By Daniel Otis
TORONTO (CTV Network) — Parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents can now stay in the country for up to seven consecutive years.
On Tuesday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced the change to the “super visa” program, which previously only permitted stays of up to two years.
“Families are at the heart of Canadian society,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a news release. “The enhancements to the super visa program allow family members to reunite for longer in Canada, which helps everyday Canadian citizens and permanent residents succeed and contribute to society, while affording their parents and grandparents invaluable opportunities to spend time with their family in Canada.”
Super visa holders now can stay in Canada for up to five years per entry, with the option of requesting a two-year extension. The new change comes into effect on July 4.
The super visa program was started in 2011 to allow parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to visit the country for extended periods of time. The child or grandchild hosting them must meet minimum income requirements, and applicants must also pass a medical exam and provide proof of private health insurance. Under the new changes, approved international medical insurance providers will be permitted to join Canadian companies in offering coverage.
Super visas are valid for up to 10 years and can be used for multiple entries. They previously only allowed visits of up to two years at a time. The length of stay for regular Canadian visitor visas is usually six months or less. Canada issues approximately 17,000 super visas a year.
The announcement comes as Parliament’s citizenship and immigration committee continues discussions on private member’s bill C-242, introduced in February and sponsored by Conservative MP Kyle Seeback.
The private member’s bill includes provisions similar to those announced by the federal immigration minister, including changes that would allow applicants for a super visa to purchase private health insurance outside of Canada, as well as an extension to the period of stay to five years.
“Once again, the Liberals are taking credit for common-sense Conservative ideas and trying to pass them off as their own,” Seeback and MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, the Conservative shadow immigration minister, said in a joint statement Tuesday.
They also point to previous opposition to aspects of the private member’s bill from Liberal MP Marie-France Lalonde, the parliamentary secretary to the immigration minister, who on May 3 said, “The government does not support the member’s proposal to allow super visa applicants to purchase private health insurance from foreign companies.”
“Conservatives have been supporting Bill C-242 since it was introduced in the House, and most recently Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) highlighted how important these changes were to new Canadians amongst naysaying from the Liberals,” the statement from the Conservatives said.
“It is clear this was nothing but political theatre to set up taking credit for good ideas.”
While the changes are likely welcome news to those with families abroad, actually securing a super visa could take months or more.
Canada has been experiencing massive immigration backlogs, which have caused visa processing times to swell as officials work to process a logjam of more than two million applications.
With current processing times, a super visa could take at least 146 days to process if applying from India, to as many as 458 days if applying from the United States.
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Michael Lee
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