BY MANPREET GREWAL, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 23, 2011
Although the jury is out on the Canadian government's moratorium on new applications to sponsor parents and grandparents for immigration, few would argue the wisdom of the new parent and grandparent super visa. In principle and on paper, it is a nice piece of policy work rooted in the reality of many immigrants' family lives.
The super visa is a multiple entry visa valid for up to 10 years, which will allow family members to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time. According to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada news release, this super visa will come into effect on Dec. 1 and should be issued within eight weeks of the application on aver-age. This means that instead of eight years, which is the usual processing time for permanent resident applications, parents and grandparents will be able to join their families here within two months.
Currently, more than 165,000 parents and grandparents who have applied to become permanent residents of Canada are still waiting for a decision. Each year out of the 38,000 applicants, many parents and grand-parents apply for a permanent resident status because that is their only option for visiting their children in their Canadian homes and spending any quality time with their families. Many of them were denied a visitor's visa on the grounds that their attachment to their children in Canada would prevent them from returning to their home country. In fact, many of them were rerouted to apply for permanent residency.
For those who just wanted to visit their children and grandchildren, the permanent resident status complicated their lives. They got caught up in the cycle of travelling back and forth from their home country to Canada to maintain their permanent resident status. It also caused undue duress on families when the different generations used to independent lifestyles became locked into living in extended family situations for lengthy periods. The relationship dynamics can change quickly between grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren when the joy of timely temporary visits is converted into a permanent living situation.
What was meant as a noble goal of family reunification many times created unbearable family conflict and sadness. Many seniors have regretted leaving their homeland behind and moving to Canada only to lead a life of dependency and isolation within their children's homes. Many immigrant children have been embarrassed by the family breakups caused by the intervention of seniors. The super visa will allow parents and grandparents to follow a natural flow between Canada and other countries without creating an unnecessary burden on the Canadian taxpayer or spinning families into unnecessary stress.
The visa might add a financial bur-den on the sponsoring family, how-ever, because parents and grandparents applying for a super visa will be required to obtain private health care insurance for their stay in Canada - but that will be a small price to pay.
What remains to be seen is the translation of the policy into practice. Parents and grandparents usually want to come here for family occasions like significant birthdays, weddings, deaths and births. Sometimes, immigration officials have been brutal in denying people entry to attend funerals of even close relatives. Following the moratorium on sponsorship applications for parents and grandchildren, any effective strategy has to take into consideration the volumes of people who will apply for the super visa and how effective Citizenship and Immigration Canada will be in processing them and allowing people to travel here in a timely manner. This will lead to pressure on visa offices over-seas and will require more resources to address the increased volumes to meet the required timelines.
Nor will the super visa solve the problem of parents and grandparents who want to spend their waning years living closer to their children in Canada and also to bring their dependent children here to live closer to their siblings. This moratorium will hurt them because their children could be excluded by age by the time they can apply. It is also not clear if the super visa will allow dependent children to visit with their families. Not being able to bring them along will effectively limit the parents and grandparents in their enjoyment of their own tourist visas.
Manpreet Grewal is an Abbotsford-based writer.
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