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April 10, 2017

Just in Time for National Siblings Day: Extra Canadian Immigration Points for Brothers & Sisters! Are There Other Immigration Options for Siblings?

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Siblings Day, also known as National Siblings Day, is a day of brothers and sisters celebrated on April 10th.  This year’s celebration will include a special immigration gift for brothers and sisters in keeping with the promise of The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his mandate letter to then, new Minister, the Honourable John McCallum to award additional points under the Entry Express system to provide more opportunities for applicants who have Canadian siblings.  Effective June 6th 2017 15 points will be awarded for candidates with Canadian citizen or permanent resident siblings in Canada.  This still means brothers and sisters of Canadian citizens or permanent residents have to apply as individual economic migrants and not as sponsored immigrants.

No Direct Sponsorship of Brothers and Sisters

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) currently excludes permanent residents and Canadian citizens from directly sponsoring their siblings under the family class, however it was not always the case that siblings were excluded from direct sponsorship. Prior to the early 90’s, siblings were able to be directly sponsored under the family class. The Immigration Act of 1985 and the 1978 Regulations allowed for a much broader definition of admissible family members under the family class, which included siblings and most other relatives.[1]

This changed even though the family reunification objective under the IRPA did not.  Regulation 117(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) defines members of the family class. Among them:  the sponsor’s spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner; a dependent child of the sponsor; the sponsor’s mother or father; the mother or father of the sponsor’s mother or father; a person whose parents are deceased, who is under 18 years of age, who is not a spouse or common-law partner and who is a child of the sponsor’s mother or father, a child of a child of the sponsor’s mother or father, or a child of the sponsor’s child; or a person under 18 years of age whom the sponsor intends to adopt in Canada.[2]  This list of prescribed family members excludes the direct sponsoring of siblings under the family class unless they are essentially orphaned, under the age of 18 and single.

Any Other Options for Brothers & Sisters?

There are two other ways that siblings can apply for immigration under the family class, both indirect. The first recourse and most common under the family class would involve the sponsor making an application to sponsor an eligible relative included under the family class, such as their parent(s). In this case the parent(s) could include their child (the sponsor’s sibling) as a dependent.

The other recourse for indirect sponsorship of siblings would be for the foreign sibling to apply under the family class, but on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.[3] However, it must be mentioned that requests based on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds do not have a high success rate because of the discretionary nature of the assessment.

Policy Surrounding Current Family Class Legislation – Should It be Revisited?

So there are ways that a sibling is able to immigrate to Canada that do not involve a direct sponsorship or applying as an economic migrant but they are limited. These same variables are not required of the family members that are able to be directly sponsored through the family class. This issue involves a number of long standing policy debates and questions.

  • Is it best policy that under the current legislation for family class a grandparent may be directly sponsored, but not a sibling?
  • Is it just to exclude siblings from family class sponsorships?

Family reunification has always been one of Canada’s objectives for immigration, especially since family reunification is seen as a “factor in promoting newcomer integration” and long term settlement.[4]  In an immigration-friendly country like Canada we are increasing the number of immigrants entering into the country yearly.

  • So does it make sense to restrict the sponsorship of siblings, which, after all, are considered members of an immediate, and not extended, family?

In response, we should continue to explore expanded immigrant categories for both permanent and temporary resident applicants reflective of the varied reasons for short and long term migration. Our immigration program should not lose sight of the potential long term contributions of certain applicants like brothers and sisters applicants by only focusing on immediate (“economic”) contribution.  These changes require the cooperation, vision and assets of various stakeholders and to ensure the proper expression of all stakeholder interests, the details of key program changes should be fully rolled out and subjected to Parliamentary oversight and approval.  Pilot projects for certain initiatives can also be explored for limited periods to collect empirical data.

The ultimate goal of such initiatives is to test and deliver an immigration program that has been carefully defined and debated.  So 15 points in the direction of brothers and sisters is a first step of hopefully many to restore siblings to a more prominent role in the immigration landscape.   Happy Siblings Day!

For more information on Express Entry, please click here.