Family Immigration Application Limit Reached in 11 Minutes

New Application System Still Controversial Despite Shift to First-Come, First-Served Approach

On January 28, 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) parent sponsorship program opened for applications, using the new first-come, first-served approach promised back in 2018. Within 11 minutes, Canadians had quickly filled up all of the 27,000 online application spots, filling the quota entirely.

11 minutes past noon, IRCC tweeted out that the interest to sponsor form was closed, as the annual limit had been reached. This announcement was greeted with frustration and complaints from would-be sponsors who had not even been able to make an application. Some would-be sponsors had taken time off work, cleared the schedules, and spent the morning camped out at their computer for a shot at bringing their family to Canada.

Unfortunately, not all sponsorship applicants were even able to fill out an application due to demand.

This new first-come, first-serve approach comes on the heels of frustration and criticism over the previous lottery system, which had an even lower cap of 17,000 applications. While many critics agreed the lottery system was unfair, and left too much up to chance, the announcement of this new approach was met with some apprehension.

While many Canadians rightly criticized the lottery system’s random nature, immigration advocates (Gerami Law PC included) stressed that greater transparency was needed, and that the government would somehow have to demonstrate the exact time an individual submitted their expression of interest.

As the barely 11-minute window illustrates, our prediction that the first-come, first-served system might come down to the exact second seems to have come true.

For some hopeful sponsors, such as Cayo Whyte of Peterborough, the short time frame added further stress.

Speaking to CBC News, Whyte said, “I feel so disappointed, so heartbroken, so stressed out.” White had attempted to sponsor his mother’s immigration from Jamaica, but due to a disability, took a bit more time (a little over 3 minutes) to fill out the online form. With such a tight window for applications, it’s clear that the first-in system has its flaws.

Whyte had also attempted to sponsor his mother in the past, under the previous lottery system, and was unsuccessful in those attempts. Despite his residency in Canada since 2009, and his efforts to advance both his education and land a good job, Whyte’s still frustrated by the process.

“I am doing everything by the book but I cannot seem to make any headway in supporting my family in coming here,” said Whyte.

The system clearly has room for improvement, despite increases in its quota. The current 27,000 application limit will still only result in 20,500 new Canadians; the 6,500 difference is meant to account for duplicate applications and other errors. That 20,500 limit is up from 17,000 in 2018, which in turn was a huge increase over 2015’s 5,000-application cap.

While the federal government has made significant changes to this program, it’s clear that more work is needed to ensure all applicants get a fair chance at coming to Canada.