Written by By Aida Tekkema, CNN
This story has been updated with comments from Canadian Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen.
Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister announced on Thursday that citizens will soon be able to sponsor foreign relatives of citizens to come to Canada.
“I want to confirm that we are open to granting non-residents a permanent resident visa for themselves and their children under 18 when their eligible relatives satisfy the requirements for a spouse visa,” Ahmed Hussen said at a news conference.
The program will allow previously-un-sponsored citizens to claim legal status in Canada, and have their children in the program.
Canadian immigration minister Ahmed Hussen. Reuters Aida Tekkema
The rules will allow someone to sponsor up to 10 family members, up to a maximum of three sponsors and their children, according to Hussen’s statement.
“When sponsors come to Canada, they will qualify and qualify only to do something that has been long prohibited in Canada — that is, to bring in someone that they didn’t sponsor in the first place,” Hussen said.
Applicants will need to have lived in Canada for five years prior to their application, and are required to be aged 20 or older. The program is expected to be available by February.
“You know, obviously the government of Canada is very much aware of the fact that there is a flow of persons across our border, who are Canadian citizens from Syria to Canada for the purposes of trying to access healthcare for themselves and their loved ones back home,” Hussen said.
The Canadian government’s initiative in awarding families will not affect refugee protection, Hussen added.
Canada has granted Temporary Protection Status to about 20,000 people from Syria and Iraq, over a long period of time.
“So now these folks will be able to come with their families to Canada so that there is access to the state welfare system, et cetera, so they don’t fall behind in terms of their survival in the first instance,” Hussen said.
The idea is in contrast to the Trump administration’s policy of “extreme vetting” of refugees from certain majority-Muslim countries.