Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Super visa – not so super

The new super visa for parents and grandparents took effect last December 1.

Canada Immigration promises to issue these visas within eight weeks of application. So, instead of waiting for eight years to visit their child or grandchildren, parents or grandparents can now come to Canada within a matter of eight weeks.
Canada Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announces the "super visa" program
 for parents and grandparents effective December 1st . Photo courtesy of  Adrian
Wyld/Canadian Press. Click link to view  "A Statement on the New Super Visa,"
What a great relief! But wait, let’s see if this would really work.

Right now, there is a backlog of applications for sponsorship of parents and grandparents. Those waiting for approval for their visas will have to wait for eight years, possibly even ten years, if their applications were received in September 2007. In Manila, for instance, the Canadian Embassy will take 50 months or more than 4 years to assess the sponsors of these applications, and 36 more months or three years to assess the parents and grandparents being sponsored.

Why does it take so long to assess an application? How many eyes are looking at one application and how much paperwork is exchanged between Ottawa or Vegreville and the foreign office? This is where Canada Immigration should focus its efforts to reduce or eliminate the backlog.

There are about eight documents a sponsor fills out when applying to bring a parent or grandparents to Canada, which includes the checklist and the use of a representative form. This means that there are actually only six vital documents that must be reviewed by an Immigration Officer when the sponsorship application is received in Vegreville or in another immigration office inside Canada.

Assessment of an application entails examination of the applicant’s status in Canada, which is the starting point of any sponsorship application. Once status is determined, then a review of proofs of marriage, birth and other family information will follow. An evaluation of the applicant’s income will be made, and if the low income cut-off is satisfied, the application is approved in principle. This entire process does not require 50 months to complete, unless we count the number of times an Immigration Officer goes to the bathroom or breaks for coffee, lunch or a smoke of cigarette. Or factor the time spent in talking with other colleagues that may not be related to the assessment work being done.

Efficiency problem, not backlog

What this picture suggests is an efficiency problem, not a backlog.

Granting Canada Immigration could be short of manpower, still that doesn’t imply a problem of backlog. Besides, Canada Immigration measures backlog as a function of the total number of applications received each year, not as the number of applications actually processed in real time. You’ll always have a backlog problem if you simply look at the number of applications coming in, without effectively measuring efficiency. Therefore, Canada Immigration’s problem of backlog is illusory, if not totally misleading.

Just consider Canada Immigration’s claim, for example, that the new super visa application will take on average eight weeks to process. The same application forms will be filled out by the sponsors and their parents or grandparents, and similar proofs of identity, births, and other pertinent family data will be assessed. Yet, the super visa application will take only eight weeks to process, despite the additional requirements of buying Canadian medical insurance coverage and a medical examination.

The same requirements—8 weeks for a super visa to process and 8 years for sponsoring parents or grandparents.

This clearly indicates to us what the real purpose of the super visa application for parents and grandparents is. In effect, Canada Immigration is telling permanent residents and citizens that they don’t actually need to bring their loved ones in Canada to live with them. All they need is to visit, and they can stay for as long as two years, provided they have medical insurance and their sponsoring children have satisfied the low income cut-off. And they can always return again after leaving Canada because their visa will be valid for ten years. This moratorium is not a temporary pause, but a necessary conditioning of the minds of new Canadian permanent residents and citizens to accept the new order in Canada—the new policy on family reunification, which is exactly no reunification. The moratorium will surely be extended for another two or more years, especially if it works, and you have read it from this blog.

More roadblocks ahead

Intake of immigrants to Canada starting 2012 is already being significantly reduced. Whether these are foreign temporary workers, including live-in caregivers, and applicants for permanent residents.

Visas for foreign workers have already been relaxed by allowing temporary workers to stay for a maximum of four years, perhaps a concession to industry demand. The exodus of live-in caregivers has been slowed down by prolonging processing times for applications, both for first-time caregivers and caregivers applying for permanent resident status.

Most live-in caregivers waiting for the approval of their permanent resident status have already lapsed work permits and have been advised by Canada Immigration not to worry and that their work permits will be approved as soon as they are granted permanent status. Why would they still need open work permits when they are already permanent residents?

There is now a long delay in the processing of permanent resident applications by live-in caregivers, and it is unnecessarily tying them up indefinitely to their employers, even beyond their two-year work contract. This way, Canada Immigration is able to cut the supply of incoming caregivers by forcing those caregivers in the country and who are simply waiting for the approval of their permanent resident status to remain with their employers. This creates an illusion that the demand for caregivers by Canadian families is being met.

Closing the doors permanently to parents and grandparents is not possible under the current law without tinkering with the original make-up of Canadians to be allowed as permanent residents.

Will Canada, for example, disqualify applicants with older parents, such as those over 50 and above, or discriminate against married applicants with children and living grandchildren? To do this, the present law has to be amended to dispense with the objective of family reunification. A moratorium on parents and grandparents may appear reasonable and a super visa looks like a good thing in the interim.

Onerous obligations

But looking at the requirements that an applicant must meet in order to be eligible to apply for a super visa, there are at least three onerous obligations that need to be satisfied.

One, the sponsoring child or grandchild must provide a written commitment of financial support even though the low income cut-off is met. This is equivalent to a sponsorship undertaking or agreement when sponsoring a family member for permanent residence. This written commitment is unnecessary since the parent or grandparent will not be eligible for social assistance when they visit Canada.

Second, parents and grandparents must undergo medical examination, which is also a requirement under regular sponsorship. This process already takes a lot of time from the total of eight weeks allotted to complete the application.

And third, applicants or their sponsors must purchase comprehensive Canadian medical insurance, valid for at least one year. The medical insurance must provide a minimum of $100,000 in coverage and must cover the cost of the applicant’s health care, hospitalization and repatriation. The premium for this medical insurance will be a big burden for most parents and grandparents, or even to their sponsors.

Denial of right to sponsorship

Sponsorship of parents is critical to most new immigrants in this country, especially to those who have young children who can benefit from the care of their grandparents. These immigrants have contributed to the Canadian economy and many of them are on their track to citizenship; thus, they have earned the right to sponsor their parents. Yet, Canada Immigration is denying them this right and making it more difficult for parents to come here to reunite with their children and grandchildren on the pretext that they’re trying to fix the backlog problem.

We are living in critical times. The fragile world economy, the lingering eurozone crisis and the continuing joblessness in the United States, all help spur on immigration hysteria.

Advanced economies are closing their borders to the mass exodus of refugees from the Third World. Under the helm of the Conservative Party for the next four years, the Canadian government will stay on course with this trend of tightening its doors to prevent the influx of immigrants to this country.


  1. i Joe,
    I suddenly found your post when I was looking for news from Canada Ministry of Immigration about sponsorship for my parents. Thank you for such a smart and truthful article! I agree with each your thought. I can add an argument to support you point of view. I just checked application processing time and discovered that it's got longer since they launched Super Visa. For parents and grandparents it's 35-55(!) months instead of 36 in 2010 and 42 last year. So it's getting even slower. Now the main question is - what can we do to change the situation? I don't know.

  2. I enjoyed your insight onto this situation too. We wanted to sponsor my mother-in-law from Vietnam, and had always hoped to qualify to do so under the reunification principles, only to have our hopes dashed by Jason Kenney and his ilk. Then the super visa seemed like at least a fast and slick way to get her here while we waited for the conservatives to go away, but even this process is designed at every turn to be just as onerous as sponsorship. The Canadian government doesn't understand, or refuses to acknowledge, that healthy and unified families (and by that I mean a complete family, with grandparents) is something which can enrichen and strengthen our country and economy. We need help from Mom to help with our future child-raising, just to survive in this difficult economy, yet the government wants to hamstring us from getting her here. Unfair is putting it mildly. Thanks again for your article, it confirmed what I had long suspected about this government and its attitude toward new immigrants.

    To add insult to injury, my partner was made to wait 22 months for an appointment to write her citizenship exam -- 4 months past the promised 18 month wait time. Only, they scheduled her exam at a very late date for while we were out of the country, as we couldn't cancel our trip, she was forced to miss the exam. They said on the letter, "Important: call us right away if you can't make this date!" So we call, and they say, "no problem, you'll be rescheduled automatically if you don't turn up for first exam, 33 months from now." Huh?? I asked them why almost 3 years now, after waiting 22 months. Answer from the CIC personal on the phone after I called about this: "Citizenship is a privilege, not a right." That was their pat response to my challenge that making someone wait that long was not fair. Wow. What a mean and horrible government we have right now. I can't wait for them to go away.