Canadians alone here can sponsor distant relative

While it is a stated objective of our immigration laws “to see that families are reunited in Canada” it is obvious that we must define and limit which relatives may be sponsored to Canada.

I am often consulted by Canadian citizens and permanent residents seeking to sponsor the application for permanent residence of a foreign relative who does not appear to qualify for immigration to Canada.

Owing to special life circumstances, these sponsors may be bonded with their foreign relative in a way beyond that which the relationship might suggest. For example, the prospective Canadian sponsor may have been raised from an early age by i.e. an aunt or cousin overseas. Accordingly, with time, they developed a parent-child relationship.

In other circumstances, the Canadian sponsors’ parents may have taken in a relative i.e. a cousin or nephew from an early age and who may now seem like a brother or sister to the intending sponsor.

It is understandable that these people may want to be re-united. There is no question that these relationships, and the pain of separation, are very real. Canadians can become desperate when their foreign relatives’ circumstances take a bad turn, they become widowed, or they otherwise end up alone and in need of their Canadian relative. Yet these foreigners may not be sponsorable under our “family class”.

So, what can be done to help these people?

Generally speaking, Canadians and permanent residents can only sponsor the following individuals:

-their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner;
-their “dependent child”;
-their parent or grandparent;
-a sibling, niece, nephew, or grandchild who is under 18, orphaned, and who is neither married nor in a common-law relationship; or
-a child under 18 who is to be adopted by the sponsor in Canada.

(The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and Regulations (IRPR) may be consulted for a definition of these terms.)

If the foreign relative is not included in this list then I would turn to sub-paragraph 117 (1) (h) of the IRPR.

That provision allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor any person, of any age who is related by blood or by adoption, where the sponsor does not have a living spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, child, parent, grandparent, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece, who is a Canadian citizen, Indian, or permanent resident, or any relative or family member who can be sponsored as a member of the family class.

Put another way, if the intending sponsor is alone in Canada and has no close relatives abroad that he/she can sponsor, then he/she can sponsor one relative regardless of the degree of their relationship. Many people think that this section is intended to address the situation where the foreign relative is alone overseas. However, that is not the case. It is the loneliness of the sponsor which this provision seeks to alleviate.

Admittedly, this provision has a narrow application.

However, in the right circumstances, it can reunite people whose true relationship was forged more by a shared history than by nature.