Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship Program Re-opening October 13th

by Ronalee Carey Law

October 2020

After much delay, the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program will launch on October 13th

This highly popular program has gone through numerous changes over the past few years.  After being put on pause for two years while a backlog of applications was dealt with, the program re-opened in 2014 with a cap of 5,000 applications for the year.  From 2014-2016, interest in the program increased, leading to the yearly cap being reached within two days in 2016.  This led to the Canadian government moving to a lottery system for 2017 and 2018. 

The lottery system was highly criticized, as it left the reunification of families up to ‘chance’.  So, in 2019, the government tried an online first-come, first-served approach system.  It took only minutes for the program to reach capacity for the year.  Those without high-speed internet, individuals not fluent in English or French, workers not able to get to a computer during the business day, and those with physical disabilities were prevented from applying quickly enough to be selected.  In May 2019, the government quietly settled a lawsuit from potential applicants who were disadvantaged by the application system.

For the 2020 program, the government has returned to the lottery system.  Applicants have from between October 13 to November 3, 2020 to submit an online ‘interest to sponsor’ form.  Applicants who are randomly selected will then have 60 days to submit an application. 

Only 10,000 applications will be accepted for processing in 2020.  In 2021, the program will again re-open, for 30,000 new applications.

The government appreciates that many Canadians have suffered a loss of income this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A temporary public policy will lower the income eligibility requirement for the 2020 tax year.  However, because applicants provide their Notice of Assessment for the three previous tax years (2020 applicants will have to provide their 2019, 2018, and 2017 NOAs), the policy will not have an immediate impact. 

The program was critiqued in the past for failing to have an income verification process as part of the online interest to sponsor process.  The 2020 program has not rectified this issue.  Applicants may be invited to submit an application even if they do not meet the income requirements.  This can lead to heartache for the family whose application is likely to be denied, but also takes a spot away from a family which does meet the income requirements.  Perhaps the 2021 will see an introduction of a more sophisticated expression of interest system.

The interest to sponsor form will be available here at noon EDT, October 13, 2020. 

May the odds be ever in your favour.