OTTAWA — A popular immigration program that allows people to sponsor their parents or grandparents to come to Canada is reverting to a lottery system.
Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced the relaunch of the parent and grandparent program Monday, saying a window for people to apply will open Oct. 13 and close on Nov. 3.
Potential sponsors will be selected at random from among the applicants and be invited to formally apply to sponsor their families.
The program ordinarily opens in January but was delayed this year as officials sought to revamp the system after a first-come, first-served approach buckled under excessive demand last year.
It took just eleven minutes for the maximum number of applications to be submitted and would-be sponsors also complained of trouble accessing the online portal or struggling to fill out the forms.
Before the first-come, first-serve online approach, a lottery system had been used. But that in turn led to widespread frustration that people’s efforts to bring their families to Canada were basically reduced to a game of chance.
The launch of a new system for this year was further delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a decision was made to revert to a lottery to get the program underway.
The government is also temporarily reducing how much money a person must earn in order to be able to sponsor, recognizing that many people may have seen their income drop due to the pandemic.
The government says it will accept only 10,000 applications for the program this year, down from the 27,000 accepted last year. But it pledged increase that to 30,000 next year.
“Now, more than ever, family reunification is an important component of Canada’s immigration system,” Mendicino said in a statement.
“It plays a key role in attracting, retaining and integrating the best and the brightest from around the world.”
Every element of Canada’s immigration system has been affected by the pandemic.
Borders slamming shut to slow the spread of the virus have left would-be newcomers stranded throughout the world both by forces in their home countries and due to the Canadian system needing to find ways to quickly move online in order to process applications.
Massive backlogs have been created, and it remains unclear how the system will get out from under those, as well as whether or how the government will adjust the number of newcomers it will accept next year based on how few were able to arrive this year.
The annual levels plan, as it is known, is ordinarily put forward by the government in the fall.
The one for this year — delayed by the 2019 federal election — sought to admit 341,000 people in 2020.
An updated one is due to be tabled by the end of October.
Kareem El-Assal, who oversees policy for CanadianVisa.com, said all signs point to a return to “business as usual” for immigration to Canada post-pandemic.
The launch of the updated parent program, ongoing acceptance of applications under the Express Entry economic program and a commitment in the throne speech to immigration suggest the government is going to try to press ahead with targeting over 300,000 new permanent residents a year, said El-Assal, who was the former head of immigration research for the Conference Board of Canada.
“That doesn’t mean they are physically going to come here any time soon,” he said.
“But they will.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 5, 2020.
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press