Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New super visa is 'super disappointing'

By: Carol Sanders



For many Canadians waiting to bring parents overseas for a visit, a government promise to speed up the process with a new "super visa" is a "super disappointment," critics say.
"There are so many, so many requirements, you're prevented from coming in. And you have to have a lot of money," said Fred DeVilla, who works in the insurance industry and is a prominent member of the Filipino community.

Moratorium on family reunification

THE federal government has slapped a two-year moratorium on immigration applications from parents and grandparents. To make up for that restriction, it created a 10-year "super visa" allowing parents and grandparents of permanent residents to enter Canada multiple times as visitors and stay for up to two years at a time -- if they and their families can get the health insurance and meet income requirements.
The federal government requires that one year of $100,000 in health coverage for those 55 and older has to be purchased up front, he said. It costs at least $1,200 a year and there's no monthly payment plan. If your parent stays for just a few months, there are no refunds, DeVilla said.
The 10-year super visa was announced last month. At the same time, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney froze for two years sponsorships for parents wanting to immigrate to Canada. The super visa was supposed to take just eight weeks to process and give the feds time to deal with a lengthy backlog of sponsorship applications.
"There was a huge amount of excitement and no one, including myself, thought we'd get blindsided," said Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux. The Liberal immigration critic later learned about the cost involved -- an average $1,500 per parent, per year.
It was a "sucker punch" by the federal government that hailed super visas as a fast-track plan to bring parents and grandparents for a visit, he said. It softened the blow of Kenney's unprecedented freeze on sponsoring parents to immigrate and isn't going to help bring families together as promised, Lamoureux said. "There will be hundreds, ultimately thousands, who will not be able to get it" across Canada, he said.
"Not only for Winnipeg North but for anyone who had any hope of getting a parent or both to come under the super visa, he's taken away their hope," Lamoureux said.
The MP said he is starting a petition demanding changes to the super visa. In the past, visiting parents have been OK with $25,000 in medical coverage that costs a few hundred dollars, he said. The super visa demands too much, he said.
DeVilla said you don't get much with $100,000 coverage. "The medical insurance covers nothing but emergencies," said DeVilla. "It's only good for when you have an emergency like a stroke and you get into the hospital then," said DeVilla, who hosts a monthly breakfast meeting for the Filipino community. At a recent meeting they wanted to know why the federal government is demanding so much.
On Tuesday, the director of Citizenship and Immigration in Winnipeg couldn't comment on the politics but explained the policy. The department looked at what other countries require for medical coverage and the average cost of general health-care services and came up with the $100,000 requirement, John Nychek said.
"It was determined $100,000 would be fair for the applicant and the Canadian taxpayer."
On top of paying for the insurance, the host family has to meet super visa income requirements. A family of four has to make $45,000 a year, whether they live in high-priced Vancouver or low-cost Winnipeg.
"It's based on a national average," Nychek said. The same test is applied for sponsoring people. Having different income requirements for different regions would be difficult, he said.
Lamoureux said that inflexibility is hurting homesick new Canadians. "They miss their mom, they miss their dad.... It can be lonely." They're scraping by in low-paying jobs and saving for their parents to come for a visit.
"We're pricing it out of their reach," Lamoureux said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2011 A4