, should we implement a humanitarian test for parents and grandparents? For instance, should a person who has been separated from their parents for decades have their application prioritized over a Canadian who has been separated from their parents for only a few years? Should parents and grandparents who may have harder lives in developing nations be prioritized over ones from developed nations? Should a parent or grandparent who has no relatives abroad be prioritized over ones who have family in their home country? Finally, should a parent or grandparent who is older be prioritized over a younger parent or grandparent who can, presumably, can wait their turn?
The role of government is to provide answer the hard questions. The creation of the parent and grandparent lottery system just kicks the hard questions down the road.
Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration lawyer with MLT Aikins in Winnipeg.