barriers to entry

Canada Will Let HIV-Positive Foreigners Immigrate, But Only If They Pay for Their Own Drugs

Canada will let HIV-positive foreigners enter the country, but when it comes to longer-term immigration and citizenship, there’s usually a blanket “no,” because carriers of HIV would supposedly impose an unreasonable burden on the country’s healthcare system, which, in a novel approach to treating humankind, is available to all. But an American couple trying to secure citizenship there just won their immigration appeal — but only because they’ve promised to take care of their own drug cocktail bills.

Ricardo Companioni and his partner are both HIV positive, and their annual prescription bill to stay healthy runs $33,500. (In 2009, Canada’s government spent about $5,452 per person on healthcare costs.) And thanks to a handsome nest egg and an employer that’s willing to pick up the tab, it looks like they can shack up in Canada (if the ruling isn’t appealed).

The couple promised to cover their own costs if they could not obtain employer health insurance and showed that they had half a million dollars in assets, but were still rejected based on excessive demand.

“I was really shocked that they rejected the application, especially at that stage of the game,” says Companioni. “Why didn’t they reject the application sooner, before they made us do all this other stuff, get notarized letters, on and on?”

On the advice of a Toronto lawyer, Michael Battista, Companioni and Grover decided to appeal. Thanks to Justice Harrington’s decision, their case will be sent back to another officer for consideration. But the decision has broader implications, because it extends a 2005 Supreme Court decision on excessive demand.

In Hilewitz v Canada, a family was refused permanent residence on the grounds that their disabled son would impose an excessive demand on social services. The family had promised to place their son in private care. Ruling in favour of the family, the court held that CIC had to take into account each applicant’s individual circumstances before refusing them based on excessive demand. Justice Harrington’s new decision extends the Hilewitz reasoning from social services to prescription drug costs.