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I'm my niece's guardian and I want her here

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Ffolkes-Abrahams,

I am the legal guardian for my niece who is living in Jamaica. I was wondering what steps could be taken to get her here to live with me in Canada.

I have always been responsible for her since she was born, but I have just recently gotten the guardian status through the courts.

Kindly advise me if getting her here is possible and how to go about it.


- Guardian

Hello Guardian,

You have not indicated the age of your niece. However, I assume that she is young as you have been able to gain the status of legal guardian for her.

For the purposes of immigration, she is usually required to be under 22 and unmarried. However, the immigration laws in Canada do not recognise legal guardians for the purpose of immigration. You have not indicated whether her parents are alive or why you have always been responsible for her from birth. If they are alive, then they would have to agree to give up all legal rights to her and allow you to adopt her. If you were to adopt your niece, then she would be considered your dependent child and you would then have the status to apply for her to immigrate to Canada.

It is advisable for you to get some legal representation in Jamaica, as you would need to go through the adoption process through the courts in Jamaica, in order to gain legal status as her parent. You must make sure to comply with all adoption requirements in Jamaica. You should then contact the Ministry of Social Services in the particular province in Canada in order to receive a 'no objection' letter for the adoption and for the child to reside in the province. This is the case for adoption in Ontario.

You must prove that you have a genuine parent-child relationship, and that you are not adopting just for the purposes of immigration. Since you have indicated that you have been responsible for her since birth, this should not be difficult to show. When adopted, she would have all the legal rights of your natural child. Once you complete this process, you would then apply to sponsor her under the Family Class of Immigration. Your niece would also have to pass medical examinations as well as criminal and background checks.

financially responsible

In order to be eligible to sponsor her, you need to be either a permanent resident of Canada or a citizen. You would also have to show that you have the income to support her. You would then be required to enter into an agreement to support her financially. You must agree to be financially responsible for her for a period of 10 years, or until she turns 25. This of course depends upon her age. If she turns 25 before 10 years are up, then you would only be required to be financially responsible for that period of time.

It is also imperative that you also pass criminal and background checks and that, among other things, you are not in receipt of financial assistance from the government other than for a disability, and that you have not declared bankruptcy from which you have not been discharged.

This may seem like a daunting process. However, you are not alone, many others have gone through this process successfully. I hope that all goes well for you and your niece.

Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams is a barrister/solicitor of bars in Jamaica and Ontario, Canada. She is a former president of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation and a former counsel at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Email:

Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams