The Parent (Sponsorship) Trap

Yesterday, December 30, 2017, IRCC published the Ministerial Instructions for the 2018 Parent Sponsorship Program, set to open on January 2, 2018.[1]

Cynical people may call it a last minute effort to feign preparation and forethought before the opening of an immigration program that will impact ~100,000 Canadians and their ~100,000 overseas parents, but in IRCC-land, it’s a generous display of transparency and clarity. With 2 days to spare!

This is the way immigration works nowadays: programs open and close on a dime, forms change without notice and announcements that will impact hundreds of thousands of futures in Canada are made during a 3-day holiday, with the program opening on day 4.[2]

How the average person is supposed to stay on top of these rules and make sense of the constant flux is anyone’s guess.

The 2017 lottery was a decent enough idea set loose on a spectacularly poor system: anyone could throw their name in, but when it came time to applying, it turned out that few of the lottery winners were even eligible to sponsor their parents. Approximately 100,000 people put their names into the lottery, with only 10,000 available spots. When the first 10,000 were drawn in May, something in the realm of 4,000 actually applied (and of those, many were ineligible). By September, another draw had to be made to make up for the shortfall. We don’t know how many of September’s lottery winners were eligible, but they were drawn from the same pool of (mostly ineligible) 100,000 wannabe sponsors. And as usual, the big questions and critical information is either obfuscated or avoided altogether.

Take for example, this gem of an announcement IRCC made in September after the second draw of the PGP 2017. Spun as great news! there was no information about the actual details, such as:

  • How many people who won the first draw actually submitted applications?
  • Of those submitted, how many were eligible?
  • How many people were selected in the second draw?
  • What changes will be made to the 2018 program to avoid this kind of system failure?

On December 22, 2017, IRCC announced the 2018 program would open again on January 2, again in lottery form, including this note:

To help ensure the efficiency of the system and to allow as many eligible sponsors as possible to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada, it is important that only those who meet the sponsorship eligibility requirements submit an “Interest to Sponsor” form. Additional questions have been added to the 2018 version of the “Interest to Sponsor” form to help potential sponsors self-assess whether they are eligible to sponsor.

I am curious to see the new version of the Interest to Sponsor form, and in particular what self-assessment of sponsorship eligibility looks like, since last years’ version also had what (IRCC believes, anyway) were clear guidance on eligibility and a self-assessment tool. Similar to how my 7-year-old assessed herself eligible to watch UFC 219 (Cyborg v. Holm) last night. Maybe next year, darlin’.

Let’s hope that’s not the theme song for the 2018 Parent Sponsorship Program.

 

[1] For those unfamiliar with this stream, this is one category of the “family reunification” immigration programs and represents approximately 5% of Canada’s annual immigration numbers, and allows Canadians to sponsor their parents’ or grandparents’ applications for permanent residency. In the past, the program was open to anyone who qualified (the usual sponsor income, medical admissibility, security clearances, etc. always apply) without any caps or quotas.  But a massive backlog built up, so in 2011, IRCC put the program on hold to clear some of the backlog. Since 2014, on the first business day of January of each year, IRCC has opened up the program and there is a cap on the number of applications that will be processed each year. In 2017, IRCC introduced the first “lottery” system, where, rather than everyone’s applications arriving at the IRCC processing centre on January 2 of each year, the lottery opens up on January 2 so anyone who wants to sponsor their parents can throw their name in, and a month later, the lottery closes, and the draw of 10,000 is made thereafter.

 

[2] But hey, who needs an immigration lawyer, right?!