In a move that has been eagerly anticipated by Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and potential applicants to Canadian immigration programs around the world, the government of Canada has announced that it plans to raise the maximum age of dependent children who may be included on an application to less than 22 years of age.
If approved, the change is expected to take effect in fall 2017, and would apply to applications submitted on or after the regulation comes into force.
Currently, the child of a principal applicant is usually required to be less than 19 years of age in order to be included as a dependent on an application for Canadian permanent resident status, or be eligible as a principal applicant for sponsorship as a dependent child under the family class immigration category. The previous Conservative government lowered the maximum age for the definition of a dependent child on August 1, 2014. Before that, between June 28, 2002, and July 31, 2014, the maximum age was defined as less than 22 years of age. The proposed change simply reverts back to the regulation on the maximum age of dependent children that was in place at that time.
Between 2002 and 2014, 11 per cent of dependent children included on immigration applications were 19 years of age or older.
Family Reunification: an Ongoing Commitment
The Liberal Party, currently in government in Ottawa, has built its immigration policy in no small part on the principle of family reunification. Increasing the maximum age of dependent children means that more families can stay together in their journey towards Canadian permanent resident status.
The statement outlining the planned change, released by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), explains that the proposed change would open doors to permanent resident status for “young adults [who] would be unlikely to be eligible for permanent resident status as principal applicants under an economic immigration program, until they have completed post-secondary education and gained significant work experience.”
Consequently, not only does the planned change mean that more immigrant families can stick together — leading to faster and more successful integration into Canadian society — it also means that more young people will have access to an opportunity and a future in Canada that may have previously been denied to them.
In IRCC’s statement, education was also cited as a key factor in the decision to raise the minimum age.
“Given the importance placed on education, it is not unusual for some children to remain with their nuclear family while pursuing higher education before entering the labour market . . . The proposed increase of the maximum age of dependent children is consistent with the underlying socioeconomic trend that children remain at home longer with their parents, particularly those studying for lengthier periods,” the statement reads.
“Notably, the proposed higher age limit would enable many postsecondary students — who complete a degree at a median age of 24.8 years of age — to be eligible as dependent children through much of their undergraduate studies.”
Canada’s Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, has frequently voiced his support for international students coming to Canada to pursue post-secondary studies. If the planned change takes effect, many young people from across the world may have an opportunity to pursue post-secondary studies in Canada, which would be denied to them otherwise.
A step in the right direction
“In this situation, the fact that IRCC is reverting to a past policy is a step in the right direction,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“The rationale behind the decision to increase the maximum age reflects the reality of so many families today who want their children to obtain the best education possible. Realistically, this often means that children remain dependent on their parents for longer — but the reward is significant. With this change, not only will families be able to stay together, but more young people will be able to benefit from the fantastic opportunities Canada can offer to students and young professionals. Likewise, Canada is sure to benefit from an increase in talented young people at the beginning of their careers — these ‘best and brightest’ that Minister McCallum is so keen to attract.”
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