Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fast-track sponsors willing to pay ‘medical premium’ for aging parents, immigration lawyer says


A Canadian immigration expert is proposing people sponsoring elderly parents and grandparents to Canada who are willing to pay a $75,000 “medical premium” have their applications fast-tracked.
Richard Kurland is scheduled to speak to a Commons committee Thursday and pitch his buy-your-entry idea as a way of reducing Canada’s growing immigration backlog of parent sponsorships.
Australia has a similar fast-track stream where one can pay an upfront fee to expedite a parental sponsorship. The price tag is almost $40,000, compared to a regular $3,245 fee.
“The problem with the backlog for parents has to do with money . . . concerns over their medical costs on Canadian taxpayers,” said Kurland, invited to the standing committee on citizenship and immigration by the three main political parties.
Currently, Ottawa has a backlog of nearly 80,000 parental sponsorship applications, representing 168,530 people. The annual quota for parents is 11,500 and files can take five years to process.
Kurland, a Quebec lawyer, said the federal government could assign 2,500 additional spots a year to those willing to pay the premium.
“Immigrants who could afford it don’t expect a free ride. They wouldn’t mind paying the price if they could get the parents here sooner,” noted Kurland, who came up with the $75,000 based on research on health insurance actuaries. Fees are normally about $1,100 to sponsor a parent.
The parents would still have to pass a criminal clearance and medical exam before permanent residency is granted, he added.
Kurland said Ottawa could also offer quicker processing to investors who applied for immigration before July 1 by doubling the required $400,000 investment. (Canada raised the bar to $800,000 for investor applications after July 1). There are 22,328 investor applications in the backlog, with an annual quota limited to 2,200.
Kurland also said the federal government could give priority to those willing to provide a cash donation of up to $225,000 to institutions such as designated Canadian hospitals and universities.
“We could pick the wealthier among the wealthy. With the extra cash, a billionaire from Beijing could be financing the health care of a (sponsored) parent from India,” added Kurland. “It could offset the cost and we could reduce the backlog.”
The idea was rejected by Sponsor Our Parents, a 1,500-member self-advocacy group.
Spokesman Felix Zhang said processing times for parents vary drastically around the world because Ottawa imposes arbitrary quotas by country.
“They are not processed on a first-come first-served basis. In some countries, you wait for 12 months because there are few applications. In other places, you must wait five years,” said Zhang.
“Why should people pay a fee to get something that someone from another country doesn’t have to pay to get?” he added. “This would only cause more unfairness. The rich would be winners and the rest would be losers.”