Edmonton woman hopes to land coveted immigration lottery spot

·3 min read

Vinu George is anxiously waiting to find out if her application to bring her mother to Canada will be one of the 10,000 files randomly selected for this year's immigration lottery.

The Edmonton resident has been trying for five years to qualify for the federal family reunification program.

After half a decade of disappointment, she's not feeling particularly lucky.

"Not knowing if I will ever get the lottery and if I will ever bring my mom to live with me forever is a hard and stressful thing," George said.

"Now with COVID, she being all by herself, me not being able to visit her, not being able to support her is really hard."

George and her husband Augustine Parattukudi moved to Canada in 2009 and are both Canadian citizens. They welcomed their daughter into the world in July.

Her mother, who lives alone in India, desperately wants to be with her only grandchild, George said.

"For my mom, it's her first grandbaby and it's really hard to not have her with us," she said.

The application window was pushed from April to October this year due to COVID-19. The number of available spots was reduced to 10,000 from 20,000.

"I'm hoping my prayers will be answered," said George, who worried Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada wouldn't take applications during the pandemic.

The application period is set to close on Nov. 3.

'It was heartbreaking'

The federal government's application process for immigrants hoping to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada has changed several times in the last five years.

The first applications George submitted had to be sent to processing centres and were accepted on a first-in basis.

"The chances of your application getting there in the first year, on a first-come, first-serve basis, was also hard," she recalled. "I didn't get it at that time."

The process changed to a lottery system in 2018, widely criticized because of its random selection process, without considering the strength of an application.

Peter Evans/CBC
Peter Evans/CBC

The following year, Ottawa moved to the first-come, first-serve online system. The allotted 27,000 spots were filled within minutes.

"It was devastating. I was really sad, I was crying a lot," George said. "It was like, 'OK, will this ever happen?' It was heartbreaking," George said.

That system did not stay for long, as the government reverted back to a lottery selection for 2020.

A better system

Like many others, George is advocating for a better family reunification process.

She wants the federal government to do away with the lottery system and base its selection on established criteria.

Ottawa should consider personal circumstances, such as how long the applicant has lived in Canada and how many times they have applied for family reunification, she said.

"Do your parents live alone? Are you sponsoring just one parent or two parents? These criteria would have felt like justice is being served," she said.

George hopes to visit her mother sometime next year or have her come to Edmonton on a super visa, which would allow her to stay for two years at a time.

But she says the plans are contingent on the pandemic.

"I'm learning to live with uncertainty."