The Interest to Sponsor form for the popular program was due to go live at 12 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) accepting 27,000 submissions on a first-in, first-served basis.
Completing and submitting the form is the first step in the sponsorship process through IRCC’s Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP), which allows eligible Canadian citizens and permanent residents over the age of 18 to sponsor their parents and/or grandparents for immigration to Canada.
The form opened and closed again within minutes, sparking a torrent of comments on IRCC’s social media channels from frustrated users who said they were either unable to access the form or were in the process of completing a form but could not because the intake ended.
Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, told CIC News that more than 100,000 individuals attempted to access the Interest to Sponsor form when it went live.
“Initial analysis indicates that there were no technical issues when the form opened [Monday] and that we have received the maximum number of submissions for 2019,” Genest said in a statement to CIC News.
“We understand that those who were not able to make a submission are disappointed.”
Genest said IRCC did “extensive testing” to ensure the intake system could handle the expected volume. IRCC also took steps to ensure the first-in system “was fair and created safeguards to ensure the system is not abused,” Genest added, pointing to the implementation of anti-bot features to ensure that “submissions received were legitimate.”
Following the removal of duplicate submissions, invitations to apply to the PGP will be issued in the order the Interest to Sponsor forms were received until IRCC reaches its 2019 target of 20,000 complete applications.
IRCC also updated its website once the intake was closed Monday to say it may open the interest to sponsor form again in 2019 if more potential sponsors are needed.
Genest reminded those hoping to sponsor their parents and/or grandparents that they also may be eligible for Canada’s Super Visa, which is good for 10 years and allows eligible parents and grandparents to stay in Canada for a period of up to two years at a time.
David Cohen, the senior partner at the Campbell Cohen Canadian immigration law firm in Montreal, said the Super Visa option may not satisfy those seeking permanent residence for their parents or grandparents through the PGP, but it can serve as an interim solution for those who are eligible.
“The Super Visa is one way to get your parents or grandparents here to Canada, at least in the short-term,” he said.
IRCC reached the submissions cap by 12:11 p.m., at which point it announced on its social media channels that the form submission period was over.
Posts to IRCC’s social media channels questioned a tweet from IRCC that was published just after 12 p.m. announcing the form “will be available momentarily. Thank you for your patience.”
IRCC’s tweet, which was subsequently deleted, was followed moments later by the announcement that the Interest to Sponsor submission period was over.
Many frustrated users — some who said they have been trying to sponsor family through the PGP for years — condemned the process as unfair.
“This is not a concert ticket you are selling, this is about uniting families. The whole process is atrocious,” wrote Twitter user Naimul Khan.
Mohammad Keyhani called the expression of interest process “completely unfair and un-Canadian.”
A number tweeted at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to launch a review of IRCC’s Interest to Sponsor process.
Others, however, said the Interest to Sponsor form worked for them.
Cristina Urzica tweeted that it was her third time trying this year and she managed to submit her Interest to Sponsor form.
“Sorry not everybody got in, but the website worked,” she wrote. “Keep your hopes up! There isn’t a 100 per cent [fair] way.”
IRCC resumed a first-in approach to accepting expressions of interest and issuing invitations to apply to the PGP after facing widespread criticism for its move to a randomized lottery-style approach to invitations last year, which many also said was unfair.
IRCC said the randomized approach would level the playing field and give everyone the opportunity to be selected to sponsor their parents and/or grandparents, but critics said it left family reunification to chance.
When it announced last summer that it would adopt a first-in approach to the PGP in 2019, IRCC said it was a result of “listening to stakeholders and closely examining the PGP.”
IRCC said the changes to the application intake process for 2019 “will streamline access to the program and improve client experience.”
Genest told CIC News that “client service will remain at the centre of all our programs” and said the current Liberal government has quadrupled the intake of applications for the PGP to 20,000 from 5,000 under the previous Conservative government.
“Making sure families can be reunited with their loved ones is a pillar of our immigration policy,” Genest said.
The fallout from the January 28 Interest to Sponsor form opening is likely to continue, however. More than 4,400 people have signed a petition calling for the results of Monday’s intake to be annulled and for another opening to be held later in the year that will ensure all can interested sponsors can access the form.
In order to apply for a Super Visa, a parent or grandparent must:
They must also:
The child or grandchild who invites their parent or grandparent must prove that their household meets the minimum necessary income.
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