How old where you when you left your parents’ home?

Changes to the Definition of “Dependent Child”

August 2014

I was 19.  I left to live in university residence, returning home for holidays and the summer break.  I wasn’t living completely independently until I moved to Ottawa in 1993 to go to law school.


According to the nationwide Canada statistical survey done in 2011, almost 60% of young adults aged 20 to 24 live at home with their parents.  This figure has increased over the last few decades – in the 1980’s only about 40% of young adults lived at home.

Despite this statistical reality, the Canadian government decreased the age of a “dependent child” as of August 1st.  Previously, individuals applying to immigrate to Canada could include their children up to age 22, and even older than 22 if they were still in school.

Now, the cut-off is age 18.  The only exception is for children who are reliant on their parents because of a physical or mental disability. 

This new age definition applies to all aspects of immigration law - temporary residence, permanent residence and to refugees. 

Why did the government make this change?  Money.  Their research showed that the younger you are when you arrive in Canada, the more money you make over your lifetime. 

But money isn’t everything.  Canada’s immigration law states that one of the goals of its immigration program is to “see that families are reunited in Canada.”  But parents can do very little to help their children over age 18 come to Canada.  Instead, their children must apply to come to Canada on their own.  For example, under the Federal Skilled Worker program, adult children will get five extra “points” for having a family member in Canada.  This will only assist a limited number of individuals.

Those who work with refugees also point out that separating adult children from their parents is a contravention of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  The United Nations “recommends governments to take the necessary measures for the protection of the refugee’s family, especially with a view to ensuring that the unity of the refugee’s family is maintained particularly in cases where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country.”  Separation of adult dependent children from the family application can be seen as a direct assault on this principle of family unity.

Other critics have pointed out that this change will disproportionately affect young women, especially those from societies where they are expected to live in the family home until marriage.  Their parents will have to choose whether to accept an opportunity to immigrate to Canada, and leaving their daughter at home, or forego the opportunity until their daughter is settled into her own household.

This is just bad marketing.  Canada wants to attract the best immigrants.  Restricting the immigration of young adults, because they may not make as much money as younger immigrants, is short sighted.  We need to look at what Canada gains from the family as a whole, including the contributions of the parents and younger siblings.  Excluding some families because they have older dependent children can only work to Canada’s disadvantage in the long term.

You can read the governments’ new policy here: