Pay­ing to jump the line?

Con­cerns arise that first spots in par­ent spon­sor­ship pro­gram go to those who can pay

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Peo­ple seek­ing to bring par­ents or grand­par­ents to Canada this year were re­port­edly pay­ing up to $400 to en­sure their ap­pli­ca­tions were at the top of the pile for the first-come, first served fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion pro­gram that was flooded with far more ap­pli­ca­tions than avail­able spots.

The ap­pear­ance that it’s pos­si­ble to buy a way to the front of the par­ent and grand­par­ent spon­sor­ship pro­gram is rais­ing con­cerns about the pro­gram’s fair­ness ahead of planned changes to the sys­tem.

Since 2014, the pro­gram has only ac­cepted 5,000 ap­pli­ca­tions a year, cut­ting off in­take af­ter that num­ber has been reached. The pa­per­work must be sub­mit­ted by mail or by reg­is­tered courier.

This year, line-ups at the im­mi­gra­tion pro­cess­ing cen­tre in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., be­gan hours be­fore the pro­gram opened to new ap­pli­ca­tions on Jan. 4. Some couri­ers showed up with bags of what ap­peared to be hun­dreds of ap­pli­ca­tions, ac­cord­ing to pho­to­graphs ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press.

Oth­ers boasted about their ef­forts. Metro Mis­sis­sauga Courier has a no­tice on its web­site say­ing it had a po­si­tion within the top three in the line-up and had been there since 10 a.m. the day be­fore to se­cure a space.

“The larger com­pa­nies come late, do not wait in the lineup and usu­ally leave with­out your ap­pli­ca­tion ever mak­ing it into the mail­room. Avoid wast­ing a crit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity and money,” the com­pany says in its pitch for new busi­ness.

An­dre Ni­co­lae said he thought he had ev­ery­thing in good or­der when he sent off his ap­pli­ca­tion to spon­sor his 80-year-old Ro­ma­nian grand­mother.

The Hamil­ton, Ont., man sent it via UPS and was told it had ar­rived by 6:31 a.m., a time that he fig­ured guar­an­teed him a spot at the top of the line. So he was dis­heart­ened to hear from a courier friend that there were dozens of peo­ple in line by that hour and many of them were drop­ping off thou­sands of ap­pli­ca­tions at once.

While he’d paid a reg­u­lar courier fee, he was told some peo­ple had paid up to $400 just to en­sure their ap­pli­ca­tion was at the front of the line. He said its raises ques­tions for him about the fair­ness of the pro­gram.

“I don’t think it’s fair be­cause you in­tro­duce the money is­sue — peo­ple with­out money won’t have that op­por­tu­nity and it’s not fair in that sense,” he said.

“But I can’t re­ally think of a vi­able al­ter­na­tive.”

The Im­mi­gra­tion Depart­ment said they re­ceived 14,000 ap­pli­ca­tions al­to­gether for the par­ent and grand­par­ent pro­gram and as of Jan. 7, were not tak­ing any more.

But in a sign that change may be im­mi­nent, they say they are hold­ing onto some of the ex­cess ap­pli­ca­tions rather than just re­turn­ing them.

“Canada is com­mit­ted to re­unit­ing fam­i­lies and the govern­ment of Canada is seek­ing to in­crease the in­take of par­ent and grand­par­ent spon­sor­ship ap­pli­ca­tions from 5,000 to 10,000 per year,” the depart­ment said in a no­tice posted on its web­site last week.

The in­crease to the pro­gram was a Lib­eral cam­paign prom­ise. But the over­all sys­tem it­self may not change, a spokesper­son for the depart­ment sug­gested in an e-mail.

When asked about whether the govern­ment had any con­cerns about the in­tegrity of the pro­gram, given the high prices be­ing charged by couri­ers, depart­ment spokesper­son Faith St. John said they are aware of the high in­ter­est in and im­por­tance of the pro­gram.

“(The depart­ment) makes ev­ery ef­fort to make the process as fair and trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble, and op­er­ates the PGP Pro­gram on the ‘’first in, first out” prin­ci­ple, whereby ap­pli­ca­tions are pro­cessed in the or­der they are re­ceived,” she wrote in an email.

This year, line-ups at the im­mi­gra­tion pro­cess­ing cen­tre in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., be­gan hours be­fore the pro­gram opened to new ap­pli­ca­tions on Jan. 4. Some couri­ers showed up with bags of what ap­peared to be hun­dreds of ap­pli­ca­tions, ac­cord­ing to pho­to­graphs ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press.

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