The Canadian government has recently announced the creation of a “Super Visa” aimed specifically for the parents and grandparents of Canadian Citizens and permanent residents. With processing times reaching 8 years and a huge backlog that needed to be reduced. It became very apparent that there was a need to adopt a drastic out of the box approach to solving this problem.
The Super Visa program is consistent with the principles of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) such as to see that families are reunited in Canada; to facilitate the entry of visitors, students and temporary workers for purposes such as trade, commerce, tourism, international understanding and cultural, educational and scientific activities; to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to maintain the security of Canadian society.
As a background the Super Visa for Parents and Grandparents was launched last Dec, 1, 2011. With the first Super Visa was issued in the Manila Visa Office a few weeks after. This new program gives Parents and grandparents a visa which will be valid for up to 10 years. The multiple-entry visa will allow an applicant to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time without the need for renewal of their status, and CIC will be able to issue the visas, on average, within eight weeks of the application. This means that instead of waiting for eight years, a parent or a grandparent can come to Canada within eight weeks. Parent and Grandparent Super Visa applicants will be required to obtain private Canadian health-care insurance for their stay in Canada. Currently, visitors to Canada usually may only visit for six months at a time. Most visitors who wish to stay longer must apply for an extension, and pay a new fee, every six months. With the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, eligible parents and grandparents will pay fewer fees and have some certainty that they will be able to enjoy the company of their families in Canada for a longer period of time.
According to the figures released by the CIC, the Government of Canada will increase by over 60 percent the number of sponsored parents and grandparents Canada will admit next year, from nearly 15,500 in 2010 to 25,000 in 2012. It will be the highest level in nearly two decades. On the surface the program seems to be a win-win situation for everybody. But behind these seemingly magnanimous and well thought of plan by the CIC is the suspension of accepting any parent or grandparent application for permanent visa for a period of 2 years to de-clog the system that is already groaning under the massive backlog of applicants that have been waiting for years. Thus, I think it would be fair to analyze the Super Visa program from both points of view and to weigh whether it actually contributes to the goal of reuniting families to Canada or is it just a temporary solution to a systemic problem that needs a systemic and fundamental solution.
The advantages of the Super Visa program are first, it will enable parents and grandparents to join their families in Canada sooner (as early as 8 weeks rather than 8 years) albeit in a temporary visa. This would be beneficial for folks who are already advancing in age and would prefer to have a few temporary moments with their family while they are still up and about rather than wait for a permanent residency visa that will come in 8 years where they are too old to enjoy it. Another advantage is for the government who will minimize their transactions with a low risk but highly demanding group that will insist on visiting their relatives in Canada and will thus have a lot of contact time with the CIC for the renewal of their visas. As announced by Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship Immigration and Multiculturalism, the program will make it more efficient for applicants to come in while at the same time conserve the government resources that are being used in processing these applications.
The negative impact of this program I believe is based on several points. First, is the requirements for insurance and other medical provisions that are required to be paid for a whole year without considering the fact that there are some parents or grandparents who will only visit Canada for a shorter period. This insurance requirement is a big financial hurdle that needs to be overcome by families who are already feeling the brunt of the long drawn economic crisis. Second, by announcing a temporary stay in the processing of applications for permanent residency for parents and grandparents the CIC is effectively limiting the ability of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to reunite with their families in a permanent and more stable manner. These groups of people are exactly the people that need to be processed immediately because they are advancing in age and they may no longer have enough time to enjoy the presence and company of their family members if their application for permanent residency is suspended.
Canada is a nation of immigrants. Some enter Canada ahead of their other family members. While working and contributing to economic, social and cultural advancement of Canada its new immigrants will always yearn for the day when they can be reunited with the parents or grandparents they left behind. There will always be that gnawing feeling that you are neglecting your family while having a great life in Canada. I believe it would be unfair for parents and grandparents to be singled out for a processing suspension in order to buy time for the system to be decongested.
The Super Visa should be an additional process to minimize delays and to make the system more efficient and effective. But to suspend the processing of visas will be unfair and discriminatory especially to a group of people who need it most.