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Immigration Changes Affecting Canadian Families


Family Reunification & the Electronic Travel Authorization for Dual citizens.

Family Reunification

When the Liberals announced their immigration platform during the 2015 federal election, the core priority was family reunification. They planned to double the budget for the family class, allowing the government to accept more applications and reduce the long processing times. This was good news for many Canadians and their families who have been in limbo waiting for years to receive an answer on their application.

In January 2016, the new Liberal government followed through with this promise by doubling the number of parent and grandparent family sponsorship applications received in January 2016, from 5,000 to 10,000. The cap will reset in January 2017, when another 10,000 will be accepted. Shortly thereafter, in March 2016, the Liberals’ released their Immigration Level Plan, which increased the number of application spaces for spouses, common-law partners and dependent children by 14,000 for a total of 62,000.

Liberals have also demonstrated their commitment to reduce processing times for spouses and common-law partners. Compared to 2015, processing times for certain countries are now less than one year through the outside Canada application. We have yet to see a decrease in the processing times of inside Canada applications, which takes 20 to 26 months for processing. While processing times for inside Canada applications are much longer, one benefit to the inside Canada route is the open work permit available to applicants. The open work permit was a pilot program introduced in December 2014. It was renewed in December 2015 and is still in effect.

Another upcoming change is the government’s repeal of the conditional permanent residence requirement for spouses who have lived together as common-law or have been married for less than two years and have no children. In 2012, the Conservative government introduced a two-year condition on permanent residence to crack down on marriage of convenience and fraud. The conditional residence requires spouses to live with their spouse for two years after arriving in Canada. However, advocates have argued such a condition can cause spouses in abusive relationships not to seek help for fear of losing their permanent residency.

We will also see a change to the maximum age of a dependent child. Currently a dependent child must be under 19 years of age to be part of the parents’ application for permanent residency. This includes a Canadian sponsoring his family, spouse and children. While the government has yet to announce the new maximum age, it was previously 22 years. There is a good chance this will be the case again.

Electronic Travel Authorization for Dual citizens.

As of November 10, 2016, there is another major change coming into effect that could catch many Canadians living overseas by surprise if they are not following Canadian immigration news. There is new entry requirement for travelling or transiting through Canada by air. All visa-exempt foreign nationals, except American citizens, must have an Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”). Previously, many foreign nationals could fly to Canada without any prior authorization. That meant dual Canadian citizens without a Canadian passport could also freely come to Canada if they held a passport from a visa-exempt country. Now, visa-exempt travellers must apply for an eTA online before arriving. The catch: dual Canadian citizens cannot obtain an eTA. They must have a Canadian passport.

Many Canadians overseas do not have a valid Canadian passport. Some are not even aware they have Canadian citizenship. A common situation is those who are born here, but never lived in Canada, may not know that Canadian citizenship is given at birth. Others have Canadian citizenship by descent, but have never applied for a Canadian citizenship certificate, which is required in order to get a passport. It can take months to obtain a Canadian citizenship certificate and passport, ultimately affecting upcoming travel plans to Canada.

There is one alternative available to Canadians who do not have time to apply for a Canadian passport before traveling to Canada. The eTA or Canadian passport requirement is only for those flying to Canada. If necessary, a Canadian could fly to the United States and drive to Canada. It’s not ideal, but it’s a short term solution.

If you would like to learn more about upcoming immigration changes or need assistance with an application, please contact our immigration team at


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