Lottery system makes sense for parent, grandparent reunification

By Staff

The federal government's new lottery for parent and grandparent sponsorship is a major improvement on the old system, says Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada unveiled the new process after several years of operating on a first-come, first-served basis for the family reunification program. However, with demand far exceeding the annual application quota, sponsors were resorting to extraordinary measures to get to the front of the queue.

“People were talking about lining up overnight in the middle of winter to get their applications in, which I don't think is a reasonable way to do business,” Seligman tells “The lottery is a better system.”

In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new Liberal government increased the annual quota from 5,000 to 10,000 applications but stuck with the lottery system. The program normally fills up within a few days, proving very frustrating for sponsors, Seligman says.

The new lottery allows anyone to submit their applications by Feb. 2, at which time 10,000 names will be picked at random and invited to complete full sponsorship applications.

However, just days into the 2017 program, the lottery has already faced criticism from some applicants who were ready to continue under the old rules. Sponsor Daniel Dodera told the Toronto Star that he already paid more than $450 in mailing and courier fees to get his application hand delivered to IRCC's Mississauga, Ont. processing centre as soon as it opened its doors in January.

“We missed the cut last time and we planned in advance this time. We are just totally disappointed. If the government was going to change the process, it should have let us know in June,” Dodero told the Star.

For 2018, Seligman, principal of the immigration law boutique Seligman Professional Corporation, suggests IRCC should adjust its lottery by creating two pools: one containing first-time applicants only, and another containing unsuccessful applicants from the previous year. Applicants who had already lost out once would then have the odds weighted in their favour.

“I think a two-pool system might make it fairer,” Seligman says.

She says the lottery is preferable to removing the cap on applications altogether.

“I wouldn't open it up to an unlimited number because the government has allocate applicants in family class, economic and humanitarian applications,” she says. “But it's still a valuable category because it helps immigrants to integrate. In many communities, parents and grandparents are central to childcare.”

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