Sarbmeet Singh · CBC News · Posted: Dec 13, 2022
Thousands of foreign nationals hoping to live in Canada are elated after Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced changes to how people coming to the country on a super visa can pay for their medical insurance.
Launched in 2011, the super visa program allows permanent residents (PR) and citizens to invite their non-resident parents and grandparents to stay with them in Canada for up to five years at a time.
But to do so, they have been required to pay for medical insurance up-front annually — a sometimes prohibitive price tag which varies depending on age and coverage but is an average of $1,500 for a 65-year-old and potentially higher as applicants get older.
While applicants could previously pay in monthly instalments, that changed in August when the department announced it would require annual up-front payments.
That prompted a backlash, including an online petition arguing the new payment system was punitive toward families seeking to be reunited and was resulting in fewer applications being granted.
But this week, the department confirmed its decision has been reversed, and families can once again make monthly payments. The move has been welcomed by applicants, as well as insurance and immigration experts, as a way to make it easier for families to reunite.
An important tool for multigenerational families
That's a relief for Amritpal Singh, who lives in Surrey, B.C. and is hoping to invite his parents, who are in India, to come live with him next summer.
He says the prospect of paying for a full year of medical insurance for each of them was daunting, and he welcomes the chance to break it down into smaller payments.
"I am very excited to invite my parents to Canada. While they can get an opportunity to explore Canada with me, I will be emotionally benefited from their presence," he said in an interview conducted in Punjabi.
Raghbir Singh Bharowal, an immigration consultant based in Surrey, says the super visa plays a vital role in the reunification of families.
But, he said the high price prevented many people from applying for the program.
"As per the tradition and culture in many South Asian countries, people tend to stay together. This program reunites them in Canada. Now, more people will apply for the visa," he said in a Punjabi-language interview.
Jaskaran Singh Benipal, an insurance advisor in Surrey, said he has already had more people enquiring about applying for the program after hearing about the more flexible payments.
"Many of my clients changed their mind after the rules changed. Now they can apply and invite their parents and grandparents to Canada as they can pay in instalments," said Benipal in Punjabi.
In an email, a spokesperson for Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada said the new rule was implemented to recognize the importance of families being together. They also said that around 17,000 super visas are being issued every year.