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?!


Here at North Star Immigration Law, we have a Department of Love. This is the group of lawyers (and one fabulous paralegal) who work on all the family class files. You know: the long distance relationships that turn into love and marriage and baby (and sometimes – no kidding – puppy) carriages.

In December, IRCC announced it was going to simplify the spousal sponsorship process, so I asked the Love Department for some thoughts about the new process.

The new process requires two additional steps that will be initiated by IRCC:

  1. Schedule A Background Application Form (you cannot submit the form until requested – you cannot even access it now) and police certificates will be requested;
  2. The immigration medical will be requested (you cannot request an upfront medical now)

In the former process, the above documentation could have been provided upfront and it made it more efficient. For example, it was helpful to complete an upfront medical if you qualify for an expedited work permit, so you can work in healthcare or childcare, or in any type of job at a hospital or school.  We are not sure how that can be done now, unless the medical instruction arrives at least a month before the open work permit.

The document checklist is lengthier and will still be confusing for most applicants. For example, the sponsorship and relationship evaluation is much lengthier and more detailed than the two forms it replaced in the inland process.

The documents required to prove cohabitation (required for spouses and common law partners) are very specific and may not apply in all cohabitation circumstances. Now you must provide specific documents from several different lists: e.g. two of the following three types of documents:

  • shared lease/mortgage
  • shared utilities
  • proof of shared address with government-issued ID, insurance policies and other important government documentation

On a positive note, the new checklist intends to provide more guidance on exactly what category you wish to apply in (Spouse in Canada, or Family Class outside Canada), and which documents to provide (e.g. for dependent children who require proof of citizenship, or for previous relationships)

However, it is not intuitive that making additional requests for information will actually result in faster processing. It should be an option to submit everything at the outset if you have it.

From looking at the checklist it seems like in an effort to clarify what exactly IRCC is looking for in different situations, they are making the requirements more rigid and forcing relationships to fit into defined boxes This is probably just illustrative of the inherent challenges in trying to find objective criteria to assess something as subjective as a relationship.

So this an interesting change in terms of effort if not execution. As they say, love isn’t always perfect.

To end on a musical note which seems apropos of the new immigration rules and the new world order in general:

This thing could go two ways

Won’t be another exit for days

So pack a small suitcase

Anything else can be easily replaced *

*The New Pornographers, High Ticket Attraction