Some very basic facts: the Low Income Cut Off goes up every year.  It is mandatory for a sponsor to meet the LICO when sponsoring parents and their dependent children.  Meeting the LICO is  a badge of confidence you can show to Canada’s immigration department, promising that the relatives who you sponsor will not be a burden on Canada’s social services for three or ten years from the date the sponsored relatives obtain their Canadian immigration visas.

The LICO can impact marriage sponsorships.  Normally, the LICO is not applicable when sponsoring a spouse with underage dependent children.  However, a visa officer overseas has the discretion to use the LICO as a guideline.  This is done primarily where a sponsor of a spouse presents very, very little income (let’s say, for example, only $18,000.00 per year), and the sponsored spouse is bringing two children.  Given the fact that the 2010 LICO for four people is $39,455 (as per the Current Canada Immigration website for 2011), a visa officer can have a very legitimate concern that the sponsor will not be able to keep his spouse and children off of Canada’s social assistance for three or ten years).  In such a circumstance, the visa officer can have reference to the LICO and determine that an application to sponsor a spouse and children should be refused on financial grounds.

However, a sponsor of a spouse who is refused in such a situation can have recourse to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, where a judge (or more precisely, a Member), can review the financial situation and grant approve the sponsorship despite the lack of income of the sponsor.

The Member at the IAD would have regard to humanitarian and compassionate factors and other circumstances, such as the employability of the person being sponsored, the age of any dependent children being sponsored, the proven financial worth of the person being sponsored, and many other factors.

I have come across a situation where a sponsor of a parent has had to pay the province of Ontario over CAD$100,000.00 due to a sponsored parent taking social assistance for many years.  The sponsorship agreement is a document that both the sponsor and the sponsored parent or spouse signs and it sets out in detail the obligations of the sponsor. This is likely a rare occurrence, as the slow processing times for parents that characterize Canada’s immigration system appears to ensure that parents are unable to get their permanent resident visas until they are close to passing away, or are too ill to pass the immigration medical.

LICO Effective until December 31, 2011

Size of Family Unit Minimum necessary income
1 person (the sponsor) $22,229
2 persons $27,674
3 persons $34,022
4 persons $41,307
5 persons $46,850
6 persons $52,838
7 persons $58,827
More than 7 persons, for each additional person, add $5,989

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