Immigrants and Family Law
Problems involving immigration usually crop up because one spouse has sponsored the other spouse into Canada, or a spouse is concerned about deportation once the relationship ends. The discussion that follows provides only an overview of some of these problems. If you have an immigration concern, you really should speak to a lawyer who practises this kind of law.
Permanent resident spouses
Under new rules that were introduced in October 2012, sponsored spouses are under a conditional permanent residency status for the first two years. According to the press release from Citizenship and Immigration Canada:
"The spouse or partner must live in a legitimate relationship with their sponsor for two years from the day on which they receive their permanent resident status in Canada. The status of the sponsored spouse or partner may be revoked if they do not remain in the relationship."
In other words, the spouse who has been sponsored into Canada must stay with his or her spouse for at least two years or the spouse risks losing his or her permanent residency. This could be a serious problem if the potential loss of status forced people to stay in abusive relationships. However, the new rules appear to come with some exceptions. Here's more from the press release:
"The regulations include an exception for sponsored spouses or partners suffering abuse or neglect. The conditional measure would cease to apply in instances where there is evidence of abuse or neglect by the sponsor or if the sponsor fails to protect the sponsored spouse or partner from abuse or neglect. This abuse or neglect could be perpetrated by the sponsor or a person related to the sponsor, whether or not the abusive party is living in the household or not during the conditional period. The exception would also apply in the event of the death of the sponsor."
If your sponsor is abusive and you seek an exemption from the conditional permanent residency, refer to paragraph 3 on Operational Bulletin 480 on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Website 
However, no matter what, your spouse may still remain responsible for supporting you and your children. If you are married, you will also remain entitled to claim a share in the family assets.
Although your spouse still has an obligation to support you as a sponsor, you will not lose your permanent resident status after the first two-year period if you have to apply for welfare, although you will be expected to try to get support from your spouse. If your relationship ended because of abuse, you may not have to try to get support from your spouse. Speak to your caseworker or lawyer right away.
In October 2016, CIC announced that in 2017, it would eliminate the requirement that spouses cohabit for two years before the sponsored spouse is able to obtain full Canadian permanent residence. You may read more about this in the Gazette. 
This means that when a spouse enters Canada as a permanent resident, that residency will not be contingent on the length of that relationship.
If you do not have permanent resident status, you must seek legal advice and help right away, as the breakdown of your relationship with your sponsor may affect your ability to remain in Canada (if that's in fact what you'd like to do). There are a number of agencies that help immigrants and refugees. Seek them out immediately.
If you have sponsored your spouse into Canada, you have certain obligations to continue to provide for your spouse's needs and the needs of any dependent children. These responsibilities are for a fixed amount of time, and you will have promised to support your spouse when you signed the immigration forms.
You have these responsibilities in addition to your responsibilities under the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. A 2004 case of the Supreme Court, Aujla v. Aujla, 2004 BCSC 1566 held that a sponsor's obligations under a sponsorship agreement were obligations between the sponsor and the federal government, separate from the sponsor's obligation to pay spousal support under those acts.
If you are a sponsor and your relationship has ended, contact an immigration lawyer right away to find out exactly what your rights and obligations are.
|The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Taruna Agrawal, March 13, 2017.|
|JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|