Sponsoring an extended family member to immigrate

Beyond parents, grandparents, children and spouses
It is generally well known that Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their spouses, common-law partners, children, parents and/or grandparents to immigrate to Canada.
What is less well-known is that in certain circumstances it is also possible for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to sponsor an extended family member to immigrate.

 The “Lonely Canadian” category

Under a program that is generally referred to as the “Lonely Canadian Program” or the “Other Relative Program,” a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor one adult son or daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew to immigrate to Canada. If that extended family member is married or has children, the person being sponsored can bring their immediate family with them to Canada. But the person being sponsored has to be related to the sponsor by blood.

In order to sponsor such a relative, however, the Canadian must show that they do not have a spouse, common-law partner, child, parent or grandparent or child who is either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, or who is a foreigner that can be sponsored. For example, if a Canadian citizen is married, they cannot sponsor their uncle to immigrate. The program is designed to favour persons who do not have relations in Canada and have no possibility to sponsor immediate family.

The normal rules of sponsorship apply, and the Canadian sponsor would need to enter into an undertaking with the Government of Canada, committing to being financially responsible for their relative for a period of 10 years after they immigrate.

Ability to sponsor a parent
One issue that frequently arises in the Lonely Canadian Program is whether a Canadian can sponsor an extended relative to immigrate to Canada if that Canadian has a living parent or grandparent, but is likely unable to sponsor them. The answer is unfortunately confusing.

After several seemingly inconsistent decisions on the matter, the Federal Court in Bousaleh v. Canada attempted to summarize the law by stating that if it is the Canadian sponsor who does not meet the requirements of sponsoring a parent or grandparent (due to, for example, financial issues), then the Canadian can sponsor their extended family member. However, if it is the foreign parent or grandparent who does not meet the requirements of immigration (because of, for example, medical or criminal inadmissibility issues), then the Canadian cannot sponsor a different relative. This seems like a somewhat unsatisfactory approach, and the Federal Court of Appeal is expected later this year or early next to answer the question of whether the determination of a Canadian’s ability to sponsor a relative under the Lonely Canadian Program requires a visa officer to consider whether the Canadian’s hypothetical application to sponsor a parent or grandparent would have a reasonable chance of success.

A caution about sponsoring extended relatives
Our office has helped many people sponsor their extended relatives to immigrate. The result can be very fulfilling, and typically fills the Canadian sponsor with great pride. However, on occasion, Canadians have sponsored distant relatives who they may not know well. They may also have unrealistic, or insufficiently explained, expectations for how their relationship with their extended relative will proceed. It is important that prospective sponsors understand that they remain financially liable for their extended relatives after they immigrate even if their relationship with their relative deteriorates. So make sure you discuss any concerns and expectations that you have with your relative before sponsoring them.


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