By Catherine Sas,
Special to The Post
The beginning of a new year is often a time to contemplate what to expect in the coming months.
For the past several years, the start of the new year has delivered a new Canadian immigration program with the re-opening of the Parents and Grandparents program in 2014 and the new Express Entry program in 2015.
Given the change of government this past October, Canadians can expect 2016 to be another year of significant modification to our immigration program. This is made clear in the Prime Minister's "Mandate Letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship" where new Immigration Minister John McCallum is given his marching orders.
Let's see what our new Prime Minister expects our new Immigration Minister to achieve in the year ahead.
The Prime Minister's directive has a list of twelve key initiatives for the Minister to take action on. Here are some of the priorities that Minister McCallum is to deliver upon:
• Bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees in the coming months.
• Bring forward a proposal in the 2016 Immigration levels plan to double the targets for Parents and Grandparents from 5000 to 10,000 applications per year.
• Give increased points under the Express Entry program for applicants with siblings in Canada.
• Increase the maximum age of dependants from 19 to 22.
• Bring forward a proposal for permanent residency for new spouses of Canadians.
• Develop a plan to reduce waiting times for sponsorship, citizenship and other visas.
For the full list of priorities that the Prime Minister has mandated for our new Immigration Minister see: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-immigration-refugees-and-citizenship-mandate-letter
Canadians have already welcomed Syrians to Canada and will continue to do so in the months ahead. Most of the other directives relate to re-uniting families in a more timely fashion.
Presently the processing times for applications for sponsored spouses, parents and grandparents are taking years, 2 - 3 years for spouses and 5 years or more for parents and grandparents.
While "bringing forward a proposal" is a start, it will take more than a proposal to resolve these processing delays.
Increasing the number of parent and grandparent applications accepted will only assist if there is a corresponding increase in the number of applications processed.
Increasing the age of dependants from 19 to 22 actually restores this criteria to what it had been for many years.
However, it is beneficial for both new immigrant applicants as well as sponsoring families in Canada. Increasing qualifying points under the Express Entry program for applicants with siblings in Canada will assist prospective new immigrants who have not met the threshold for obtaining an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence.
Expect a similar initiative for international students to be introduced later this year.
The initiatives above are good news for Canadians with family members that want to come to Canada. Timeliness and transparent processing criteria are laudable goals.
Let's see how the Minister of Immigration tackles these issues as 2016 unfolds.
Catherine Sas, Q.C. has over 25 years of legal experience. She provides a full range of immigration services and is a leading immigration practitioner (Lexpert, Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers in Canada). Go to www.canadian-visa-lawyer.com or email casas@shaw.