Back to top


Special Temporary Measures for Extended Family Members in Gaza

On December 21, Canada announced that it would be introducing special temporary measures for Palestinians living in Gaza who have family members in Canada, in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas that commenced after the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas and the taking of Israeli hostages by the attackers on October 7, 2023. These special measures recently came into effect on January 9, 2024.

These special measures allow Palestinians who meet certain criteria and their family members (i.e. spouse, common-law partner, dependent child, and dependent child of dependent child) to apply for a temporary resident visa. Applicants must be residing in Gaza at the time of the application, and have an anchor relative in Canada willing to sign a statutory declaration to support them for at least one year. The anchor relative in Canada must be a spouse or common-law partner, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling (including half-siblings and adopted siblings).  Finally, applicants must also not be inadmissible to Canada for any reason other than financial considerations.

In most cases, applicants will be permitted to stay in Canada for up to three (3) years as a temporary resident, as long as their passports and biometrics remain valid for that period of time. If an applicant’s passport or biometrics expire in less than three (3) years, their status as a temporary resident will expire at the same time, and they must obtain a new passport or update their biometrics before they are eligible to apply for renewal.

Once in Canada, applicants can also apply for a fee-exempt study permit or a fee-exempt open work permit after entering Canada under additional special measures for Israeli nationals, Palestinian passport holders and family members in Canada, which came into effect on December 21, 2023. There is no cap on the number of fee-exempt study or work permits that will be issued under these measures.

While the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Marc Miller, has reiterated that Canada remains deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, there are many aspects of these special measures for Palestinians that are disconcerting.  First, unlike the special measures that were introduced in connection to the war in Ukraine, IRCC has included a cap on the number of applications to be accepted. The temporary measures will end when 1,000 complete TRV applications have been received and accepted for processing, or 1 year after the measures came into effect. When Canada introduced special measures to facilitate temporary entry for Ukrainians, there was no cap included. The Minister noted that the cap was established because the measures are not intended to be a generalized resettlement program, but a specific program that helps those in Gaza with a familial connection to Canada. He also indicated that the program included a cap given the geo-political realities of the situation in Gaza, and did not want to program to be perceived as equating to an emptying of Gaza and a mass resettlement of Palestinians. He further stated that IRCC will “remain flexible” with respect to the cap as they get a sense of how many may actually qualify and utilize the program. Nevertheless, many Palestinian-Canadians found the inclusion of specific cap to be unfair, arbitrary, and inhumane.

In addition, these special measures require that the applicant have an anchor relative in Canada, while the special measures introduced for Ukrainians did not include this requirement. Pro-Palestinian groups, such as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, have noted the “double standard”, stating that the discrepancy “sends a message that some lives are worth more than others”.

It is also notable that the policy stipulates that the principal applicant must still be residing in Gaza at the time of the application, again unlike similar measures that were established for Ukrainians. As a result of this stipulation, the measures are not applicable to those who have left Gaza since the start of the conflict, such as those who may be currently residing in Egypt or the West Bank. In addition, the wording of the policy suggests that it does not apply in related special situations where the blood relative of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is currently residing outside of Gaza, but their immediate family members remain in Gaza. The policy also does not indicate that there is any discretion for de facto family members or extended family members to apply.

Given the politicized nature of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it remains to be seen whether amendments to the measures will be forthcoming to address theses criticisms. If enough political pressure is exerted, it is likely that the government will at least increase or eliminate the cap on applications made under these special measures.

In the interim, Palestinian-Canadian citizens and permanent residents with eligible family members in Gaza should act immediately to take advantage of these special measures, to maximize the likelihood that their applications will be received under the current existing cap.