The next step is a lottery: the government draws enough forms to enable 10,000 successful parent and grandparent applicants to immigrate to Canada.
(Next year, that number will be 30,000 so that Ottawa can return to its target of an average of 20,000 new parents and grandparents arriving each year).
From there, two application processes begin simultaneously.
The Canadian who filled out the interest to sponsor form formally applies to be a sponsor. To be eligible, they must demonstrate that they make enough money to support each parent or grandparent for 20 years.
The website that explains all of this even provides a chart that quantifies how much you need to earn to qualify.
The parents or grandparents complete their own applications to apply for permanent residence. Both applications are submitted as a single package.
The fees for this process come out to a little over $1000, not including the costs of mandatory medical exams, police reports, and biometrics.
The parent and grandparent sponsorship program’s popularity has made it an endless head-ache for successive Canadian governments.
As John Ivison of the National Post noted a couple of weeks ago, in 2011 the Harper government even stopped considering new applicants for a year to reduce a 165,000 application backlog.
Back then, it could take almost a decade to complete the process.
That said, if you did manage to submit a successful application before the year’s cap was reached, you could be confident that your parents or grandparents would eventually be able to immigrate.
The current government is trying something different. This year, there were three weeks to submit an expression of interest, followed by a lottery to determine who would be invited to apply.
Those who are not selected will have to start over next year.
This is the second time the Liberals have tried a lottery. The first did not go over well. Nonetheless, the government appears to be convinced that lotteries are the best way to maintain fairness and transparency.
First-come, first-served makes it too easy to game the system; it risks preventing the less advantaged from ever getting in.
I suspect that some readers would prefer the competitive approach. Presumably, if you have enough money to game the system, your elderly relatives are less likely to ever become a financial burden.
Permanent residents qualify for publicly-funded health care, and older Canadians tend to draw extensively from our health care system.
Ivison makes that case clearly: “People who have not contributed to Canadian society should not automatically have access to this country’s social programs, just as … demand for those services is about to peak.”
The argument is tempting, but it seems to assume that we accept parents and grandparents out of the goodness of our hearts.
The (relative) ease with which one can sponsor members of the family class is part of what makes this country so attractive to prospective high-skilled immigrants from the economic class - those future Canadians who are critical to our long-term prosperity.
Any cost-benefit analysis of the value of the parent and grandparent sponsorship program must consider the possibility that, without such a generous system, sponsors might never come to Canada in the first place.
This is not to say that the lottery system is perfect. I’d much prefer a process where your chances improve after any unsuccessful application.
Nor is it to suggest that we can’t do more to better integrate parents and grandparents into our paid and volunteer work force.
But I do think that, once we are through this pandemic and governments begin to look for ways to cut costs, they should stay away from the parent and grandparent sponsorship program.
On immigration, check out the work of Irene Bloemraad. If you study Canadian foreign policy, please take a look at this new book edited by Brian Bow and my colleague, Andrea Lane. Once you have trudged through my take on why the field is dominated by political scientists, you will find some fascinating essays.
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