Last Updated on January 7, 2022
Families were reunited with their loved ones in Canada through family sponsorship immigration programs in greater numbers in 2021 than during the previous year – but their numbers were still a bit lower than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first 10 months of 2021, 62,245 new permanent residents arrived in Canada through family sponsorship programs, 26.2 per cent more than the 49,305 new permanent residents that came under those programs in all of 2020, the latest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) figures reveal.
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At that rate, Canada could expect to end 2021 with 74,694 new permanent residents arriving under family sponsorship programs.
That would make the number of newcomers to Canada under these programs 51.5 per cent more numerous than the comparable cohort in 2020.
That projected number of family sponsorships, though, would still be 18.1 per cent than the 91,300 new permanent residents to Canada under these programs in 2019, the last full year before the arrival of COVID-19 in Canada.
During the first year of the pandemic in particular, border closures and travel restrictions – and, later, COVID-19 tests at the border, mandatory quarantines, and vaccine passports – slowed immigration to Canada to a trickle.
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In the first year of the pandemic, 156,590 fewer immigrants came to Canada than in 2019. New permanent residents to Canada in 2020 numbered only 184,585, or almost 45.9 per cent less than the 341,175 the previous year.
Since then, immigration to Canada has rebounded with a vengeance, hitting a record-setting high of more than 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2021.
“Last year, we set an ambitious goal,” said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser a week before the end of the year. “Today, we achieved it.
“This is a historic moment for our country, as we welcome the highest number of newcomers in one year in our history.”
The final figures for 2021’s family sponsorship programs were not yet released as of the end of December.
It’s clear, though, that these programs had been steadily growing in popularity prior to the pandemic.
In the five years that ended on Dec. 31, 2019, the yearly number of new permanent residents to Canada under these programs grew by 39.4 per cent, from 65,485 in 2015 to 91,300 in 2019.
Even allowing for the hit in immigration Canada suffered with two years of the pandemic, the yearly number of new permanent residents through family sponsorship programs is still expected to be almost 14.1 per cent higher for 2021 than it was in 2015.
Family Sponsorship Allows Relatives to Gain Permanent Residency
Under family sponsorship programs, a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, aged 18 or more can sponsor certain family members to become Canadian permanent residents.
With that permanent residence, those family members are able to live, study and work in Canada.
The sponsor assumes all financial responsibilities for their relative once he or she arrives in Canada.
To be a sponsor, the Canadian citizen or permanent resident must:
- sign a sponsorship agreement with the relative to be sponsored that commits the sponsor to provide financial support for the relative, if necessary. This agreement also says the person becoming a permanent resident will make every effort to support him or herself;
- provide financial support for a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner for three years from the date they become a permanent resident, and;
- provide financial support for a dependent child for 10 years, or until the child turns 25, whichever comes first.
Relatives who can be sponsored include:
- spouse – (restrictions apply)
- common-law partner – (restrictions apply)
- conjugal partner – (restrictions apply)
- dependent children
- parents – (Additional conditions apply)
- grandparents – (Additional conditions apply)
- brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, granddaughters or grandsons who are orphaned, under 18 years of age and not married or in a common-law relationship
- another relative of any age or relationship but only under specific conditions
- accompanying relatives of the above (for example, spouse, partner and dependent children).
Spouses and common-law partners who come to Canada under the sponsorship programs are allowed to work under the Spousal Work Permit Pilot Program.
The program is designed to allow spouses and partners to work while their immigration applications are being finalized.
Eligible candidates must be in Canada and in the process of being sponsored for permanent residence under the spouse or common-law partner class. Candidates must also have valid temporary status as a visitor, student or worker.
Under the sponsorship programs, sponsors ink a contract with Canada’s immigration authorities to repay the government for any social assistance payments made to the sponsored person. Sponsors remain obligated to the undertaking agreement for the entire period of the contract, even in a change of circumstances such as marital breakdown, separation, divorce, or a financial change in circumstances.
Sponsors of Spouses Assume Responsibility for Children
In the case of a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner, a sponsor is required to sign an undertaking to reimburse the federal or provincial governments from the date in which they become a permanent resident for the period of three years.
In the case of a child under the age of 19 years, of the sponsor or the spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner, the obligation starts on the day that the child becomes a permanent resident of Canada for a period of 10 years or until the child reaches the age of 25 years.
In the case of a dependent child over the age of 19 years, the obligation starts on the day that the dependent child becomes a permanent resident, for a period of three years.
In the case of parents and grandparents, the sponsorship obligation extends for a period of 20 years from the date in which the member of the family class becomes a permanent resident. For all other family members, the obligation is of a duration of 10 years.