Substituting Principal Applicants in Parental Sponsorships is Possible!

By Adam Hummel / Immigration Lawyer

I recently encountered an interesting situation: an individual approached me who had sponsored his parents to come to Canada from Iran six years earlier. He had just received an email from the Canadian Embassy in Ankara confirming their sponsorship, and asking them to submit their passports to get visas to travel to Canada for landing. Sounds easy enough, no?

The problem was that in the years since the sponsorship was submitted, this individual’s parents had experienced significant marital problems, and it was questionable whether they would stay married. These problems came to a head when confirmation of their sponsorship was received. In fact, when they were told that they needed to submit their passports to get visas, the husband refused to do so. He refused to submit his passport, travel to Canada, and get landed and would not even consider getting on an airplane.

This was a massive problem for his wife, who desperately wanted to leave Iran. She had three children and friends in Canada, she had learned English, and she had mentally prepared herself for eventually becoming a Canadian permanent resident. This was all at risk now because her husband simply refused to budge.

We wrote to the Canadian Embassy in Ankara asking whether the wife could process her application alone. The response we received was non-committal, and instructed us to contact the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga (CPC-Mississauga) with our request. After some time, a response was received in which we were told that the wife could not finalize her landing without her husband.

The reasons were as follows:
1. The wife was listed on the parental sponsorship application as the accompanying dependent, whereas her husband was the principal applicant (PA).

2. She could not get landed in Canada without the accompanying PA;

3. The only time you can change the PA on a parental sponsorship application is if the principal resident had died; and If she still wanted to come to Canada alone she would have to re-submit a new parental sponsorship application from scratch.

This response from the CPC was troubling for any number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that because of a technicality – putting the husband’s name first on the application forms (making him the PA) – the wife was now considered the accompanying party. For this reason, what she wanted to do was inconsequential.

This response was also troubling because:
1. In December 2016, the parental sponsorship program become a lottery system. If the wife Now, the wife would be forced to give up her invitation to get landed in Canada, and submit her fate to the chance of getting selected for sponsorship through this new system;

2. The Canadian Government had already vetted the wife, and cleared her for landing. Suddenly, they seemed to want to do that work all over again because she wanted to complete the application alone, and not as a couple;

3. The Canadian Government was now effectively siding with the husband in this marital dispute which, it appeared, had become an emotionally abusive relationship. Rather than allowing the wife to travel to Canada alone to be with her children, the government was effectively insisting that she remain with her husband, otherwise she needed to start the application process from scratch; and

4. There was no identifiable public policy concern to justify this decision.

In response to this letter, we made humanitarian and compassionate submissions (H&C submissions), outlining our concerns. We pointed out the lack of justification for this decision, the fact that the wife had already been vetted and accepted to become a Canadian permanent resident, and that the Government, in refusing this request, was ultimately abandoning a emotionally abused elderly woman in Iran, siding with her husband for no other reason than his name was written first on the application form. Our client also reached out to his local MP for assistance, who made inquiries on his mother’s behalf.

Shortly thereafter, we were told by CPC-Mississauga that our request had been granted.

The family was asked to submit a new Application to Sponsor form, a new Generic Application Form, and a new Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking form, all listing the wife as the PA.

Not long after we submitted those further forms, the Canadian Embassy invited the wife to submit her passport to receive a visa to travel to Canada and get landed alone. Our efforts were successful.

There are at least three main takeaways from this experience:

1. Despite the policy stating that a PA can only be changed upon the death of a PA, that is not in fact the case, as we were able to successfully change the PA in this case;

2. Though it may sometimes seem a technicality, it is important to consider who is named as a PA, and who is named as an accompanying individual, on these types of applications;

3. Officers and processing centres are open to considering H&C submissions in certain circumstances, and it does not hurt to make them as a last resort; and

4. It never hurts to speak with your Member of Parliament about these issues, to see if there is anything they can do to help. In this case, the MP’s office helped push back a deadline we had been given to respond to certain correspondence.

Of course, every case is unique, and every case changes on its particular facts. Nothing replaces retaining an experienced and qualified lawyer who can help guide your actions and give you good legal advice in the circumstances.

If you are experiencing difficulties with your parental sponsorship application, or have any questions, it may assist you to consider reaching out to the authorities to ask about your options. At Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell LLP we are happy to assist with any and all matters relating to parental sponsorships and any humanitarian and compassionate considerations associated with them, and it always helps to have a lawyer take a look at specific circumstances and help figure out the best way for you to move forward.

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