Paying to Wait to Immigrate

by carbonnyc

“And now we play the waiting game….. Ohhhh the waiting game sucks, lets play Hungry Hungry Hippos!”

Homer Simpson put it best.  The waiting game is not fun.

In the immigration world, the waiting game is a fact of life.  Permanent residents with expired PR cards wishing to travel have to wait for their permanent residence card to be processed, or take their chances with a travel document.  Employers wishing to fill a vacancy have to wait for their Application for a Labour Market Opinion to be processed.  People without status have to wait for their Application for Restoration of Status to process, although they probably don’t mind.

The waiting game is especially frustrating for permanent resident visa applicants.

Applicants for permanent resident visas are required to pay non-refundable processing fees up front.  This fee ranges from $550 to $1040.  They then have to wait for their application to be processed, a process that can often take years.  Of course, it is not the processing of their application that takes so long.  Rather, it is waiting for applications that are ahead in the queue to be processed. The actual process of opening the envelope and processing a given application generally takes a couple hours.

Take a look at some of these processing times from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website:

Federal Skilled Worker – Cairo…………….. 18 months

Provincial Nominees – Moscow ………….. 20 months

Investers – Singapore ……. 45 months

Entrepreneur – Paris …….. 96 months

Self Employed Person – Hong Kong…….. 80 months

Spouse – UAE….. 19 months

Any parental class application……… 5-10 years

It is of course that last one that is generating so much controversy lately.  The Canadian government’s decision to reduce the number of parental visas will result in the average wait time to sponsor a parent or grandparent  to increase from 5 to 10 years.  By that time the chance of a health inadmissibility soars.  From an economic immigration perspective, there is a significant risk that potential skilled immigrants to Canada will look elsewhere if they opt to move to a country where it will be faster to sponsor their relatives.

While the family class wait times generate the most complaints, the waiting period for economic applicants is just as problematic.  How is an entrepreneur in Paris supposed to plan his/her future, let alone business in Canada, when the wait time to start that business is 8 years?  Will the skills of an Egyptian skilled worker still be in high demand by the time he can immigrate?  The processing times cast doubt on the effectiveness of these economic programs.

Compounding frustrations is the fact that people have to pay the non-refundable processing fee up front.  It is especially egregious in the family class.  An applicant does not have a legal right to apply to immigrate under the family class until the sponsor’s application is approved.  Yet, a family class applicant is required to pay his/her processing fee prior to the sponsor submitting the sponsorship application.  In essence, family class applicants are paying money to apply for something that they do not yet have a legal right to apply for.  Although it is true that if the sponsorship application is rejected then the permanent resident visa processing fee may be refunded, there is no interest paid, and the government ultimately profits.

The seeming unfairness of it all recently led one individual to challenge the constitutionality of the family class fee structure.  While the Federal Court of Appeal ultimately upheld the current structure in Li v. Canada, 2011 FCA 110, and the situation is constitutional, the optics of the government having an incentive to drag on processing times (as it profits from doing so), is extremely unfortunate, and something that should be changed.