Overhaul of the Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship (PGP) Intake System
With the very same M.O. with which it does everything else — with a lack of transparency and likely without much research — more like a kneejerk reaction — the Canadian government announced an overhaul of the Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship (PGP) intake system at the eleventh hour on December 14, 2016, turning it into a lottery, while thousands of Canadian children and grandchildren were getting ready to submit complete, perfected applications.
Between January 3 and February 2, Canadian citizens and permanent residents willing to sponsor their parent or grandparent have to fill out a simple online declaration of intent to sponsor form, where only their name, date and country of birth, residential address and e-mail address are entered. After February 2 IRCC will “randomly” draw 10,000 individuals who will be asked to submit the full application within 90 days.
It is true that under the old “first come, first served” system, the first 10,000 sponsorship applications arriving at the Mississauga, Ontario IRCC processing centre were accepted before noon on the very first day it opened. And the public lamented that some couriers could not deliver within this time frame to guarantee acceptance for further processing. Reportedly, some paid hundreds of dollars for alternative courier services to ensure that their application would be among the first to arrive. Not sure where the media got accounts of people camping there overnight because Mississauga CPC does not accept walk-ins — commercial couriers only.
However, this only demonstrates that the number of people who want to come into the country surpasses by far the quota of 10,000 applications per year allocated by the IRCC. At least the system was transparent and rewarded advanced planning in terms of preparing all the documentation in advance and picking a local courier — and yes, it did give preference to “shopping locally”; local couriers who knew how to structure their businesses had their field day on the opening date. Some couriers advertised advanced pickup to ensure delivery on time. Some couriers charged by the hour, like a taxicab, waiting until the package was signed off, but mostly it cost in the vicinity of $60 to $120 for a local delivery, which beats the monsters — DHL, Fedex, UPS and the like — both in price and in delivery time guarantee. Of all our files submitted with a local courier last year, every one of them was delivered within an hour or so after the CPC opened. Of course, this meant that the application package had to be completed by Christmas and already received by the local courier — no matter where the sponsor lived in Canada — which assumed a great degree of responsibility, advanced planning and, obviously, that all instructions are followed..
Politically, turning the old system into a lottery may seem like a neutral decision, especially when the government is touting “savings” for the general public in courier fees and making the change under the guise of convenience and equality. However, there are many ways in which this decision is, indeed, wrong, the main one being lack of transparency and accountability, followed by discounting the responsibility of those who practice immigration, and generously wasting, in fact, the time and financial resources of those Canadians who already took care of everything by December 14 and now will have to spend more time and money redoing something that they have already done. Obviously, small Canadian businesses (read: couriers) will not be happy either, as they will lose all the business for that fruitful day after having budgeted their resources (what happened to “shop locally” slogans?…).
The pretext of saving the money of “poor” Canadians being forced to pay couriers is absolutely ridiculous. Really, IRCC? Does the general public know that those considered “poor” cannot sponsor their parents — i.e., their level of income has to be guaranteed at 30% more than the LICO (low income cut-off), which itself is much higher than a minimum salary? A family of 4 in a small town earning $80,000 a year is not poor by any standard and can well afford not only a courier fee but also to pay representation in order to make sure that the application is not rejected based on a technicality when it is already in process (official stats show that most applications in the pipeline are represented, i.e. filed by professional immigration consultants and lawyers, which, given how the government works, might not be such a bad idea if an applicant wishes to avoid disappointment).
Could it have been done better? Yes, by doing only one thing — announcing the change early, when it was still in the works. It is irresponsible, plain and simple, to wait till the last minute; there is no rationale for NOT having announced it while it was being planned: we all know that the government works slowly, so everyone concerned would have had time to react in their own way to alleviate their own concerns. A spokesperson for IRCC said that the Department “had been looking at how best to manage intake and were working to build the tools to implement this process” before announcing the change. So what took them so long? It is not like they did not know exactly what they have been implementing. Thus, I really do not see a single valid reason why they could not have announced the plans earlier. Say, during the Immigration Law Summit in November, or during an industry/stakeholders roundtable. Even those IRCC officers invited to constituents meetings by Liberal MPs did not bat an eye. Could it be for fear of open protests and filing injunctions? If so, stealth served nothing, since there is already a petition in Parliament requesting that the system be returned to its old ways for this year’s intake: https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-739.
Would some people still be unhappy if IRCC announced the change much earlier? Of course, but unhappiness in general would not have resulted in the additional injuries of wasted time, ruined expectations and financial losses: stories of now-deceived sponsors and applicants abound in many publications, including City TV News and the pro-liberal Toronto Star.
Is this way fairer, as we have been led to believe?
In general terms, probably, yes; however, despite assurances, some questions are still burning, because there is no process description or detailed explanation, let alone an algorithm on how the initial selection will be made:
1. Why does the initial form have a country of birth? Aren’t name, DOB and address enough? Does this mean the system has a built-in ability to restrict access by the country of birth?
2. How will the quota be calculated after 90 days? Will those who randomly put their names in but aren’t in fact qualified be replaced by new candidates? Will those additional candidates be selected in a new draw? Does this mean that there will be two draws? More draws? It only seems fair to do so, but the government remains mum on this.
3. The operation bulletin says duplicates will be eliminated. All of them, or just “duplicates” — i.e. will those who put their names in several times be disqualified or not?
4. What if a Canadian wants and can afford to sponsor both their mother and father but their parents are divorced? If the sponsor’s name is drawn, does this mean they could file two applications for both parents, or only one?
5. How come “family reunification,” as “an immigration priority for the Government of Canada,” got relegated to a lottery, which is tantamount to gambling and considered to be a social vice?
6. What is going to happen when one of the parents dies and the other remains all alone, and the sponsor remains unlucky for several years in a row?
Stay tuned: we have sent these questions to the IRCC policy officials and we will keep you posted.
Was the old system so bad? For sure it was not simple, and it encouraged creative thinking, because of intense competition. But then again, most of the federal and provincial immigration programs are first come, first served. Many PNPs open and close their intake for some streams the same day. Low IEC quotas for some countries mean that the whole online submission process takes less than half an hour. And who complains? No matter how you manage intake, there will still be far more interest than capacity. Canada is popular — and is well worth an extra effort; better get used to it. And because free enterprise is always more flexible than bureaucracy, we will always be offering more than one way to get in for those who understand the system and are well motivated to make Canada their new permanent home. Fasten your seatbelts and make yourselves comfortable: we are in for a long haul.
Julia Brodyansky, RCIC