In a move that may affect many thousands of applicants across a range of Canadian immigration programs, the government of Canada is planning to change the maximum age of dependent children accompanying their parents to less than 22 years old (i.e. 21 or under). If approved, the maximum age is expected to be increased in fall 2017.
Currently, children less than 19 years of age may be included as accompanying dependents on an application for Canadian permanent resident status. This definition applies to all Canadian immigration and refugee classes, as well as principal applicants who may be sponsored in the family class immigration program. In a statement, the government of Canada described the current regulations as “too restrictive”.
The proposed change is likely to be welcomed by many parents in Canada who may now be eligible to sponsor their children aged between 19 and 21 to join them. Moreover, potential applicants from around the world may be able to include their children, who are currently ineligible due to their age, on an application.
The new definition of “dependent child” would apply for applicants who submit a permanent resident application on or after the date the change comes into effect.
The previous Conservative government lowered the maximum age for dependent children on August 1, 2014. Before that date, from June 28, 2002, to July 31, 2014, the maximum age was set at less than 22 years of age. Consequently, the planned change to the regulations reverts the maximum age back to its previous definition.
In the lead-up to the general election last fall, the Liberal Party (currently in office) declared its commitment to family reunification. This commitment has been reiterated time and again since the Liberals came to power, and this latest proposed change is aimed at supporting these commitments.
The statement outlining the change states, “When families are able to remain together as an economic household unit, their integration into Canada and their ability to work and contribute to their communities all improve.”
In addition, this change has been developed based on Canadian demographic data, and the national census supports the rationale behind the change. “The 2011 Census found that over half of all young adults from 20 to 24 years of age lived with their parents (63.3% of young men and 55.2% of young women). This proportion has increased in recent decades, particularly for young women, rising from 33% in 1981 to 55.2% in 2011,” the statement explains.
Consequently, the proposed change has been developed to ensure the alignment of Canadian immigration programs with current Canadian demographic trends.
The government’s statement proposing the regulatory change explicitly acknowledges that many children remain dependent on their parents while pursuing higher education. Among various objectives behind the increase in the maximum age is the effort to support young people in pursuing higher education in Canada.
The statement acknowledges that many children aged between 19 and 21 may not be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent resident status under an economic immigration program, essentially denying them the opportunity to join their family in Canada. While the minimum age for principal applicants under Canadian economic immigration programs is usually 18, many young people may not yet have the required education or work experience to make an application. Therefore, an explicit objective of this proposed change is to enable these young people to obtain permanent resident status while pursuing their studies.
“Given the importance placed on education, it is not unusual for some children to remain with their nuclear family while pursuing higher education before entering the labour market . . . The proposed increase of the maximum age of dependent children is consistent with the underlying socio-economic trend that children remain at home longer with their parents, particularly those studying for lengthier periods,” the statement explains.
“Notably, the proposed higher age limit would enable many post-secondary students . . . to be eligible as dependent children through much of their undergraduate studies.”
The proposed change will remain as a draft for a period of 30 days, during which time IRCC will receive comments from the public on the proposed change. Individuals who wish to comment on the change may contact David Cashaback, Director of the Social Immigration Policy and Programs department of IRCC, at IRCC.AgeofDependentChild-Enfantacharge.IRCC@cic.gc.ca.