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Haiti Earthquake: Canada at the forefront of relief efforts, immigration measures

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When a devastating earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti on January 12, Canada’s response was almost immediate. From monetary aid and supplies to troops and aid workers, Canada is spearheading Haiti relief efforts on all fronts. Canadian and provincial immigration ministers immediately met to determine whether special immigration measures would be implemented, and ultimately decided to allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents with family members affected by the disaster to sponsor eligible family members on a priority basis.

Canada is home to one of the largest Haitian communities outside of Haiti, with more than 100,000 Canadians of Haitian descent living mostly in Montreal, Quebec. Canada also has a strong humanitarian presence in Haiti, and ties between the two countries are very strong, which is why reuniting affected Haitians with family members in Canada has been a priority for the Canadian government.

“Canada has welcomed a large community of Haitians to this country and is working to reunite families affected by this disaster as quickly as possible. Haitian nationals who are currently in Canada will also benefit from special measures,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada Minister Jason Kenney.

The special immigration measures that are currently in place are:

  • Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Canada can sponsor their eligible family members to immigrate to Canada from Haiti on a priority basis. New applications must clearly be marked “Haiti” to ensure priority processing.
  • Because immigration is a shared portfolio between the Quebec and federal governments, Quebec is responsible for selecting its own immigrants (including those they select on humanitarian and compassionate grounds).  Quebec’s Immigration Minister announced last week that, for Haitians only, adult brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and aunts and uncles will also be eligible to be sponsored by their family members.
  • Federal family sponsorship applications that were already in place at the time of the earthquake will also benefit from priority processing. Sponsors should call Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to identify those applications.
  • Adoptions of Haitian children by Canadian parents that were in process at the time of the earthquake will also receive priority processing. CIC estimates that a total of 237 children could be affected by these measures, and to date, the Haitian government has identified and approved 217 children.
  • Haitian nationals currently in Canada on temporary status can apply to extend their status in Canada, and those who are eligible to work can apply for Open Work Permits. These applications will also be processed on a priority basis, and fees associated for such applications have been waived.
  • Temporary and transit visa requirements have been suspended for rescue and relief workers traveling to Haiti through Canada.

CIC has indicated that it does not expect to put further special immigration measures in place at this time. However, we will keep you updated should that change.