By Victor G. Ing,
Special to The Post
On August 1, 2014, legislative changes to the definition of dependant children came into effect. Originally announced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in May 2013, the definition of dependant children has been reduced from 21 years of age to 18 years of age. In addition, CIC has eliminated the option to sponsor children as dependants if they were continuously attending full-time post-secondary education.
According to CIC’s own statistics, dependant children of principal applicants for permanent residence to Canada under all immigration classes, represent approximately 30% of incoming immigrants to Canada every year. Based on applications that were approved in 2012, 90% of accompanying dependants were children under 19 years of age, while only 10% of these incoming immigrants were aged 19 or older.
As a result of these changes, all permanent resident applications that are now submitted to CIC for processing will be considered under the new definition of dependant children, while permanent resident applications submitted prior to August 1, 2014 will continue to be processed under the previous definition.
The primary focus of these changes is clearly economic in nature. These changes reflect CIC’s views that younger immigrants are those that are more likely to succeed economically relative to immigrants who come to Canada at a later age. Immigrants who come to Canada at a younger age are considered homegrown talent in that they are more likely to earn a Canadian education as well as valuable Canadian work experience in order to contribute to the Canadian economy in the long term.
In a statement issued in June 2014, CIC stated the following:
The primary objective of these regulatory amendments is to enhance economic integration of immigrant dependent children to increase Canada’s economic potential. This will be achieved by reducing the maximum age of dependent children to admit those children who are more likely to successfully integrate into the labour market and contribute to the Canadian economy. To further ensure admittance of younger children, the exception to the age limit of dependent children for full-time students will be removed.
Furthermore, these changes are meant to increase processing efficiencies for all immigration applications because it was notoriously difficult and time consuming in the past for immigration officers to verify whether children included in an immigration application were in fact dependent children who were attending full-time post-secondary education.
Despite these legal changes to the definition of dependant children, the reality is that for many families their children aged 19 or older are not independant, whether financially or emotionally, and will not become independant for many years. Yet, these children must now qualify for Canadian permanent residence on their own merit under one of Canada’s economic immigration programs.
Families with children aged 19 or older will now have to consider a variety of options for their children to gain Canadian permanent resident status. One option is applying to come to Canada as international students to gain Canadian educational credentials. The child can then apply for Canadian work experience after graduation to meet the requirements of one or more of Canada’s economic immigration programs such as the Provincial Nominee Program or Canadian Experience Class. Alternatively, families may consider having their children continue their post-secondary studies in their home country in a field that is in high demand in Canada, such as the skilled trades in order to qualify for Canadian permanent residence on their own merits.
Children seeking to qualify for Canadian permanent residence on their own merits should be encouraged to improve their language abilities in either English or French and to dedicate themselves to their education and training. CIC has already announced that beginning January 2015, they will launch a new “Express Entry” system to manage applications for permanent residence in its economic programs. The Express Entry system will eliminate the previous passive system of processing economic applications for permanent residence based on the order in which they are submitted. The new system will allow CIC to rank candidates for permanent residence based on their skills, work experience, language ability, education and other factors, and to choose from the best and most qualified candidates for permanent residence. Accordingly, children who no longer qualify as accompanying dependent children as of August 1, 2014 may find themselves applying for Canadian permanent resident status under much stricter and competitive standards than their parents were previously subject to.