Bringing Families Together with the Parent or Grandparent Super Visa

Luciano Meirelles  Vov e Vov copy
It has never been easier to
visit Canadian family members.
Photo by Luciano Meirelles

Those travelling to Canada from other countries know that the typical travel visa allows you to stay for a maximum of six months before you have to apply for a new visa and pay a new fee. However, if you’re the parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen, there’s a way you can visit your family for a longer period without having to renew your visa.

It’s called the Super Visa and it allows eligible parents and grandparents to visit Canada for up to two years without having to renew their visa. Plus, it’s a multiple-entry visa, which means that holders will be able to make multiple two-year-limit entries into Canada for up to ten years.

To be eligible for this visa, you must be a parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and your admissibility into the country will be evaluated based on the following factors:

  • The person’s ties to his or her home country
  • The purpose of the visit
  • The person’s family and financial situation
  • The overall economic and political stability of the home country
  • The invitations from Canadian hosts

The parent or grandparent must also do the following:

  • Provide a letter promising financial support from their child or grandchild in Canada who has a minimum income
  • Prove he or she has Canadian medical insurance for at least one year to cover the time he or she will be in Canada
  • Complete an immigration medical examination

Though only grandparents and parents can be sponsored for a visit to Canada through Super Visa, applicants must calculate family size as part of the application process. They must include the following family members for that calculation:

  • The inviting child or grandchild
  • The spouse of the inviting child or grandchild
  • The dependants of the inviting child or grandchild
  • Any other person whom the inviting child or grandchild is currently sponsoring or co-signing for
  • The parents or grandparents of the inviting child or grandchild who are seeking a parent and grandparent Super Visa

For example, the inviting family in Canada is a family of three (inviting child or grandchild, the spouse, and one dependent child). The inviting child or grandchild previously co-signed the sponsorship of the spouse’s parents (two persons). That sponsorship is still in effect. Now, the inviting child or grandchild has invited both of his or her parents for a long-term visit on a parent and grandparent Super Visa. The family size is seven.

Super Visa is perfect for Baby Boomers who are using their retirement to travel extensively and would love to cross borders and oceans to visit their Canadian family. We know that more and more people are travelling than ever before — whether it be on a cruise, to an all-inclusive, or on a roadtrip. However, many don’t recognize the importance of travel insurance. You’ll notice that having travel insurance from a Canadian provider is a key component needed to be granted a Super Visa, but so many people still misunderstand how important travel insurance really is.

The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA) conducted a national survey of Canadians about their travel habits and their understanding of provincial health coverage. The survey revealed that 35 per cent of Canadian travellers do not buy travel health insurance.

“Only six per cent of Canadians realize that provincial health plans cover approximately nine per cent of medical expenses when travelling outside of Canada,” said THiA President John Thain. “Travel health insurance is designed to protect against unforeseen medical expenses.”

Yet, 21% of respondents indicated that they have received medical treatment while travelling and most (59.3%) would pay whatever necessary for medical treatment. It’s interesting to note that associated medical expenses of more than $1,000 would represent a financial crisis for 33.6% of respondents and 32% indicated that unforeseen medical expenses of $5,000 or more would represent a financial crisis. Most respondents also underestimated the cost of medical treatment abroad. Only 28.5% correctly identified the average cost of treating a fracture in the U.S. ($10,000).

The above shows that so many people don’t have enough travel insurance or don’t have it all, and yet the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada found out that 94% of these same people always pack underwear when they travel. 

“Travel health insurance should be as essential to a vacation as underwear,” said Thain. “Many people will already have some coverage through employers or credit cards and it’s important to understand existing coverage and ensure you have the necessary supplemental coverage.”

Travel insurance should not just be the concern of snowbirds and seniors. Young people need travel insurance just as much. In April 2014, Pemberton, BC, resident Kenzie Markey was seriously injured while skydiving in Arizona and now faces $50,000 in unpaid medical bills. To add salt in the wound, she thought she was covered. She didn’t realize that her plan did not cover her if the injury occurred while participating in a high-risk activity such as skydiving. It’s a true tragedy, but so many make the same mistake she did. 

“What makes these stories even more tragic for the families involved,” says Thain, “is that the burden of medical and transportation costs that accompanies accidents and illnesses abroad is so avoidable, and in the case of young, otherwise, healthy people, travel insurance is so inexpensive and accessible.”

Virtually all travel insurance plans in Canada offer generous benefits, some up to $5 million per policy, and they include air or ground ambulance repatriation when medically necessary, direct payments to foreign hospitals and doctors, and coverage of virtually all hospital and medical costs for applicants who meet the eligibility and health requirements.

A study by Ipsos-Reid also showed that among 18-to-34-year-old Canadians, 44% report that they never or rarely bought insurance on any trip they took to the U.S. within the previous two years.

“Travel insurance for Canadians leaving the country for even a short trip to a ballgame, or to go shopping, or visit relatives, is not a luxury item, it’s a necessity,” says Thain. “One slip on the ice, or fall on a boat, or accident while crossing the street can generate medical bills that could potentially wipe out a family’s savings. It doesn’t have to be that way,” he emphasizes.

“Travel medical insurance is readily available from most travel agents, brokers, banks, motor leagues, and companies specializing in travel insurance. Thanks to the internet, finding them is easier than ever,” says Thain. “All it takes is recognition that even the young are not invincible. And hospitals and doctors don’t offer cut-rates for the young.”

When assessing your travel insurance needs, keep a number of the following issues in mind:

  • Know your health and consult a health care provider if you have any questions.
  • Know your trip: How long will you be gone? Are you a snowbird? Will you be travelling many times during the year? Do you plan to scuba dive?
  • Understand your travel insurance policy: Insurance companies have staff available to answer any questions related to policies.

Martha Turnbull, a registered nurse, travel insurance professional, and former president of the Travel Health Insurance Association, has some excellent advice when navigating the exclusions and limitations that are the caveats associated with travel insurance’s generous benefits so you can avoid being in Kenzie Markey’s position.

Know Your Own Health
Know what conditions your doctor is treating you for, what medications you have been prescribed and if and when changes have been made to your medications (your pharmacist can help).

Ask for the results of any investigations, tests, specialists’ findings, or why you are being referred to a specialist. If you have any unanswered questions about your health, ask your doctor to review your medical records with you.

Understand Your Insurance Travel Medical Insurance Policy

Since every insurer has different approaches to covering pre-existing conditions, it’s critical to read and understand the benefits, exclusions, limitations, eligibility, and especially pre-existing conditions. Understand key definitions such as “stable,” “controlled,” “treatment,” and “emergency.” Understand the definition of “pre-existing condition” because policies vary among insurers. Some policies may cover pre-existing conditions that are considered stable and controlled for a specific period (such as 90 days) prior to departure or booking date (which applies to trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage). Some may not cover any pre-existing or related condition, so understand how this applies to you.

When completing the travel insurance policy medical questionnaire, take your time. Read it well. If you have any questions, contact the issuing insurance company for clarification and don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help or for access to your medical records.

Do not minimize your health status to get a lower premium. Inaccurate or incomplete answers could invalidate your claim and leave you stuck with the bill.

When insuring travel arrangements for trip cancellation or interruption benefits
Book your travel insurance as soon as you place a deposit on your trip and try to purchase your travel using a major credit card. If the travel supplier goes out of business or suspends operations, you may be able to recover some of your costs through the credit card company. Travel insurers do not cover financial solvency of airlines, cruise lines, or other travel suppliers.

If there is a change in your health or medication, or if you are referred for tests or to a specialist, contact your insurance company to determine if this could result in any changes to your coverage.

If you’re awaiting test results, a referral to a specialist, or a decision on surgery, but want to book travel, consider it very carefully – it may be better to delay your travel until after you are stable and have recovered.

“Travel insurance plans are offered by many different insurance companies in Canada and as such there are many coverage, price and benefit options available. “To make the best choice, you need to be informed and understand your insurance,” concludes Turnbull.

The best way to do that is to vist our experts at LSM Insurance. We will find the plan that’s right for you and our Super Visa expert, William Shung, will walk you through everything you need to know to qualify for that. Just call us at 1-866-899-4849 or visit our Travel Insurance Quote Page.

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