Acquiring Permanent Resident Status: The Family Class and Sponsorship

AuthorJamie Chai Yun Liew; Donald Galloway
A primary objective of immigration law, identif‌ied in the Immigration
and Refugee Protection Act, section 3(1)(d), is “to see that families are
reunited in Canada.”1 To achieve this objective, Canadian law permits
Canadian citizens and perma nent residents to sponsor applications for
permanent residence by close relatives who meet the criteria for mem-
bership of the family class. An essentia l aspect of this program i s that
the sponsor must sign an undert aking to reimburse the federal or prov-
incial government within a specif‌ied time “for every benef‌it provided
as social assistance to or on behalf of the sponsored foreign national
and their family members.”2
Section 12 of the IR PA prov ides the underly ing principle. It st ates:
A foreign national ma y be selected as a member of the fa mily class
on the basis of thei r relationship as the spouse, common-law pa rtner,
child, parent or other pre scribed fami ly member of a Canadia n cit-
izen or permanent resident.3
1 SC 2001, c 27 [IRPA].
2 Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227, s 132(1) [Regula-
3 IR PA, above note 1, s 12(1).
Apart from showing that they are in one of the specif‌ied relation-
ships with their spon sor, family class immigrants are not required
to meet any other selection criteria, such as those imposed on immi-
grants in the economic cla sses. They are, however, subject to criteria
of inadmissibility4 and, as discussed below, in some circumstances the
status they receive may be conditiona l. In addition, their sponsor must
meet a number of onerous eligibility conditions. This chapter e xamines
each of the components of the family cla ss program. First, it outlines
the criteria us ed to determine membership in the fam ily class, includ-
ing the standard s devised to adjudge whether a relationship is genuine.
Next, it focuses on the rules def‌i ning eligibility to sponsor and the na-
ture of the undertaking that a sponsor must make. Finally, it outlines
the appeal rights of a spon sor whose application has been rejected and
introduces the process of applying for judicial review.
As a preliminary matter, it is important to recognize that the program
that permits sponsorship of family class members is only one of the
ways in which our laws pay heed to the impor tance of familial relations.
Most important, this program should be distinguished from the pro-
gram that allows i ndividuals who are applying to imm igrate to Canada
to seek admission simulta neously on behalf of their spouses, common
law partners, and dependent children. Section 1(3) of the Regulations
tries to draw t his distinction, but does so in a somewhat hamf‌isted
way by referring to the latter g roup as family members.5 The attempt is
clumsy because the IR PA also use s the term family me mber less tech-
nically in a number of sections, including section 12, quoted above. By
adopting this confusing terminology, the Regulat ions become unw ieldy
and prolix.6
4 It should be noted that under t he IRPA, s 38, a nd the Regulations, s 24, the cr ite-
ria of inad missibility are reduce d for intimate partners a nd dependent children.
5 Regulation s, above note 2.
6 Ibid, s 1(2): Section 1(3) of the Regulations prov ides the following def‌inition for
family member:
For the purpose s of the Act, other than sect ion 12 and paragraph 38(2)(d),
and for the purpo ses of these Regulat ions, other than sections 159.1 and
159.5, “family member” in re spect of a person means:
(a) the spouse or common-l aw partner of the person;
Acquiring Per manent Resident Status: The Fam ily Class and Sponsorsh ip 179
The law def‌ining membership in the family class (those who may
be sponsored) overlaps with the law def‌i ning family members (those
who may be included as dependants in an application for a permanent
resident visa) in three distinct ways. First, some relationships that f‌it
under both categories (spouse, common law partner, and dependent
child) are def‌ined or analyzed identicially in both contexts.7 It should,
however, be noted that the family class includes m any more relation-
ships than does the law def‌ining family me mber.8 Second, a person who
is sponsored as a member of the fa mily class may include fam ily mem-
bers in an application.9 A sponsor’s spouse, for example, may include
dependent children in the application for permanent resident status.
This opportunity can lead to an apparent anomaly. Although, in most
circumstances, a person cannot sponsor a sibling as a member of t he
family class, a person can sponsor a parent who is able to attach a
dependent child (the sponsor’s sibling) to the application. Third, and
discussed i n greater detail below, a person applying to immigrate to
Canada as a per manent resident must identify all family members who
are not accompanying her.10 Should the applicant fail to do so, any indi-
vidual who should have been so identif‌ied is ineligible to be sponsored
as a member of the family cl ass by the applicant at a later time, after the
applicant has been gra nted status.11
The distinction between membership in the family class a nd family
members is partially ref‌lected in how the government reports im migra-
tion statistics. In its prel iminary t ables, Facts and Figures 2013: Immi-
gration Overview: Permanent Residents,12 Citizensh ip and Immig ration
Canada (CIC) reports that, in 2013, the Canadian government accepted
148,181 individuals as economic immigr ants; however, a subgroup
of these newcomers includes a large number of individua ls (79,684
in total) who are identif‌ied as spouse s and dependants of “principal
(b) a dependent child of t he person or of the person’s spouse or common-
law partne r; and
(c) a dependent child of a dependent chi ld referred to in paragraph ( b).
7 Ibid, ss 116–22: Sections 116 to 122 of the Regulation s refer to “family clas s”; s
70 refers to “family me mber” in the context of perma nent resident visa applica-
8 Ibid, s 117(1): Section 117(1) of the Regulations li sts these relationsh ips. See Sec-
tion C, below in th is chapter, for the list.
9 Ibid, ss 121–22.
10 Ibid, s 10(2).
11 Ibid, s 117(9)(d).
12 Citize nship and Immigration C anada, Facts and Figures 2013: Immigration Over-
view: Permane nt Residents, Canada – Per manent Resident s By Category, online: es/statistics/ facts2013/permanent/02.asp.

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