Canadian citizens and permanent residents who wish to have their parents join them in Canada must normally apply to sponsor through the Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship Program (PGP). However, there are caps on the number of applications allowed through this program, and many potential sponsors will inevitably be disappointed.
This article focuses on some immigration alternatives for those who may not be successful via the Parent and Grandparent sponsorship pathway. See our other blogs for information on the parent sponsorship application process and the eligibility requirements such as the required income, supporting documents, undertaking period, application process through the permanent residence portal, sponsorship agreement, etc.
How Parent sponsors are selected
First, it is worth knowing how the Canadian Parent Sponsorship Program works so that you can realistically assess your chances. The Parents and Grandparents program uses a lottery system where Canadian citizens and permanent residents who wish to sponsor their parents or grandparents, and who can financially support them, are invited to submit their details to IRCC. A pool of potential sponsors is created and a certain number of sponsors are then randomly invited to apply each year.
The caps exist because Canada cannot accommodate everyone who would like to have their parents immigrate to Canada. The country’s fiscal budget cannot absorb such large numbers of parents and grandparents who have not paid taxes in Canada, are likely not entering the labour force to work for Canadian employers, and who are usually in need of more health care resources than the average citizen. Thus, the Canadian government established the lottery system, to ensure that some families are able to reunite in Canada without overburdening our public health care system.
Once a year during the intake period, any Canadian citizen or permanent resident interested in sponsoring their parents or grandparents can submit the Interest to Sponsor form to enter the pool. IRCC then randomly selects a certain number – for 2023, it will be 24,200 potential sponsors – and invites them to submit a complete application for their family members, both the sponsor forms and applicant forms. At this point, they also provide proof of their eligibility and submit all required documents like police certificates, etc. IRCC hopes to receive 15,000 complete applications in 2023.
For the 2023 lottery, IRCC has decided not to open the pool to new entrants. In fact, the last time they opened the sponsorship pool was Fall 2020. This year, as also happened in 2021 and 2022, they will draw from those who entered the pool in 2020. This effectively prioritizes those waiting the longest, but unfortunately makes it impossible for anyone else to sponsor their parents this year.
Not selected in the parent sponsorship lottery?
If you’ve never entered the lottery, or you submitted the Interest to Sponsor form in 2020 and have not yet received an invitation — all is not lost. There are a few other ways in which your parent or grandparent may be able to come to Canada. It is worth exploring any other options that may be feasible in your circumstances with an experienced professional, such as a licensed immigration consultant.
The best option for parents and grandparents – the Super Visa
The Super Visa is designed to allow parents and grandparents to visit their adult children in Canada for an extended period. A multiple entry visa is issued either to the date of passport expiry, or for up to 10 years, providing flexibility to leave and re-enter Canada during the validity period.
The length of any one visit has recently increased. Now, the Super Visa holder can stay for a continuous period of five years, upon any entry to Canada – as long as the passport is also valid for more than five years. This lengthy stay on a temporary basis is unique in Canada’s immigration system and is intended to give some relief to families not selected through the sponsorship lottery system.
The good news about Super Visas
The best news is that there are no caps on the number of Super Visas that can be issued. Anyone who qualifies, from any country, has an excellent chance of approval if they file the right paperwork and are admissible. The application process is quite straightforward and relatively quick (a few months or less) and the success rate is very high.
The drawbacks of Super Visas
Of course, as with any immigration stream, there are eligibility criteria for both the sponsor and applicants to meet and not everyone will qualify for a Super Visa. The main eligibility criteria are:
1. All sponsored parents and grandparents must pass an immigration medical exam. Most will pass this exam, but perhaps not all, particularly if they have a serious medical condition requiring surgeries or hospitalization. Plus, if your parent or grandparent lives outside of a major city, it may be inconvenient to travel to the nearest Panel Physician for the necessary medical exam.
2. All applicants must purchase medical insurance coverage. The Super Visa allows for temporary visitor status only, so applicants are not eligible for Canadian health care. A minimum of $100,000 in coverage is needed for the first year. Super visa holders must provide proof at the initial entry, and must maintain their health insurance while in Canada and prove that they have valid coverage upon each re-entry.
3. There are income requirements. The potential sponsor must meet a minimum income test, based on their most recent tax assessment, as proof of their ability to financially support their sponsored family members. The amount of income required will depend on the size of the family, including the sponsor’s dependent children. A spouse or common-law partner (not a sibling) can be a co-signer on the application allowing the couple to combine their income in order to meet the requirement.
4. Finally, parents and grandparents cannot work in Canada. This is not a problem for most families as they are already retired, which is why the requirement exists for financial support. It is helpful to note that Canada Immigration does not consider it ‘working’ to take care of grandchildren in the home or assist with the cooking, cleaning and household chores. This type of work is permissible and can make it possible for other adults to work outside the home.
The bottom line is this: If a long-term stay is desired for your parent or grandparent, consider the Super Visa first, and take advantage if you qualify.
Other temporary options for parents and grandparents
Regular visitor visas and eTA for parents or grandparents
For shorter visits, the regular Visitor Visa or eTA will be sufficient to obtain temporary status. This option might suit parents or grandparents who wish to stay for a brief period on any given trip, and perhaps make multiple trips in and out of Canada. Each entry to Canada allows the traveller to stay for up to 6 months, and it is always possible to apply for an extension of stay once you are in Canada.
No medical exam is usually required, until an application is made to extend for a stay longer than 6 months. Medical insurance is also not essential, although travel insurance is always advisable for visitors to Canada, as any unexpected need to use the medical system can be very costly.
Work permit for parents or grandparents
If your parent or grandparent does plan to work outside the home, a Work Permit is available if they qualify in the same manner as any other temporary foreign worker. This usually requires a Canadian employer to obtain permission to hire a foreign worker, and your parent or grandparent must be qualified to work in the position offered. Note that there are usually no age restrictions imposed on the hiring process in Canada. If someone is willing and able to do the job, Canadian employers are usually not concerned about how old they are.
Study permit for parents or grandparents
Also, in theory, a Study Permit is an option, even for older adults – but it is necessary to demonstrate why it makes sense for the applicant to return to post-secondary studies at this point in their life, why they need to study in Canada as opposed to their home country, and how they are going to improve their career opportunities by studying in Canada. Although not impossible, these factors can be difficult to address convincingly when the applicant is nearing the end of their working years. Studying as a foreign student is also very expensive – you can expect to pay at least twice the tuition that a Canadian citizen or permanent resident would pay.
Permanent resident options for parents and grandparents
Outside of the parent and grandparents sponsorship lottery, there are other pathways through which your parent or grandparent may qualify for Permanent Residence in Canada.
Economic options for Permanent Residence
Permanent residence in Canada can be applied for by any applicant who meets the normal economic streams in Express Entry or the Provincial Nominee Programs or other existing pathways. This includes parents and grandparents.
Depending on your parent’s situation and location, they may be able to qualify for permanent residence on their own as economic immigrants. A licensed professional can help you assess this, but keep in mind it is relatively rare for older adults to qualify for economic immigration – for one thing, many of these programs are points-based, with age points heavily favouring younger applicants.
Humanitarian and Compassionate applications for parents
There is always lots of chatter online about permanent residence applications based upon Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds (H&C). It is true that anyone can apply, under any circumstances, with virtually no eligibility requirements to meet (like work background or language ability). Every case is considered on its own merits, but it is important to understand that H&C applications have a high rate of refusal.
Anyone considering this option needs reliable information on your actual chances of a successful H&C application before investing the time, money and hopes going down a pathway that may not ultimately work for you. A professional assessment is strongly recommended, as everyone’s situation is different.
The H&C application can be made at a visa office outside Canada to bring a parent or grandparent from abroad on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds, or the application can be made inside Canada if the person is already here and wishes to stay permanently.
H&C applications made outside Canada
Considering parents outside Canada first, we can say from experience it is next to impossible to succeed on an H&C application for parents or grandparents filed at a visa office outside Canada. In fact, these approvals are so rare that you should obtain a second opinion from a reputable practitioner if this option is suggested for your parent or grandparent (perhaps at great cost).
A common reason put forward in these overseas cases is that the Canadian resident is the only person able to provide care for an aging parent who may otherwise be alone in their own country, for example, after the death of their spouse. While we understand the difficulties of having an aging parent on the other side of the world, please remember that it is very, very rare for these types of cases to be approved.
H&C applications made inside Canada
For parents or grandparents already living in Canada, perhaps for several years with temporary status or even being out of status, there can be strong arguments made for allowing them to become a Permanent Resident on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. For instance, they may be fully established in Canada, and no longer have any support system abroad. Or the best interests of the grandchildren might be detrimentally affected if their grandparents must leave, given the strong bonds between them.
Such H&C cases are sometimes approved, although frequently only following a court challenge to an initial refusal by the officer. You can expect an uphill battle even on very sympathetic cases, for the simple reason that officers are reluctant to approve them as they are concerned about fairness to all.
In general, your situation must be very unusual to expect to succeed. Ask yourself the question that will be foremost in the officer’s mind: “Why should this parent or grandparent be given special preference over everyone else’ s parent who also wants to be in Canada?” The situation must be one that brings a tear to the eye of a disinterested party if there is any chance of success. In our experience, successful H&C cases usually entail circumstances that most Canadians, upon hearing the story, would heartily agree that an exception should be made for the family.
If you believe you fit in this category, an experienced professional can provide an opinion on the chances of success. We always recommend hiring counsel for an H&C application, as a professional will devise the best strategy with the strongest possible evidence and submissions. Not only will this increase your chances of success but, in the event of a refusal, a strong initial case has laid the groundwork for a successful court challenge if the officer’s decision appears unreasonable. Officers must be reasonable when making decisions, considering all the evidence before them, but you should be prepared to commit significant time and financial resources to these types of cases.
A final word of caution about applying for H&C
Although many non-professionals will encourage an applicant to file an H&C application, few understand the ramifications of doing so. Once you have filed an H&C application, and are not successful, IRCC is not likely to allow the applicant back into Canada in the future.
Therefore, it is important to know that, if you file an H&C application (inside or outside Canada) which is rejected by an officer, your parent or grandparent is highly unlikely to be approved for any kind of temporary visa to travel to Canada again in the future – including the Super Visa, the regular visitor visa or an eTA.
There are many different avenues for you to have your parents or grandparents join you in Canada, with pros and cons in each instance. The common factor is that you must be willing and able to provide financial support to the sponsored person while they are staying with you in Canada.
At The Way Immigration we have assisted hundreds of families with obtaining status for parents and grandparents in Canada, both through temporary avenues to enter Canada like the Super Visa or permanent residence through the Parents and Grandparents program. We can assist those parents or grandparents who may already be in Canada and wish to extend their temporary status or assess their chances of a successful permanent residence application. Please contact our office to book a consultation today.