Family changes

The government announced in May 2013 that it was proposing to change to the immigration regulations in two important ways:

1.   Definition of dependent children

  • The maximum age will be reduced to 18 years (from 21 years)
  • The existing exception for full-time students will be eliminated

If the proposal is accepted, ALL applicants for permanent residence will be affected (refugees, economic immigrants, live-in caregivers, Family Class immigrants, etc). Children over 18 years will no longer be considered part of the family.

2.   Rules for sponsoring parents and grandparents

  • The sponsorship period will be increased from 10 years to 20 years.
  • Sponsors will need to have a higher income over a longer period before they can sponsor.



Definition of dependent children:

Rules for sponsoring parents and grandparents:


Definition of dependent children


  • Unmarried children aged 19, 20 or 21 years, are usually still part of the family (economically, socially and psychologically) and need their parents’ support.
  • In many societies it is difficult and even dangerous for single young women to live alone.
  • Refugees are forced to flee because of persecution, which often puts their young adult children at risk too. Leaving them behind may put their lives at risk.
  • Refugees often spend years in flight before they reach safety and during this time their children’s lives are disrupted (whether waiting in the home country or also in flight). It would be very difficult for all the family to have to leave the young adult children behind when the parents are finally given a new home in Canada.
  • When refugees flee, older siblings are often forced to play the role of surrogate parents to their younger siblings. Leaving the older siblings behind when the family is finally reunited in Canada would represent yet another brutal separation for a family that has already experienced separation.
  • Live-in caregivers and people accepted on humanitarian grounds must wait years before they can sponsor their children. It is unfair to exclude children who have recently passed the age of 18 simply because of the length of the immigration process.
  • Newcomers can’t settle well when they are worried about close family members left abroad, especially when they are in a refugee-like situation. This limits their economic potential.
  • Parents forced to leave behind young adult children will instead send money abroad to support their children, at an economic loss to Canada.
  • Young adult children who are refugees may be in a refugee camp supported by Canadian humanitarian dollars. It would make better economic sense to bring them to Canada where they can contribute to society.
  • The proposed change undermines one of the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is to reunite families.
  • The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement explains the change by suggesting that we need to select the immigrants that will fare best economically in Canada. However, refugees and family class immigrants are not selected for their economic potential, so this is not an appropriate reason for changing the family definition in these classes.
  • Canadian society is stronger when families are valued and supported.

CCR submission on proposed regulatory change regarding dependent children.

Rules for sponsoring parents and grandparents


  • The proposed change undermines one of the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is to reunite families.
  • The increased financial requirements will mean that only the wealthy can sponsor their parents. Family reunification should not be a privilege reserved to the wealthy.
  • The changes will particularly affect racialized communities and women, as they are economically disadvantaged in Canada, and therefore will be less likely to meet the higher income thresholds.
  • The focus on economic contributions ignores the many other contributions newcomers make to our societies.
  • Parents and grandparents often support the members of the family who are earning a salary, for example by providing childcare. They make their families stronger.
  • Immigrants who are contributing to Canada may leave if they can’t bring their parents here.
  • Refugees who arrive in Canada as unaccompanied minors do not have the right to family reunification with their parents and siblings. The proposed changes would greatly delay, and likely prevent, their ever being able to sponsor them once they are adults.
  • Twenty year sponsorships increase the risk of serious hardships for families, in the case of illness or accident. Immigrants are paying the same taxes as Canadians: it is not fair that they should be deprived for decades of the services paid for by those taxes.

CCR submission on regulatory changes regarding parents and grandparents


For information about how to take action, go to


What happened to family values in immigration?, Avvy Go, Toronto Star, 28 May 2013


This is how the decision to increase in age of dependent children was explained in 2001-2002:

Canada Gazette, Part I, December 15, 2001 - The family regulations address issues that relate to adult children recognizing that some young adults enter new family relationships at a younger age, while others remain with their parents for a longer period of time. 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 expanded definition of “dependent child” better reflects longer child dependency, in some of these cases; this definition also takes into account that children may have obligations in their country of origin, such as the performance of military duty, which may preclude their being able to immigrate within a specified period of time. Under current legislation, these cases require review on a case by case basis to determine whether grounds exist to exercise humanitarian and compassionate consideration.

(p. 4539)

Canada Gazette, Part II, June 14, 2002: By allowing in-Canada consideration of some family class cases and broadening the definition of dependent child, these new Regulations demonstrate legislative policy intent that is responsive to current social realities. The new provisions recognize that in some cultures, unmarried children will continue to live with their parents. This in turn eliminates undue hardship on the family in such situations where, under current legislation, consideration under the discretionary decision-making powers in the current Immigration Act is required.

(p. 258)