Family sponsorship and exclusion from the Family Class - the "117(9)(d) problem"


by Rekha McNutt

The topic of this post is something that I encounter much more frequently than I would hope. Having just spent the day working on this exact problem, I thought it would be useful to publish this post.

Here is the typical scenario:

A person comes to Canada to work or study, and then applies for permanent residence as most tend to do. When they first come, they are single and have no children. But things change. Usually, the change involves going back home on a holiday and coming back having married somebody. This all happens while they have an application for permanent residence in process. Not wanting to delay their own application, they decide (whether on their own or through well-meaning but misinformed family/friends) not to advise Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) about that very significant change. They get their own permanent residence, then try to sponsor their spouse, and are told they cannot.

In this type of scenario, not only is the sponsor prevented from bringing their family to Canada, they also face very serious risk of losing their own permanent residency on grounds of misrepresentation. The topic of misrepresentation deserves its own post, but take away from this article that the consequences can be grave to everyone involved.

Our law says that all “family members” of a person integrating to Canada must be “examined” before that person is granted permanent residence, whether they are accompanying or not. A family member includes the person’s:

  • spouse or common-law partner

  • dependent children

  • spouse or partner’s dependent children

  • children’s dependent children

The “examination” of family members typically involves an assessment of their admissibility, namely medical, criminal, and security reviews. By not declaring a family member, a person who is applying for permanent residence is denying IRCC the opportunity to examine that family member and determine whether they are admissible to Canada. This is critical because an inadmissible family member, whether they are accompanying or non-accompanying, can render the principal applicant inadmissible as well. As such, by not declaring their family member, the principal applicant may have gained permanent residency when they should not have.

In order to deal with this non-disclosure, our Regulations contain a very harsh provision which prevents such a person from ever being able to sponsor the family members that he or she failed to declare before getting permanent residence. We call this the “117(9)(d) problem” because that is a section of our Regulations which contains this harsh provision:

117 (9) A foreign national shall not be considered a member of the family class by virtue of their relationship to a sponsor if

(d) subject to subsection (10), the sponsor previously made an application for permanent residence and became a permanent resident and, at the time of that application, the foreign national was a non-accompanying family member of the sponsor and was not examined.

In essence, a family member who was not “examined” is not considered to be part of the sponsor’s “family class”, and therefore not somebody who can be sponsored.

The only way to overcome this lifetime ban on sponsoring that family member is to seek relief on humanitarian and compassionate (H & C) grounds. H & C applications consist of very complex legal submissions that are tailored for every client’s specific situation. Every situation is unique and requires diligence, care, and attention. These applications are difficult to succeed on because they are very discretionary. As such, it is imperative that a compelling case be presented from the outset.

There are number of factors which could be a play depending on the circumstances. Some typical factors include:

  • the reasons for nondisclosure

  • whether the sponsor actually gained an advantage by not declaring their family member

  • the sponsors establishment in Canada

  • the conditions in the country where the sponsored person lives, and the associated hardships

  • the hardships of separating family members

  • the best interests of any children who are affected by the situation

If a Visa Officer determines that sufficient H & C grounds exist, he can allow the sponsorship despite the application of 117(9)(d). In that case, the overseas family member is allowed to immigrate to Canada.

Usually when a sponsorship is refused, the sponsor can appeal that refusal to the Immigration Appeal Division (“IAD”). The IAD usually has H & C jurisdiction, but only in situations where the sponsor person is a member of the sponsor’s “family class”. In 117(9)(d) situations, where the person being sponsor was not examined at the time that the sponsor was granted permanent residence, there is no membership in the Family Class, and therefore no H & C jurisdiction before the IAD. Therefore, robust submissions must be made directly to the Visa office, and in the event of a refusal, the only possible way to challenge such a refusal as before the Federal Court.

If this is a problem you are facing, please contact me for help and support to achieve a positive outcome in your case.

HUGE decision by SCC - Conditional Sentences & Serious Criminality for Permanent Residents

by Rekha McNutt

The Supreme Court of Canada just released its decision in the Tran case. At issue in the case was the interpretation to be given to section 36(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which reads:

36 (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of serious criminality for

(a) having been convicted in Canada of an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years, or of an offence under an Act of Parliament for which a term of imprisonment of more than six months has been imposed;

Any permanent residents found to be inadmissible for "serious criminality" lost their right of appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) pursuant to section 64 of IRPA:

64 (1) No appeal may be made to the Immigration Appeal Division by a foreign national or their sponsor or by a permanent resident if the foreign national or permanent resident has been found to be inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality or organized criminality.

(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), serious criminality must be with respect to a crime that was punished in Canada by a term of imprisonment of at least six months or that is described in paragraph 36(1)(b) or (c).

The SCC in Tran clarified two points:

  1. the relevant point in time when the punishment of an offence is to be assessed; and
  2. whether conditional sentences are to be considered a "term of imprisonment"

Tran had been charged under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act for production of a controlled substances (he had a grow op). At the time of his charge, the section he was charged under had a maximum possible punishment of 7 years in prison (therefore not "seriuos criminality" under IRPA). However, the max possible punishment was amended to 14 years in prison by the time he was convicted (now suddenly "serious criminality". 

The SCC clearly held that "the relevant datefor assessing serious criminality under s. 36(1)(a) is the date of the commission of the offence, not the date of the admissibility decision" [paragraph 42].

The other issue in Tran was the actual punishment that was imposed. Tran received a 12-month conditional sentence of imprisonment, to be served in the community. In essence, no jail time. The question then became whether a conditional sentence ought to be interpreted as a "term of imprisonment" for purposes of IRPA, thereby classifying this as a "serious criminality" issue and barring any appeal rights to the IAD.

The SCC held that a conditional sentence was not equivalent to a prison sentence and the two ought not to be considered as such. The SCC wrote:

[25] First, the purpose of s. 36(1)(a) is to define “serious criminality” for permanent residents convicted of an offence in Canada. It is clear from the wording of the provision that whether or not an imposed sentence can establish “serious criminality” depends on its length. Length is the gauge. It must be “more than six months”. However, the seriousness of criminality punished by a certain length of jail sentence is not the same as the seriousness of criminality punished by an equally long conditional sentence. In other words, length of the sentence alone is not an accurate yardstick with which to measure the seriousness of the criminality of the permanent resident.

[26] Chief Justice Lamer explained in R. v. Proulx, 2000 SCC 5, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 61, at para. 44, that “a conditional sentence, even with stringent conditions, will usually be a more lenient sentence than a jail term of equivalent duration”...

[28] Not only is length an unreliable indicator of “serious criminality” when comparing jail sentences to conditional sentences, but it may not even be a reliable measure across conditional sentences because of the disparate conditions attached to them. More fundamentally, conditional sentences generally indicate less “serious criminality” than jail terms. As Lamer C.J. said, a “conditional sentence is a meaningful alternative to incarceration for less serious and non-dangerous offenders” (Proulx, at para. 21; see also R. v. Knoblauch, 2000 SCC 58, [2000] 2 S.C.R. 780, at para. 102). Thus, interpreting “a term of imprisonment of more than six months” as including both prison sentences and conditional sentences undermines the efficacy of using length to evaluate the seriousness of criminality.

[32] If s. 36(1)(a) is interpreted such that a conditional sentence is a “term of imprisonment”, absurd consequences will follow...It would be an absurd outcome if, for example, “less serious and non-dangerous offenders” sentenced to seven-month conditional sentences were deported, while more serious offenders receiving six month jail terms were permitted to remain in Canada. Public safety, as an objective of the IRPA (s. 3(1)(h)), is not enhanced by deporting less culpable offenders while allowing more culpable persons to remain in Canada.

This decision has enormous implications for any permanent residents facing criminality issues. If a permanent resident has been convicted of an offence "punishable" by 10 years or more, but receives a conditional sentence, then they still have an appeal right to the IAD. The IAD has the ability to allow such individuals to remain in Canada despite the criminality, by considering any humanitarian and compassionate factors that may justify such a decision.