New limits on the right to sponsor children

This summer, the federal government put in place new restrictions affecting parents who want to sponsor their children to come to Canada as permanent residents.

This month's On the Radar looks at changes to the rules about sponsoring children.

Changes to the definition of "dependent child"

Canadian citizens or permanent residents may be able to sponsor certain family members, including dependent children, to come to Canada as permanent residents.

As of August 1, 2014, the government has changed the definition of a "dependent child".

Under the new rules, children are considered dependent if they are both:
  • under the age of 19
  • not married or living with a partner
These rules lower the age limit, which used to be "under the age of 22". Now, in most cases, parents can no longer sponsor children who are 19 or older.

Exception to the "under 19" rule

The rules continue to allow an exception.

Children of any age are considered dependent if they meet all of the following requirements:
  • they have a mental or physical condition
  • they are not able to support themselves financially because of their condition
  • they depend on their parents for financial support
  • they have been financially dependent on their parents since before the age of 19

No exception for students

There is no longer an exception for older children who are full-time students and financially dependent on their parents.

When the old definition will still apply

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will use the old definition of dependent child for sponsorship applications made before August 1, 2014. So, for example, the age limit in those cases will be 22.

The old definition will also apply in certain other situations, including:
  • live-in caregivers who first applied for work permits before August 1, 2014
  • people who made refugee claims in Canada before August 1, 2014, and whose claims are accepted

Financial requirements

There are "income guidelines" which say how much a sponsor must earn. But, in most cases, the guidelines do not apply for a spouse, partner, or child.

Other requirements

Sponsors must meet other conditions. For example, a sponsor cannot be on social assistance for a reason other than disability.

Another example applies if someone has sponsored a family member who received social assistance while the sponsorship agreement was in effect. The sponsor must repay the amount of assistance before they can sponsor anyone else.

Responsibility to support the child

When a parent sponsors their child, they must support them financially. The parent must do this for 10 years from the time the child becomes a permanent resident.

But if the child is 15 or older when they become a permanent resident, the responsibility as a sponsor lasts only until the child is 25 years old.

If the child gets money from Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program while their sponsor is responsible for supporting them, the government can take the money back from the sponsor.

And until the sponsor pays back all this money, they will not be able to sponsor anyone else.

If a sponsorship application is refused

The sponsor gets this decision in writing and should get legal advice right away.

They may be able to appeal to the Immigration and Refugee Board. The deadline for starting an appeal is 30 days from the date they get the written decision.

Getting legal help

For legal advice about sponsoring children or other family members to Canada, people can contact a legal clinic or a lawyer.

Community legal clinics give free legal advice to people with low incomes, but not all clinics deal with immigration issues.

To find the nearest legal clinic, visit the Legal Aid Ontario website.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
September 2014
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.

Other resources

New restrictions mean families will be broken apart (Canadian Council for Refugees)
Age of dependants (Canadian Council for Refugees)
Family sponsorship (Government of Canada)
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