Immigrants and Family Law

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Immigration issues

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 absolutely should speak with a lawyer who practices in this area.

Sponsorship application

If you leave your spouse while the sponsorship application is still in progress, you must inform immigration Canada of this change in your application. Failure to do so constitutes misrepresentation which is a ground for refusal of your Permanent Residence application. At this point, you may not be able to proceed with your sponsorship application for Permanent Residence, but there may be other options available to you that allow you to stay in Canada. This is especially the case if you leave your partner due to abuse in the relationship. I urge you to speak to a lawyer at this point or contact Legal Services Society or other community resources to see if you qualify for a free lawyer.

Permanent resident spouses

In October 2012, the government of Canada introduced a new rule that sponsored spouses are under a conditional permanent residency status for the first two years (with some exceptions). This condition was removed on April 28, 2017. In April 2017, the government introduced a rule that sponsored spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents no longer need to live with their sponsor in order to keep their permanent resident status (Source- http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/notices/2017-04-28.asp).

The change applies to those who were under investigation under the previous rule. That is, if you left your spouse within two years of receiving your permanent resident status and the government of Canada was investigating you under the previous conditional permanent residency rule, they will no longer continue that investigation.

This means that if your sponsor is abusive, you no longer need to worry about the threat of deportation or potential loss of status. Your residency status is no longer contingent on the length of the relationship. That being said, the government of Canada will still continue to investigate complaints about marriage fraud (that is, if someone marries a Canadian citizen or permanent residence for the sole purpose of gaining entry into Canada). This means that if you leave your spouse, there is a possibility that he or she may file a complaint of marriage fraud with IRCC. IRCC will then send you a letter with a 30 day deadline to respond to their concerns and tell your side of the story. At this point, I suggest seeking legal advice. You could also write to the IRCC officer and ask for an extension on the response date. This will buy you some time to find a lawyer. If you do not receive a positive response from the immigration officer, then you must respond by the date listed on the letter to avoid a removal order.

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 property.

Although your spouse still has an obligation to support you as a sponsor, you will not lose your permanent resident status if you have to apply for welfare. If you do apply for welfare, keep in mind that you will be expected to try to obtain 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.

Non-resident spouses

If you do not have permanent resident status, you must seek legal advice and help right away, since the breakdown of your relationship with your sponsor may affect your ability to remain in Canada (if that is in fact what you would like to do). There are a number of agencies that help immigrants and refugees. Seek them out immediately.

Sponsoring spouses

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.

Links

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Taruna Agrawal, August 2, 2018.


Creativecommonssmall.png 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.
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