Family Breakdown & the Immigration Process

Law

People who are separating or divorcing may not be citizens of Canada. See the sections below to learn more about how your relationship breakdown may affect your immigration status if:

  • You were sponsored for permanent residence by your partner or spouse
  • You have permanent resident status
  • You were given conditional permanent resident status
  • You are in Canada as a worker, student, or visitor
  • You came to Canada and made a refugee claim
  • You have no legal status
  • You want to apply to stay in Canada for humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) reasons
  • You are involved with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (formerly called Citizenship and Immigration Canada) for any reason

Choose the Process tab above for contact information and application forms that you may need.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about relationship breakdown when one or more members of the family is not a citizen of Canada (also called a “foreign national”). This includes family members who are in the process of immigrating.

Whether you are married or in a common-law relationship, if you or your partner is not a citizen of Canada you will have some very important issues to consider related to your relationship breakdown.

Although all of the general legal rules and processes still apply, immigration issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • what to do when;
  • when to contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (formerly called Citizenship and Immigration Canada);
  • whether and when to involve a lawyer;
  • what you need to include in any agreement; and even
  • what you can ask for in court.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about relationship breakdown in Canada when one or both of the partners are not yet Canadian citizens. For information on the process you may need (or want) to follow, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

Be Aware

This is a very complex area of law. You may want to consider consulting an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

The department of the Government of Canada that:

  • governs the arrival of immigrants (including granting permanent residence and citizenship);
  • provides protection to refugees;
  • issues travel documents (such as work permits, study permits, and visas); and
  • offers programs to help newcomers settle in Canada.

Until 2016, this department was called Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Because the change in name is still quite new, some resources and even the IRCC website may still show the old name.

Canadian citizen

A person who has the right to live and work anywhere in Canada permanently, without limits. Citizens can vote, hold office, and enter and exit Canada at any time.

foreign national

A person who is not a citizen of the country in which he or she is living or temporarily staying.

permanent resident

A “permanent resident” of Canada has the right to live and work anywhere in Canada. A permanent resident was born in another country, and he or she is still a citizen of another country. A permanent resident cannot vote or hold office in Canada, or remain outside of Canada for more than 3 years out of 5. When a permanent resident has been “physically present” in Canada for at least 4 years, then he or she can apply for Canadian citizenship. See the following resource for more information.

Interactive Physical Presence Calculator
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Calculatrice de la période de présence effective
Government of Canada
French

conditional permanent resident

Under an immigration policy from October 25, 2012 to April 17, 2017, some permanent residents had to continue living with their sponsor for 2 years after being granted permanent residence to keep that legal status. During this 2-year time, they were called a “conditional” permanent resident. This rule only applied to sponsored spouses who:

  • had been in a relationship with their sponsor for less than 2 years; and
  • had no children in common with their sponsor.

As of April 18, 2017, this rule no longer applies to sponsored immigrants to Canada.

  • No new permanent residents have to continue living with their sponsor to keep their status.
  • Anyone who had been considered a “conditional permanent resident” is no longer subject to the conditions.
  • If you were being investigated for not following this rule after separating from your sponsor, the investigation will stop.

For more information, see the “Conditional permanent residents: New rules from 2017” section below.

removal order

An order that says a person must leave Canada. There are 3 kinds of removal orders: departure orders, exclusion orders, and deportation orders. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Authorization to return to Canada
Government of Canada
English

Web Autorisation de revenir au Canada
Government of Canada
French

deportation (also called “removal”)

The process of being forced to leave Canada. If you have been the subject of a “removal order,” you will probably need an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC) if you want to return. Whether you need an ARC depends on the type of removal order that was issued.

legal status (also called “immigration status”)

The formal term that describes the kind of legal permission you have to stay in Canada. For example: you may have a work, student, or visitor visa/permit. These mean that you are only allowed to stay in Canada for:

  • the purposes described (to work, to study, or to visit); and
  • the length of time specified.

If you want to live in Canada permanently, you may be able to apply for a different status, including: refugee, permanent residence, and citizenship.

For more information about your immigration options, see the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

Web Immigration and citizenship
Government of Canada
English

Web Immigration et citoyenneté
Government of Canada
French

misrepresentation

Not answering questions truthfully. This includes:

  • providing false information or false documents; or
  • not sharing important facts.

There are very serious consequences for misrepresentation, which include loss of immigration status, permanent separation from family members, fines, and even jail time.

port of entry

A place where a person can legally enter a country. For example, international airports and border crossings are ports of entry.

sponsorship

The ability of citizens or permanent residents of Canada to help family members (including spouses and romantic partners) immigrate to Canada. To sponsor a family member, you must be able to support your relative financially when they arrive. Also, for 3 years you must:

  • be able to meet basic needs—such as food, clothing, and shelter—for yourself and your relative; and
  • make sure your relative does not need to ask for financial help from the government. If they do, you will be held financially responsible.

spouse

A person who is legally married to another person.

cohabitation

Living together in the same home.

common-law partner

Under most federal laws, the term “common-law” refers to a couple who has lived together in a romantic relationship:

  • for at least one year; or
  • for less than one year but they have a child together.

conjugal

A word used to describe a relationship—a “conjugal relationship” means the people involved have sex. This is also called a “romantic relationship.” This is different from a “platonic relationship,” which is a relationship of any kind that does not include having sex.

conjugal partner

This is a term used often by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to refer to a person with whom you have been in a conjugal relationship for at least one year.

For the purposes of sponsorship, you don’t always have to have been living together during that year. In other words, you do not have to meet the definition of “common-law partners” above. You can sponsor your conjugal partner if there has been a significant degree of attachment between you. This means the relationship cannot be just sexual. You must have been in a genuine relationship for at least 12 months. But in that relationship, marriage or cohabitation has not been possible due to some kind of significant barrier. For example: sexual orientation or religious faith.

More definitions

For more definitions related to immigration, see the resources below.

Web Refugee Rights in Ontario: Glossary
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio/Web 
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 14:20.
The laws that may apply to you

As you work through your separation issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Family Law Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Divorce Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. The links above take you to a page that lists the laws themselves as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

  1. the exact meaning of the words in the laws (called “interpretation”); and
  2. how that meaning applies to the people in those cases (called “application”).  

This means that what happens in other cases can affect what happens in your case. It also means that there are cases decided before that govern how cases are decided now. For more information on case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Immigration law and family law: Separate but related processes

Your immigration status and family law matters are separate issues. This means:

  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will not deal with issues around separation, divorce, or its related topics (such as parenting time, child support, or partner support); and
  • family court will not deal with changing your immigration status.

However, the two legal processes can affect each other. For example, if your immigration status changes, it can affect how you go about resolving your family law issues.

Even if you are in the process of dealing with family law issues, immigration procedures and enforcement will not be put on hold. For more information about enforcement, see the following resource.

Web How does the government enforce Canadian immigration laws?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Comment Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada assure l’application des lois canadiennes sur l’immigration?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
If you are the victim of family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family—whether it was toward you, the children, or both? It is very important to recognize and admit this, both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help. Everyone involved must be kept safe.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind include the following.

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • It is never your fault. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • If you are planning on leaving a violent situation and deciding which steps to take first, see the Safety Planning Information Page.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to family court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about your legal options.
  • Do not just believe an abuser who has told you that “You can’t leave me” or “You’ll get deported”: it is not up to the abuser, it is a question of law. Keep reading to find out more.

If you are currently involved with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada / IRCC (formerly called Citizenship and Immigration Canada), the existence of family violence can affect the choices you make and when you make them. Specifically, the existence of violence is often a critical factor in what happens in both your immigration and your family law proceedings. 

Detailed information about how IRCC options are affected by family violence is in the “IRCC options when there is family violence” section below. However, you may not understand all of the information there until you read the other sections on this Information Page that apply to you. Your choices and options will be different depending on your current immigration status—keep reading this Information Page to find out more.

Many of the resources on this Information Page have both general legal information as well as how that information applies in situations of family violence. Where appropriate, resources specific to situations of domestic violence are noted with this icon:

Family Violence

 

Be sure to read these resources thoroughly, because it is sometimes difficult to understand what to do in situations of violence without understanding the legal picture in general.

See the following resources for more information about family violence. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Web How immigration status can affect women in situations of violence or abuse
Canadian Council for Refugees
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Tools to Help (Immigrant women)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Immigrant women and domestic violence
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Ethno-cultural Communities (Information sheets and audio about family violence)
Government of Alberta
Arabic, Blackfoot, Chinese, Farsi, French, Plains Cree, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu, Vietnamese
Some of this information is also available in audio format in multiple languages.

As a last thought, remember that abusive situations are very complicated. There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Relationship breakdown and legal status: What kind of legal status do you have?

If one or both of the partners are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, the breakdown of the relationship can have very serious consequences. As a result, before you can decide how to proceed with your family law issues, you need to know:

  • what your current legal status is; and
  • how that might affect the choices you make.

For information about how a relationship breakdown can affect immigration status, see the following resources. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Web How does divorce affect my immigration status?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language at the top of the page.
Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part I - Basic Concepts - revised June 11, 2013
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 19:40.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If you are in Canada as a worker, student, or visitor

The information in this section applies if you came to Canada as a worker, visitor, or student, and that visa/permit is still valid (it has not expired).

If you have not started a sponsorship application

Your relationship breakdown does not affect your status in Canada IF:

  • your visa/permit is still valid (it has not expired); and
  • you have not started a sponsorship application for permanent residency.

You do not need to tell Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about the change in your relationship.

Your legal status will expire when your visa/permit expires. For this reason, you will need to stay aware of your status. Then you can apply to extend or change your status as needed. For more information about your IRCC and family law options, see the section below called “Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and all parties have legal status to remain in Canada.”

If you have started a sponsorship application

If you have started a sponsorship application for permanent residency, then you will need to tell Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) about the change in your relationship status. This will cancel your application for sponsorship.

Be Aware

The partner/spouse being sponsored is required to report the relationship breakdown. If they do not report it, IRCC may issue a finding of “misrepresentation.” This can affect any future attempts at staying in Canada, or immigrating to Canada.

For this reason, you will need to stay aware of your status. Then you can apply to extend or change your status as needed. If you want to stay in Canada, you will need to make sure you have legal status to remain in Canada in another way.

For more information about your IRCC and family law options, see the section below called “Relationship breakdown after filing a sponsorship application: When the sponsored partner/spouse is not yet a permanent resident but has legal status.”

If you came to Canada and made a refugee claim

You may have come to Canada and made a refugee claim (perhaps with other members of your family). In this case, your relationship breakdown does not necessarily affect your immigration status. You can continue to stay in Canada until your refugee claim is heard.

If you made your refugee claim with your partner and your relationship is breaking down, there are some options to consider with your refugee claim. You could:

  • separate your claim from your partner’s claim;
  • withdraw your refugee claim; or
  • continue your refugee claim as it is. However, if that claim is based on your partner’s fear of persecution, you may not still have a strong claim once you separate..

Which options are allowed will depend on your situation. For example:

  • If your refugee hearing has already started, you may not be able to separate or withdraw your claim.
  • If your claim was based on your partner’s fear of persecution, you may be told you cannot continue your refugee claim. Or, you may choose to withdraw your refugee claim. In these situations, you may be able to apply to stay in Canada for “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons instead. This is called an “H&C application.”

Be Aware

You cannot make both a refugee claim and an H&C application at the same time. Also, if you withdraw your refugee claim, you may not be allowed to make an H&C application for 12 months. Keep this in mind before making any decision about your refugee claim.

For more information about your IRCC and family law options, see the “Relationship breakdown during a refugee claim” section below.

If you are a permanent resident

If you have permanent resident (PR) status, then your relationship breakdown does not affect your immigration status in Canada, even if your former partner sponsored you.

For information about your family law options, see the section below called “Relationship breakdown after the sponsored partner/spouse was granted permanent residence.”

Be Aware

If you applied for permanent resident status after October 25, 2012, then you may have been granted “conditional” permanent residence. As of April 18, 2017, “conditional” permanent residence no longer applies to sponsored immigrants to Canada. This means you are no longer required to live with your sponsor for 2 years after getting permanent resident status.

If you have no legal status

You may be in Canada without any legal status. This can happen if:

  • your visa/permit (worker, visitor, or student) has expired;
  • your refugee claim was denied; or
  • you entered the country illegally.

Not having status is a scary thing, as people worry that they will be discovered and forced to leave Canada. Also, some families keep their children out of school due to fear or lack of information about their rights. In fact, children without status are allowed to attend public school. For more information about what you can do if this applies to you, see the following resources.

Web Helping parents without immigration status get their children into school
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information about your IRCC and family law options, see either of these sections below. Choose the one that applies to your situation.

  • “Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and one or both parties do not have legal status to remain in Canada,” or
  • “Relationship breakdown after filing a sponsorship application: When the sponsored partner/spouse is not yet a permanent resident and does not have legal status.”

If you are in Canada without legal status, you should speak to someone you trust about your options to get legal status. Consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

Conditional permanent residents: New rules from 2017

Under an immigration policy from October 25, 2012 to April 17, 2017, some permanent residents had to continue living with their sponsor for 2 years after being granted permanent residence to keep that legal status. During this 2-year time, they were called a “conditional” permanent resident. This rule only applied to sponsored spouses who:

  • had been in a relationship with their sponsor for less than 2 years; and
  • had no children in common with their sponsor.

As of April 18, 2017, this rule no longer applies to sponsored immigrants to Canada.

  • No new permanent residents have to continue living with their sponsor to keep their status.
  • Anyone who had been considered a “conditional permanent resident” is no longer subject to the conditions.
  • If you were being investigated for not following this rule after separating from your sponsor, the investigation will stop.

For more information, see the following resources.






Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 27:30.
Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and all parties have legal status to remain in Canada

Family relationships can break down when one or both of the partners/spouses is in Canada on a work, study, or visitor visa/permit.

IRCC options

If you came to Canada as a worker, visitor, or student, and that visa/permit is still valid (it has not expired), then your relationship breakdown does not affect your status in Canada. Your status will expire when your visa/permit expires. You will need to stay aware of your status, and apply to extend or change your status as needed.

To stay in Canada, you have several possible options. See the following resource and the rest of this section for more information about your options.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part I - Basic Concepts - revised June 11, 2013
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 48:00. Note that the information about “conditional” permanent residency no longer applies.

This is a very complex area of law. Deciding between the options will depend on your exact circumstances. You may wish to contact the IRCC Call Centre, or speak with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the following resource and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Web IRCC Call Centre Services
Government of Canada
English

For information about other resources available to you (including paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

Apply to extend or change the conditions of your current status

If your visa/permit has not yet expired, you can apply to extend it, or change the conditions of it. However, you must apply at least 30 days before your status expires. You also need to make sure that your passport will be valid for at least the same amount of time as the extension you asked for. This is because your visa/permit cannot be valid for longer than your passport is valid.

For more information about these options, see the following resources.

Web How can I extend my stay as a visitor?
Government of Canada
English

Web Comment prolonger mon séjour comme visiteur?
Government of Canada
French

Web Extend your stay in Canada as a visitor
Government of Canada
English


Web How can I extend my stay as a student?
Government of Canada
English

Web Comment prolonger mon séjour comme étudiant?
Government of Canada
French

Web Extend your study permit
Government of Canada
English

Web Prorogation du permis d’études
Government of Canada
French


For information about how to complete all of these applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for new status as a worker, student, or visitor

If your visa/permit has not yet expired, you may be able to apply for a new work, student, or visitor visa/permit. For more information about this option, see the following resources.



Web Can I apply for a work permit from inside Canada?
Government of Canada
English





For information about how to complete all of these applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for permanent residence as a skilled worker

You may be able to apply for permanent residence as a skilled worker through IRCC's express entry system. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Interactive Do you want to come to Canada, or extend your stay?
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Voulez-vous venir au Canada ou prolonger votre séjour?
Government of Canada
French



Web Determine your eligibility — Skilled trades
Government of Canada
English





For information about how to make these applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for permanent residence as a caregiver

You may be able to apply for permanent residence through IRCC's various caregiver options. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Caregiver Program
Government of Canada
English

Web Programme des aides familiaux
Government of Canada
French





Web Determine your eligibility – Live-in caregivers
Government of Canada
English


 

Apply for permanent residence through Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program

You may be able to apply for permanent residence through the Alberta Provincial Nominee Program, if you are a skilled or semi-skilled worker. However, this will take time. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program
Government of Alberta
English


Apply to stay in Canada based on Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations (making an H&C application)

This is an application for permanent residence for people who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada. It can be completed from inside of Canada.

Usually, people must apply for permanent residence from outside Canada. An H&C application allows immigrants to ask for special permission to stay in Canada while their permanent residence application is processed. The application claims that there are “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons to let them stay. With an H&C application, you are asking the government to make an exception to the usual rule and allow you to apply from inside of Canada.

In looking at an H&C application, immigration officials will consider:

  • the best interests of any children;
  • health issues;
  • strength of ties to Canada; and
  • potential hardships that could arise if the applicant had to return to his or her home country.

For information about how these factors are considered, see the following resources.

PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate reasons
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What kind of evidence supports an H&C application?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Other evidence of an H&C applicant's situation
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What does "best interests of a child" mean?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How does an H&C applicant show establishment in Canada?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What Proof Do I Need for a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) Application?
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate: assessment and processing
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Demandes pour considérations d’ordre humanitaire : évaluation et traitement
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Be Aware

It is not easy to make this claim. To be successful in an H&C application, you must show that you are strongly rooted in Canada. Also, just because you have children in Canada does not mean that you will be successful in an H&C application.

You may not be able to make an H&C application if your refugee claim:

  • was refused in the last 12 months; or
  • was withdrawn or abandoned in the last 12 months.

In this case, you will have to wait 12 months to apply again unless you can show that one of the following applies in your situation:

  • there is a child under 18 years of age who would be negatively affected if you were removed from Canada; or
  • your life, or the life of another person included in the failed application, would be at risk because the country you would be sent back to could not give you adequate health or medical care.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Government of Canada
English

Web Considérations d’ordre humanitaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Refugee Claim or an H&C?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make an H&C application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply to stay in Canada as a refugee

This is a specific kind of application for permanent residence that can only be done if you fear persecution in your country of origin. There are strict timelines to make this application.

This can be a difficult claim to make. For example:

  • The government has made a list called the “Designated Country of Origin.” These are countries that Canada has decided it is “safe” to live in. Therefore, it is harder to make a refugee claim if you are from one of the countries on this list.
  • If you made your application for refugee status at a Port of Entry, and you are granted a hearing about your application, there is a tight time limit. You will have only 15 days from the day your case is referred for a hearing to submit your “Basis of Claim” form. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about completing this form.
  • If you are making your refugee claim from inside of Canada, then you are expected to go to your local IRCC office with all of your forms, including your Basis of Claim, already complete. These documents can be complicated and they must be filled in correctly. For help with completing these documents, visit your local immigrant services provider or the Legal Aid office. If you are granted a hearing about your application, it will take place within 60 days. Or, it will be within 30 days if you are from a Designated Country of Origin.
  • You cannot make an H&C application and a refugee claim at the same time.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.



PDF Refugee Law in 6 Basic Steps
Kinbrace Community Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making a Refugee Claim in Canada: What You Need to Know
Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How is a refugee claim decision made?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Claiming Refugee Protection Under the New System: A Basic Overview
FCJ Refugee Centre
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make a refugee claim, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Family law options

If you live in Alberta and have legal status, you have all of the same family law rights as any other resident of Alberta. This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property.

However, starting a family law court application does not necessarily mean that your status will be extended. When your status expires, you may still have to leave the country. This is true even if your family law issues are not yet resolved, and even if you have care and control of your children. For this reason, you will need to stay aware of your status, and apply to extend or change your status as needed. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Can a woman who does not have status stay in Canada if her child is born here?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Mothers without status
YWCA Vancouver
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

PDF Single mothers without legal status in Canada
YWCA Vancouver
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

PDF Immigrant, Refugee & Non Status Women
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Fiche d'information pour les femmes: Immigrantes, réfugiées ou sans statut
Luke's Place
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

You will need to learn about family law in Alberta. To find Information Pages that discuss your family law issue in detail, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

Be Aware

Family law in Alberta will not be the same as in your home country. It is also not the same as other provinces in Canada. And it will not be like anything you may have seen on television.

Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and one or both parties do not have legal status to remain in Canada

When dealing with relationship breakdown, non-citizens may allow their legal status to “lapse” (expire) while they are figuring out their next steps. If you find yourself without legal status in Canada, you have a few options that may allow you to stay in Canada.

IRCC options

To stay in Canada, you have several possible options. See the following resource and the rest of this section for more information about your options.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part I - Basic Concepts - revised June 11, 2013
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 48:00. Note that the information about “conditional” permanent residency no longer applies.

If you are in Canada without legal status, you should speak to someone you trust about your options to get legal status. Deciding between the options will depend on your exact circumstances. Consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

See the following resources for more information about your options when you have no legal status. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 13:45 and 26:40.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #8.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non-status Women.”

Video Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non Status Women (ASL)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Apply to “restore” your expired status

If your work, study, or visitor visa/permit expired less than 90 days ago, you can apply to restore your temporary status. You can either:

  • apply to restore the same type of status (for example: applying for a new study visa/permit after an initial study visa/permit expires); or
  • apply to restore status under a new category (for example: applying for a work visa/permit within 90 days of your visitor status expiring).

After 90 days, the option of restoring status is lost.

For more information about this option, see the following resource.

Web Temporary residents: overview
Government of Canada
English

For information about how to make this application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

If your work, study, or visitor visa/permit expired more than 90 days ago, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A Temporary Resident Permit can allow a person without status to remain in Canada temporarily.

For IRCC to grant a TRP, there must be very good reasons. For example: the hardship of family separation (such as separation from your children). Or, a legitimate fear of harm in your country of origin. TRPs are issued for a period of up to 3 years, and can be renewed.

For more information about this option, see the following resource.

Web Temporary resident permits
Government of Canada
English

Web Permis de séjour temporaire
Government of Canada
French

For information about how to make this application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply to stay in Canada based on Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations (making an H&C application)

This is an application for permanent residence for people who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada. It can be completed from inside of Canada.

Usually, people must apply for permanent residence from outside Canada. An H&C application allows immigrants to ask for special permission to stay in Canada while their permanent residence application is processed. The application claims that there are “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons to let them stay. With an H&C application, you are asking the government to make an exception to the usual rule and allow you to apply from inside of Canada.

In looking at an H&C application, immigration officials will consider:

  • the best interests of any children;
  • health issues;
  • strength of ties to Canada; and
  • potential hardships that could arise if the applicant had to return to his or her home country.

For information about how these factors are considered, see the following resources.

PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate reasons
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What kind of evidence supports an H&C application?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Other evidence of an H&C applicant's situation
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What does "best interests of a child" mean?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How does an H&C applicant show establishment in Canada?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What Proof Do I Need for a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) Application?
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate: assessment and processing
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Demandes pour considérations d’ordre humanitaire : évaluation et traitement
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Be Aware

It is not easy to make this claim. To be successful in an H&C application, you must show that you are strongly rooted in Canada. Also, just because you have children in Canada does not mean that you will be successful in an H&C application.

You may not be able to make an H&C application if your refugee claim:

  • was refused in the last 12 months; or
  • was withdrawn or abandoned in the last 12 months.

In this case, you will have to wait 12 months to apply again unless you can show that one of the following applies in your situation:

  • there is a child under 18 years of age who would be negatively affected if you were removed from Canada; or
  • your life, or the life of another person included in the failed application, would be at risk because the country you would be sent back to could not give you adequate health or medical care.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Government of Canada
English

Web Considérations d’ordre humanitaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Refugee Claim or an H&C?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make an H&C application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply to stay in Canada as a refugee

This is a specific kind of application for permanent residence that can only be done if you fear persecution in your country of origin. There are strict timelines to make this application.

This can be a difficult claim to make. For example:

  • The government has made a list called the “Designated Country of Origin.” These are countries that Canada has decided it is “safe” to live in. Therefore, it is harder to make a refugee claim if you are from one of the countries on this list.
  • If you made your application for refugee status at a Port of Entry, and you are granted a hearing about your application, there is a tight time limit. You will have only 15 days from the day your case is referred for a hearing to submit your “Basis of Claim” form. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about completing this form.
  • If you are making your refugee claim from inside of Canada, then you are expected to go to your local IRCC office with all of your forms, including your Basis of Claim, already complete. These documents can be complicated and they must be filled in correctly. For help with completing these documents, visit your local immigrant services provider or the Legal Aid office. If you are granted a hearing about your application, it will take place within 60 days. Or, it will be within 30 days if you are from a Designated Country of Origin.
  • You cannot make an H&C application and a refugee claim at the same time.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.



PDF Refugee Law in 6 Basic Steps
Kinbrace Community Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making a Refugee Claim in Canada: What You Need to Know
Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How is a refugee claim decision made?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Claiming Refugee Protection Under the New System: A Basic Overview
FCJ Refugee Centre
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make a refugee claim, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Family law options

If you live in Alberta, you have all of the same family law rights as any other resident of Alberta, even if you do not have legal status.This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property. You do not have to prove status to start a family law application in court.

However, not having status can still cause problems. While you are attempting to solve your family law issues, if you come to the attention of IRCC officials, you could be ordered to leave Canada. This is true even if your family law issues are not yet resolved, and even if you have care and control of your children.

If you are in Canada without legal status, you should speak to someone you trust about your options to get legal status. Deciding between the options will depend on your exact circumstances. Consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

You will need to learn about family law in Alberta. To find Information Pages that discuss your family law issue in detail, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

Be Aware

Family law in Alberta will not be the same as in your home country. It is also not the same as other provinces in Canada. And it will not be like anything you may have seen on television.

Relationship breakdown after filing a sponsorship application: When the sponsored partner/spouse is not yet a permanent resident but has legal status

Family breakdown can occur during the early stages of the sponsorship process. If this happens, the former partners/spouses must tell IRCC, and the sponsorship application will be cancelled.

If the partner/spouse being sponsored is already in Canada, and they want to stay in Canada, then they must find another way to do so. If this is your situation, continue reading this section for information about your options to stay in Canada.

If you are the sponsor

If your partner is not yet a permanent resident, you can withdraw your sponsorship application. Once IRCC is informed of the breakdown of the relationship, they will cancel the application.

For more information about withdrawing your sponsorship application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Informing IRCC about the breakdown in the relationship

The person being sponsored has a legal obligation to report the relationship breakdown. If they do not report it, IRCC may issue a finding of “misrepresentation.” This can affect any future attempts at staying in Canada, or immigrating to Canada.

It does not matter what stage of the application process you are at. You will have to tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship whether:

  • you have just mailed the sponsorship application;
  • you have been contacted by IRCC;
  • you have been interviewed by IRCC; or
  • the PR card is in the mail and on its way to you.

When you do, the sponsorship application will be cancelled.

Be Aware

The sponsoring partner/spouse can also tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship. IRCC will cancel the application and notify the person being sponsored that their application was cancelled.

This is a very complex area of law. If the person who was being sponsored wants to stay in Canada, they must tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship and complete other IRCC processes to try to immigrate. Before doing either, consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer) see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

If you are the sponsored partner/spouse: IRCC options

In general, partners/spouses who are in the process of being sponsored to immigrate to Canada already have some kind of legal status.

For example:

  • you may already have been visiting, working, or studying in Canada when the sponsorship application was sent in; or
  • you may have been given a work permit as part of your sponsorship application. In December 2014, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada began issuing open work permits to partners/spouses already living in Canada who were being sponsored for permanent residence. These work permits are issued before the application is approved. This allows sponsored partners/spouses living in Canada to work as they wait for their applications to be processed. For more information about these permits, see the following resource.

Web Open Work Permit for Sponsored Spouse with Inland Sponsorship
IMMIgroup
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If your visa/permit is still valid (it has not expired), you can only stay in Canada for the length of that visa/permit. Now that your sponsorship application will be cancelled, your stay in Canada will end when that visa/permit expires. If you want to stay in Canada, you will need to make sure you have legal status to remain in Canada. This will have to be in a way that does not rely on the sponsorship of your former partner.

Be Aware

It is always a good idea to carefully read the terms of your visa/permit to make sure that you are following the rules specific to your situation. A change in your personal situation does not mean that you can change any conditions in your current visa/permit.

To stay in Canada, you have several possible options. See the following resource and the rest of this section for more information about your options.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part I - Basic Concepts - revised June 11, 2013
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 48:00. Note that the information about “conditional” permanent residency no longer applies.

This is a very complex area of law. Deciding between the options will depend on your exact circumstances. You may wish to contact the IRCC Call Centre, or speak with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

Apply to extend or change the conditions of your current status

If your visa/permit has not yet expired, you can apply to extend it, or change the conditions of it. However, you must apply at least 30 days before your status expires. You also need to make sure that your passport will be valid for at least the same amount of time as the extension you asked for. This is because your visa/permit cannot be valid for longer than your passport is valid.

For more information about these options, see the following resources.

Web How can I extend my stay as a visitor?
Government of Canada
English

Web Comment prolonger mon séjour comme visiteur?
Government of Canada
French

Web Extend your stay in Canada as a visitor
Government of Canada
English


Web How can I extend my stay as a student?
Government of Canada
English

Web Comment prolonger mon séjour comme étudiant?
Government of Canada
French

Web Extend your study permit
Government of Canada
English

Web Prorogation du permis d’études
Government of Canada
French


For information about how to complete all of these applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for new status as a worker, student, or visitor

If your visa/permit has not yet expired, you may be able to apply for a new work, student, or visitor visa/permit. For more information about this option, see the following resources.



Web Can I apply for a work permit from inside Canada?
Government of Canada
English





For information about how to complete all of these applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for permanent residence as a skilled worker

You may be able to apply for permanent residence as a skilled worker through IRCC’s express entry system. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Interactive Do you want to come to Canada, or extend your stay?
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Voulez-vous venir au Canada ou prolonger votre séjour?
Government of Canada
French



Web Determine your eligibility — Skilled trades
Government of Canada
English





For information about how to make these applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for permanent residence as a caregiver

You may be able to apply for permanent residence through IRCC's various caregiver options. However, this will take time. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Caregiver Program
Government of Canada
English

Web Programme des aides familiaux
Government of Canada
French





Web Determine your eligibility – Live-in caregivers
Government of Canada
English


 

Apply for permanent residence through Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program

You may be able to apply for permanent residence through the Alberta Provincial Nominee Program, if you are a skilled or semi-skilled worker. However, this will take time. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program
Government of Alberta
English



 

Apply to stay in Canada based on Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations (making an H&C application)

This is an application for permanent residence for people who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada. It can be completed from inside of Canada.

Usually, people must apply for permanent residence from outside Canada. An H&C application allows immigrants to ask for special permission to stay in Canada while their permanent residence application is processed. The application claims that there are “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons to let them stay. With an H&C application, you are asking the government to make an exception to the usual rule and allow you to apply from inside of Canada.

In looking at an H&C application, immigration officials will consider:

  • the best interests of any children;
  • health issues;
  • strength of ties to Canada; and
  • potential hardships that could arise if the applicant had to return to his or her home country.

For information about how these factors are considered, see the following resources.

PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate reasons
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What kind of evidence supports an H&C application?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Other evidence of an H&C applicant's situation
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What does "best interests of a child" mean?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How does an H&C applicant show establishment in Canada?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What Proof Do I Need for a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) Application?
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate: assessment and processing
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Demandes pour considérations d’ordre humanitaire : évaluation et traitement
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Be Aware

It is not easy to make this claim. To be successful in an H&C application, you must show that you are strongly rooted in Canada. Also, just because you have children in Canada does not mean that you will be successful in an H&C application.

You may not be able to make an H&C application if your refugee claim:

  • was refused in the last 12 months; or
  • was withdrawn or abandoned in the last 12 months.

In this case, you will have to wait 12 months to apply again unless you can show that one of the following applies in your situation:

  • there is a child under 18 years of age who would be negatively affected if you were removed from Canada; or
  • your life, or the life of another person included in the failed application, would be at risk because the country you would be sent back to could not give you adequate health or medical care.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Government of Canada
English

Web Considérations d’ordre humanitaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Refugee Claim or an H&C?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make an H&C application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply to stay in Canada as a refugee

This is a specific kind of application for permanent residence that can only be done if you fear persecution in your country of origin. There are strict timelines to make this application.

This can be a difficult claim to make. For example:

  • The government has made a list called the “Designated Country of Origin.” These are countries that Canada has decided it is “safe” to live in. Therefore, it is harder to make a refugee claim if you are from one of the countries on this list.
  • If you made your application for refugee status at a Port of Entry, and you are granted a hearing about your application, there is a tight time limit. You will have only 15 days from the day your case is referred for a hearing to submit your “Basis of Claim” form. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about completing this form.
  • If you are making your refugee claim from inside of Canada, then you are expected to go to your local IRCC office with all of your forms, including your Basis of Claim, already complete. These documents can be complicated and they must be filled in correctly. For help with completing these documents, visit your local immigrant services provider or the Legal Aid office. If you are granted a hearing about your application, it will take place within 60 days. Or, it will be within 30 days if you are from a Designated Country of Origin.
  • You cannot make an H&C application and a refugee claim at the same time.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.



PDF Refugee Law in 6 Basic Steps
Kinbrace Community Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making a Refugee Claim in Canada: What You Need to Know
Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How is a refugee claim decision made?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Claiming Refugee Protection Under the New System: A Basic Overview
FCJ Refugee Centre
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make a refugee claim, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

If you are the sponsored partner/spouse: Family law options

If you live in Alberta and have legal status, you have all of the same family law rights as any other resident of Alberta. This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property.

However, starting a family law court application does not necessarily mean that your status will be extended. When your status expires, you may still have to leave the country. This is true even if your family law issues are not yet resolved, and even if you have care and control of your children. For this reason, you will need to stay aware of your status, and apply to extend or change your status as needed. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Can a woman who does not have status stay in Canada if her child is born here?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Mothers without status
YWCA Vancouver
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

PDF Single mothers without legal status in Canada
YWCA Vancouver
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

You will need to learn about family law in Alberta. To find Information Pages that discuss your family law issue in detail, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

Be Aware

Family law in Alberta will not be the same as in your home country. It is also not the same as other provinces in Canada. And it will not be like anything you may have seen on television.

Relationship breakdown after filing a sponsorship application: When the sponsored partner/spouse is not yet a permanent resident and does not have legal status

Family breakdown can occur during the early stages of the sponsorship process. If this happens, the former partners/spouses must tell IRCC, and the sponsorship application will be cancelled.

If the partner/spouse being sponsored is already in Canada, and they want to stay in Canada, then they must find another way to do so. If this is your situation, continue reading this section for information about your options to stay in Canada.

If you are the sponsor

If your partner is not yet a permanent resident, you can withdraw your sponsorship application. Once they are informed of the breakdown of the relationship, IRCC will cancel the application.

For more information about contacting IRCC to stop a sponsorship application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Informing IRCC about the breakdown in the relationship

The person being sponsored has a legal obligation to report the relationship breakdown. If they do not report it, IRCC may issue a finding of “misrepresentation.” This can affect any future attempts at staying in Canada, or immigrating to Canada.

It does not matter what stage of the application process you are at. You will have to tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship whether:

  • you have just mailed the sponsorship application;
  • you have been contacted by IRCC;
  • you have been interviewed by IRCC; or
  • the PR card is in the mail and on its way to you.

When you do, the sponsorship application will be cancelled.

Be Aware

The sponsoring partner/spouse can also tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship. IRCC will cancel the application and notify the person being sponsored that their application was cancelled.

This is a very complex area of law. If the person who was being sponsored wants to stay in Canada, they must tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship and complete other IRCC processes to try to immigrate. Before doing either, consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer) see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

If you are the sponsored partner/spouse: IRCC options

To stay in Canada, you have several possible options. See the following resources and the rest of this section for more information about your options. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 37:45.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part I - Basic Concepts - revised June 11, 2013
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 48:00.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part II - Sample Situations
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 11:30.

If you are in Canada without legal status, you should speak to someone you trust about your options to get legal status. Consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

See the following resource for more information. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #8.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non-status Women.”

Video Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non Status Women (ASL)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

Apply to “restore” your expired status

If your work, study, or visitor visa/permit expired less than 90 days ago, you can apply to restore your temporary status. You can either:

  • apply to restore the same type of status (for example: applying for a new study visa/permit after an initial study visa/permit expires); or
  • apply to restore status under a new category (for example: applying for a work visa/permit within 90 days of your visitor status expiring).

After 90 days, the option of restoring status is lost.

For more information about this option, see the following resource.

Web Temporary residents: overview
Government of Canada
English

For information about how to make this application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

If your work, study, or visitor visa/permit expired more than 90 days ago, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A Temporary Resident Permit can allow a person without status to remain in Canada temporarily.

For IRCC to grant a TRP, there must be very good reasons. For example: the hardship of family separation (such as separation from your children). Or, a legitimate fear of harm in your country of origin. TRPs are issued for a period of up to 3 years, and can be renewed.

For more information about this option, see the following resource.

Web Temporary resident permits
Government of Canada
English

Web Permis de séjour temporaire
Government of Canada
French

For information about how to make this application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply to stay in Canada based on Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations (making an H&C application)

This is an application for permanent residence for people who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada. It can be completed from inside of Canada.

Usually, people must apply for permanent residence from outside Canada. An H&C application allows immigrants to ask for special permission to stay in Canada while their permanent residence application is processed. The application claims that there are “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons to let them stay. With an H&C application, you are asking the government to make an exception to the usual rule and allow you to apply from inside of Canada.

In looking at an H&C application, immigration officials will consider:

  • the best interests of any children;
  • health issues;
  • strength of ties to Canada; and
  • potential hardships that could arise if the applicant had to return to his or her home country.

For information about how these factors are considered, see the following resources.

PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate reasons
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What kind of evidence supports an H&C application?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Other evidence of an H&C applicant's situation
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What does "best interests of a child" mean?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How does an H&C applicant show establishment in Canada?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 39:45.

Web What Proof Do I Need for a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) Application?
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate: assessment and processing
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Demandes pour considérations d’ordre humanitaire : évaluation et traitement
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Be Aware

It is not easy to make this claim. To be successful in an H&C application, you must show that you are strongly rooted in Canada. Also, just because you have children in Canada does not mean that you will be successful in an H&C application.

You may not be able to make an H&C application if your refugee claim:

  • was refused in the last 12 months; or
  • was withdrawn or abandoned in the last 12 months.

In this case, you will have to wait 12 months to apply again unless you can show that one of the following applies in your situation:

  • there is a child under 18 years of age who would be negatively affected if you were removed from Canada; or
  • your life, or the life of another person included in the failed application, would be at risk because the country you would be sent back to could not give you adequate health or medical care.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Government of Canada
English

Web Considérations d’ordre humanitaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Refugee Claim or an H&C?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 38:20.

For information about how to make an H&C application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Apply to stay in Canada as a refugee

This is a specific kind of application for permanent residence that can only be done if you fear persecution in your country of origin. There are strict timelines to make this application.

This can be a difficult claim to make. For example:

  • The government has made a list called the “Designated Country of Origin.” These are countries that Canada has decided it is “safe” to live in. Therefore, it is harder to make a refugee claim if you are from one of the countries on this list.
  • If you made your application for refugee status at a Port of Entry, and you are granted a hearing about your application, there is a tight time limit. You will have only 15 days from the day your case is referred for a hearing to submit your “Basis of Claim” form. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about completing this form.
  • If you are making your refugee claim from inside of Canada, then you are expected to go to your local IRCC office with all of your forms, including your Basis of Claim, already complete. These documents can be complicated and they must be filled in correctly. For help with completing these documents, visit your local immigrant services provider or the Legal Aid office. If you are granted a hearing about your application, it will take place within 60 days. Or, it will be within 30 days if you are from a Designated Country of Origin.
  • You cannot make an H&C application and a refugee claim at the same time.

For more information about this option, see the following resources.



PDF Refugee Law in 6 Basic Steps
Kinbrace Community Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making a Refugee Claim in Canada: What You Need to Know
Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How is a refugee claim decision made?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Claiming Refugee Protection Under the New System: A Basic Overview
FCJ Refugee Centre
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make a refugee claim, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

If you are the sponsored partner/spouse: Family law options

If you live in Alberta, you have all of the same family law rights as any other resident of Alberta, even if you do not have legal status. This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property. You do not have to prove status to start a family law application in court.

However, not having status can still cause problems. While you are attempting to solve your family law issues, if you come to the attention of IRCC officials, you could be ordered to leave Canada. This is true even if your family law issues are not yet resolved, and even if you have care and control of your children.

If you are in Canada without legal status, you should speak to someone you trust about your options to get legal status. Deciding between the options will depend on your exact circumstances. Consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

You will need to learn about family law in Alberta. To find Information Pages that discuss your family law issue in detail, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

Be Aware

Family law in Alberta will not be the same as in your home country. It is also not the same as other provinces in Canada. And it will not be like anything you may have seen on television.

Relationship breakdown after the sponsored partner/spouse was granted permanent residence

If you are the sponsor

If your partner has been a permanent resident for less than 3 years, you are still legally obligated to support him or her. As the sponsor, you agreed in writing to support your partner for 3 years. Sponsors remain financially responsible until the end of this 3-year period, whether you stay together for this whole time or not. However, as a sponsored person, your former partner must make “every reasonable effort” to support himself or herself.

For more information, see the following resources.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 43:00.

Web Apply to sponsor your spouse, partner or children
Government of Canada
English


PDF Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking (Form IMM 1344)
Government of Canada
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox. See p. 5-6.

PDF Demande de parrainage, entente de parrainage et engagement
Government of Canada
French
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox. See p. 5-6.

Web About Divorce and Separation
Government of Canada
English
See “Divorcing a spouse you sponsored to come to Canada.”

Web Au sujet du divorce et de la séparation
Government of Canada
French
Voir “Divorce d'un époux dont vous avez parrainé l'entrée au Canada.”

Video Spousal Support and Sponsorship Agreements
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If you are the sponsored partner/spouse

If you have permanent resident status, then your relationship breakdown does not affect your immigration status in Canada, even if your former partner sponsored you.

Be Aware

If you were given permanent residence status before April 18, 2017, you may have been given “conditional” permanent residence. As of April 18, 2017, this rule no longer applies to sponsored immigrants to Canada. For more information, see the “Conditional permanent residents: New rules from 2017” section above.

For more information about how relationship breakdown does, and does not, affect permanent resident status, see the following resources. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 21:10 and 35:00.

Web The Legal Rights of Immigrant Women
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part II - Sample Situations
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 9:55.

PDF Leaving an abusive relationship... If you are not a Canadian citizen
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See the bottom of p. 2.

If you live in Alberta and are a permanent resident, you have all of the same family law rights as any other resident of Alberta. This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property.

You will need to learn about family law in Alberta. To find Information Pages that discuss your family law issue in detail, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

For more general information, see the following resources.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non Status Women (ASL)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Family law in Alberta will not be the same as in your home country. It is also not the same as other provinces in Canada. And it will not be like anything you may have seen on television.

Be Aware

If it has been less than 3 years since you were granted Permanent Resident status, your sponsor is still obligated to support you if you need it. This is true even if your relationship has broken down. However, as part of your sponsorship agreement, you (the sponsored person) agreed to make “every reasonable effort” to support yourself. If the relationship breaks down, you must continue to try to support yourself. For more information about financial issues during relationship breakdown, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

Relationship breakdown during a refugee claim

IRCC issues

You may have come to Canada and made a refugee claim (perhaps with other members of your family). In this case, your relationship breakdown does not necessarily affect your immigration status. You can continue to stay in Canada until your refugee claim is heard.

If you made your refugee claim with your partner and your relationship is breaking down, there are some options to consider with your refugee claim. You could:

  • separate your claim from your partner’s claim;
  • withdraw your refugee claim; or
  • continue your refugee claim as it is. However, if that claim is based on your partner’s fear of persecution, you may not still have a strong claim once you separate.

Which options are allowed will depend on your situation. For example:

  • If your refugee hearing has already started, you may not be able to separate or withdraw your claim.
  • If your claim was based on your partner’s fear of persecution, you may be told you cannot continue your refugee claim. Or, you may choose to withdraw your refugee claim. In these situations, you may be able to apply to stay in Canada for “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons instead. This is called an “H&C application.”
Be Aware

You cannot make both a refugee claim and an H&C application at the same time. Also, if you withdraw your refugee claim, you may not be allowed to make an H&C application for 12 months. Keep this in mind before making any decision about your refugee claim.

This is a very complex area of law. The rules regarding refugee claims are very complicated and have recently changed. Before making a decision, you may want to consider getting the advice of an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

For more information about how your relationship breakdown may affect your refugee claim, see the following resources. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 23:00, 26:10, and 44:00.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #8.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non-status Women.”

Video Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non Status Women (ASL)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part II - Sample Situations
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 42:55.

Web How can a refugee lose their status in Canada?
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How immigration status can affect women in situations of violence or abuse
Canadian Council for Refugees
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

You may not be able to make an H&C application if your refugee claim:

  • was refused in the last 12 months; or
  • was withdrawn or abandoned in the last 12 months.

In this case, you will have to wait 12 months to apply again unless you can show that one of the following applies in your situation:

  • there is a child under 18 years of age who would be negatively affected if you were removed from Canada; or
  • your life, or the life of another person included in the failed application, would be at risk because the country you would be sent back to could not give you adequate health or medical care.

For more information about making an H&C application, see the Process tab of this Information Page and the following resources.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Government of Canada
English

Web Considérations d’ordre humanitaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Refugee Claim or an H&C?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to make a refugee application, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Family law options

While you are waiting for your refugee claim to be heard, as long as you live in Alberta, you have all of the same family law rights as any other resident of Alberta. This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property.

However, it is important to understand that starting a family law action in Alberta court has nothing to with your refugee claim. In other words, starting a family law action does not help or hurt your refugee claim. If your refugee claim is denied, you will still be subject to all the same rules about leaving the country. This is true even if your family law issues are not yet resolved, and even if you have care and control of your children.

You will need to learn about family law in Alberta. To find Information Pages that discuss your family law issue in detail, you can browse the Family Law Topics page of this website, or go through the Guided Pathway by clicking the “Guided Pathway” link on the top of the page.

Be Aware

Family law in Alberta will not be the same as in your home country. It is also not the same as other provinces in Canada. And it will not be like anything you may have seen on television.

IRCC options when there is family violence

Being a victim of domestic violence can make things even more complicated than they already are. There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the following resources for an introduction.

Web Rose's Story
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Immigrant women and domestic violence
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What do immigrants and refugees need to know about domestic abuse?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web A Spotlight on Family Violence and Immigrant Women in Canada
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

The rest of this section has information about what to do in the following situations.

  • If you are sponsoring the abuser
  • If your sponsor or your sponsor’s family is abusing you or your children
  • Involving the police if you don’t have legal status
  • Going to a shelter if you don’t have legal status

If you are sponsoring the abuser

If you are still in the process of applying, you can tell IRCC about the change in your relationship status. If you do, the application will be cancelled. For information about how to do this, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

On the other hand, if your partner has permanent resident status, their status will not change, even if they are abusive to you or your children. Also, you may still be obligated to support them, if it has been less than 3 years since they became a permanent resident. This is part of the “undertaking” you agreed to by sponsoring your partner/spouse.

For more information, see the following resource.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 43:00.

If your sponsor or your sponsor’s family is abusing you or your children

Your options will depend on your legal status and where you are in the sponsorship process. Your options are described below.

This is a very complex area of law. Deciding between the options will depend on your exact circumstances. You may wish to contact the IRCC Call Centre, or speak with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including paying for a lawyer), see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

If you are already a permanent resident

If you are already a permanent resident, leaving the relationship will not affect your legal status. Also, your family law options will be the same as they are for any other resident of Alberta. This means that you can go to court to apply for care and control of your children, child support, partner support. If you were married, you can also apply for a share of your family property.

Be Aware

If you were given permanent residence status before April 18, 2017, you may have been given “conditional” permanent residence. As of April 18, 2017, this rule no longer applies to sponsored immigrants to Canada. For more information, see the “Conditional permanent residents: New rules from 2017” section above.

If you are in the process of applying for sponsorship but you are not yet a permanent resident

If you are still in the process of applying for sponsorship, leaving the relationship will mean that the sponsorship application will be cancelled. If you are already in Canada, you could be left with no status, and may have to leave the country. This can be very scary. And, this can occur even if you and the abuser have any children together.

However, if you are already in Canada, chances are that you have status. You will need to stay aware of your status, and apply to extend or change your status as needed. For information about your options for your immigration and family law issues, see the section above called “Relationship breakdown after filing a sponsorship application: When the sponsored partner/spouse is not yet a permanent resident but has legal status.”

Or, you may be in Canada without any legal status. This can happen if:

  • your visa/permit (worker, visitor, or student) has expired;
  • your refugee claim was denied; or
  • you entered the country illegally.

Not having status is a scary thing, as people worry that they will be discovered and forced to leave Canada. Also, some families keep their children out of school due to fear or lack of information about their rights. In fact, children without status are allowed to attend public school.

For more information about your IRCC and family law options when you don’t have legal status, see the section above that applies to your situation.

  • “Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and one or both parties do not have legal status to remain in Canada” OR
  • “Relationship breakdown after filing a sponsorship application: When the sponsored partner/spouse is not yet a permanent resident and does not have legal status”
Be Aware

You may be worried that your partner or family members in the country you would have to return to might harm you. If so, you may be able to make a refugee claim to stay in Canada. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more details on this option.

If you are in Canada, but have not yet started the sponsorship application process

Family relationships can break down when one or both of the partners/spouses is in Canada on a work, study, or visitor visa/permit.

Your relationship breakdown does not affect your status in Canada IF:

  • your visa/permit is still valid (it has not expired); and
  • you have not started a sponsorship application for permanent residency.

You do not need to tell Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about the change in your relationship.

Your legal status will expire when your visa/permit expires. For this reason, you will need to stay aware of your status, and apply to extend or change your status as needed. For more information on your options for both your immigration and your family law issues, see the section above called “Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and all parties have legal status to remain in Canada.”

Sometimes, however, when dealing with relationship breakdown, non-citizens may allow their legal status to “lapse” (expire) while they are figuring out their next steps. If this is your situation, see the section above called “Relationship breakdown when no sponsorship application has been started, and one or both parties do not have legal status to remain in Canada.” This will give you more information on your options for your immigration and family law issues.

Be Aware

You may be worried that your partner or family members in the country you would have to return to might harm you. If so, you may be able to make a refugee claim to stay in Canada. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more details on this option.

Involving the police if you don’t have legal status

Assault is when one person intentionally applies force to another person without that person’s consent. In Canada, assault is against the law. That includes assaulting one’s partner. Therefore, if the police believe that your partner has assaulted you, they will lay a criminal charge against him or her. If you call the police, they may lay a charge, whether you want them to or not. The choice to charge your partner is theirs, not yours.

If the police lay a charge, many officers will not look into your legal status, or the legal status of your partner. This is commonly called a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

However, this is not necessarily true of all police officers. Also, it is important to understand that if your partner is charged, you will get involved with the court system. When that occurs, not having status can cause problems. The police, the lawyer for the government (also called the “Crown counsel”), or another court official could find out that you do not have legal status and tell IRCC officials.

For more information about involving the police, see the following resources. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 26:40.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #8.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non-status Women.”

Video Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non Status Women (ASL)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Also, you can be charged with assault too, even if you are only defending yourself. In situations of physical violence, it is natural to try to protect yourself. This can result in “hitting back.” Although this may be a natural response, it can cause problems if you are charged with a crime (such as assault). Even just a slap (as we might see in a movie) can result in an assault charge. If this occurs, you may come to the attention of IRCC officials.

Going to a shelter if you don’t have legal status

If you are being abused, you and your children can leave your partner and stay at a shelter. This is true regardless of your legal status. No one at the shelter will ask about your legal status. The services of shelters are available for all residents.

However, if IRCC officials learn that you are staying at the shelter, they can come to you with a removal order.

How family law, immigration law, and criminal law are related

There is no direct legal relationship between family law, immigration law, and criminal law. Your cases will be dealt with separately. The information and evidence from one court will not be shared with the other court.

However, what happens in one system can affect another system. A few examples include:

  • Having a child born in Canada does not guarantee that a parent without status can stay in Canada. However, for immigration purposes, it is possible to argue that removing a parent would not be in the “best interests of the child.” That said, the “best interests of the child” test is only one factor in deciding immigration issues. For more information about the “best interests of the child” test, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page or the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.
  • The timing of dealing with family law matters in court is very important: IRCC officials must be convinced that family law proceedings are not just a delay tactic for immigration purposes.
  • The removal of a parent from Canada can be delayed if the parent being removed has been “subpoenaed.” A “subpoena” is a document that requires someone to appear in court as a witness. This does not happen very often in family law, but it does happen for criminal proceedings.
  • Removal may sometimes be delayed if doing so would conflict with another court order. However, that usually happens with criminal orders, not family court orders.

For more information about how immigration law, family law, and criminal law can affect each other, see the following resources. Some of these resources still mention the old rules about “conditional” permanent residency. That information no longer applies.

Webinar Understanding the Intersections and Conflicts Among Family, Criminal, and Immigration Law
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #8.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non-status Women.”

Video Family Law Issues for Immigrant, Refugee and Non Status Women (ASL)
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part I - Basic Concepts - revised June 11, 2013
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration, Women, and Children: Part II - Sample Situations
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Immigrant, Refugee & Non Status Women
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Fiche d'information pour les femmes: Immigrantes, réfugiées ou sans statut
Luke's Place
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.



Web Marriage Breakdown
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Tools to Help (Immigrant women)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Programs
Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary
English
See “Community Awareness Program for Immigrants (CAPI).”

Web Criminal charges in Canada and your immigration status (Fact sheet)
Community Legal Education Ontario
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book The Intersection of Immigration and Family Law: Immigration Tips for Family Lawyers (article included in "46th Annual Refresher, Family Law")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Process

Learn more about how to manage your immigration matters during relationship breakdown, including:

  • Withdrawing your sponsorship application
  • Reporting your change in relationship status to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • Applying to extend your current status
  • Applying for new status (work, student, or visitor status)
  • Applying to restore your expired status
  • Applying to stay in Canada as a permanent resident, worker, caregiver, refugee, or for humanitarian and compassionate reasons

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about relationship breakdown when one or more members of the family is not a citizen of Canada (also called a “foreign national”). This includes family members who are in the process of immigrating.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to resolve your legal issues.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want. For information on the law that governs your situation, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Be Aware

This is a very complex area of law. You may want to consider consulting an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Sponsors: Withdrawing your sponsorship application before any legal status has been granted

If your sponsorship application is still being processed at the time of relationship breakdown, you can withdraw your sponsorship application. Once IRCC is informed of the breakdown of the relationship, they will cancel the application.

To withdraw your sponsorship application, see the following resources.

Web Spousal sponsorship: track and update your application
Government of Canada
English
See “Withdraw your sponsorship application.”

Web Parrainer votre époux – suivi et mise à jour de votre demande
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Retirer une demande de parrainage.”



Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 43:00.
Sponsored partners/spouses: Informing IRCC about the breakdown of your relationship

Until permanent residence has been granted, the person being sponsored has a legal obligation to report the relationship breakdown. If they do not report it, IRCC may issue a finding of “misrepresentation.” This can affect any future attempts at staying in Canada, or immigrating to Canada.

It does not matter what stage of the application process you are at. You will have to tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship whether:

  • you have just mailed the sponsorship application;
  • you have been contacted by IRCC;
  • you have been interviewed by IRCC; or
  • the PR card is in the mail and on its way to you.

When you do, the sponsorship application will be cancelled.

Be Aware

The sponsoring partner/spouse can also tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship. IRCC will then cancel the application.

This is a very complex area of law. If the person who was being sponsored wants to stay in Canada, they must tell IRCC about the breakdown of the relationship and complete other IRCC processes to try to immigrate. Before doing either, consider speaking with an immigration lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For information about other resources available to you (including help paying for a lawyer) see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Tip

People without legal status can still qualify for legal aid.

To tell IRCC about the breakdown of your relationship, see the following resource.

Web IRCC Call Centre Services
Government of Canada
English

Applying to extend or change the conditions of your current status

If your visa/permit has not yet expired, you can apply to extend it, or change the conditions of it. However, you must apply at least 30 days before your status expires. You also need to make sure that your passport will be valid for at least the same amount of time as the extension you asked for. This is because your visa/permit cannot be valid for longer than your passport is valid.

For more information, see the following resources.






To apply to extend your stay as a visitor, see the following resource.

Web Apply – Extend your stay
Government of Canada
English

To apply to extend your study permit, see the following resource.

Web Extend your study permit
Government of Canada
English

Web Prorogation du permis d’études
Government of Canada
French

To apply to extend your work permit, see the following resource.


Applying for new status (work/student/visitor)

If your visa/permit has not yet expired, you may be able to apply for a new work, student, or visitor visa/permit.

To apply for a new visitor visa, see the following resource.


To apply for a study permit, see the following resource.

Web Apply—Study permits
Government of Canada
English

Web Présenter une demande – Permis d’études
Government of Canada
French

To apply for a work permit, see the following resources.

Web Application to Work in Canada — Work Permits
Government of Canada
English


Web Can I apply for a work permit from inside Canada?
Government of Canada
English

Applying to restore your expired status

If your work, study, or visitor visa/permit expired less than 90 days ago, you can apply to restore your temporary status. You can either:

  • apply to restore the same type of status (for example: applying for a new study visa/permit after an initial study visa/permit expires); or
  • apply to restore status under a new category (for example: applying for a work visa/permit within 90 days of your visitor status expiring).

After 90 days, the option of restoring status is lost.

For more information about applying, see the following resource.

Web Restoration of temporary resident status
Government of Canada
English

Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

If your work, study, or visitor visa/permit expired more than 90 days ago, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A Temporary Resident Permit can allow a person without status to remain in Canada temporarily.

For IRCC to grant a TRP, there must be very good reasons. For example: the hardship of family separation (such as separation from your children). Or, a legitimate fear of harm in your country of origin. TRPs are issued for a period of up to 3 years, and can be rene

For more information about this option, see the following resource.

Web Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs)
Government of Canada
English

Web Permis de séjour temporaire (PST)
Government of Canada
French

For information about government supports if you are granted this status, see the following resource.

Applying for permanent residence as a skilled worker

You may be able to apply for permanent residence as a skilled worker through IRCC’s express entry system. For more information about this option, see the following resources.



Web Determine your eligibility — Skilled trades
Government of Canada
English





Web Five Reasons IRCC Rejects Express Entry Applications
Steven Meurrens
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about government supports if you are granted this status, see the following resource.

Applying for permanent residence as a caregiver

You may be able to apply for permanent residence through IRCC’s various caregiver options. However, this will take time. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Caregiver Program
Government of Canada
English

Web Programme des aides familiaux
Government of Canada
French

Web Caregivers: caring for children
Government of Canada
English

Web Aides familiaux – garde d’enfants
Government of Canada
French



Web Live-in caregivers
Government of Canada
English

Web Aides familiaux résidants
Government of Canada
French

For more information about your rights and government supports if you are granted this status, see the following resource.

Applying for permanent residence through Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program

You may be able to apply for permanent residence through the Alberta Provincial Nominee Program, if you are a skilled or semi-skilled worker. However, this will take time. For more information about this option, see the following resources.

Web Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program
Government of Alberta
English


For information about government supports if you are granted this status, see the following resource.

Applying to stay in Canada based on Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations (H&C application)

This is an application for permanent residence for people who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada. It can be completed from inside of Canada.

Usually, people must apply for permanent residence from outside Canada. An H&C application allows immigrants to ask for special permission to stay in Canada while their permanent residence application is processed. The application claims that there are “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons to let them stay. With an H&C application, you are asking the government to make an exception to the usual rule and allow you to apply from inside of Canada.

See the Law tab of this Information Page for more information about who is eligible for this claim and what factors are considered.

See the following resources for information about how to make an H&C application.



Web Making a humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) application
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web La présentation d’une demande fondée sur des considérations d’ordre humanitaire (CH)
Community Legal Education Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Government of Canada
English

Web Considérations d’ordre humanitaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 40:40.

Web Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
MOSAIC
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Refugee Claim or an H&C?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Applying for Permanent Residence on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds: Five Practice Tips
Canadian Bar Association
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

For information about government supports if you are granted this status, see the following resource.

Applying to stay in Canada as a refugee

This is a specific kind of application for permanent residence that can only be done if you fear persecution in your country of origin. There are strict timelines to make this application.

This can be a difficult claim to make. For example:

  • The government has made a list called the “Designated Country of Origin.” These are countries that Canada has decided it is “safe” to live in. Therefore, it is harder to make a refugee claim if you are from one of the countries on this list.
  • If you made your application for refugee status at a Port of Entry, and you are granted a hearing about your application, there is a tight time limit. You will have only 15 days from the day your case is referred for a hearing to submit your “Basis of Claim” form. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about completing this form.
  • If you are making your refugee claim from inside of Canada, then you are expected to go to your local IRCC office with all of your forms, including your Basis of Claim, already complete. These documents can be complicated and they must be filled in correctly. For help with completing these documents, visit your local immigrant services provider or the Legal Aid office. If you are granted a hearing about your application, it will take place within 60 days. Or, it will be within 30 days if you are from a Designated Country of Origin.
  • You cannot make an H&C application and a refugee claim at the same time.

For more information about immigrant-serving agencies and Legal Aid Alberta, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

There are many resources listed below. These resources are divided into the following groups:

  • General information about applying to stay in Canada as a refugee
  • Forms you will need to fill out
  • The refugee hearing
  • The refugee claim process
  • Rights as a refugee and government supports available
  • Losing your right to stay in Canada as a refugee (also called “cessation”)

For information about applying to stay in Canada as a refugee, see the following resources.



Web Refugee Rights in Ontario
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Immigration and Refugee Law – Refugees
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Some information on this site is available in multiple languages.

Web Claiming Refugee Protection Under the New System: A Basic Overview
FCJ Refugee Centre
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making a Refugee Claim in Canada: What You Need to Know
Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web I want to claim refugee status in Canada
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Refugee Law in 6 Basic Steps
Kinbrace Community Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Refugee law
Legal Aid Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Système d’octroi de l’asile
Legal Aid Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

See the following resources for detailed information about the forms you will need to fill out when applying to stay in Canada as a refugee.

Webinar The New Basis of Claim Form (BOC) for Refugee Claims
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Translation of Refugee Forms (available in Amharic, Czech, Slovakian, and Spanish)
FCJ Refugee Centre
English, Spanish, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. The forms linked on this web page will automatically download as Microsoft Word documents.

Web Refugee law
Legal Aid Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Système d’octroi de l’asile
Legal Aid Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Refugee Law in 6 Basic Steps
Kinbrace Community Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information about the refugee hearing, see the following resources.

PDF Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide (available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Kurdish, Mongolian, Somali, Spanish, Tigrigna, and Urdu)
Kinbrace Community Society
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Somali, Spanish, Tigrigna, Urdu, Other languages

Web Your Refugee Hearing
Community Legal Education Ontario
Arabic, Chinese, English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language at the top of the page.

Video Refugee Rights in Ontario: Training resources and tools
Community Legal Education Ontario
English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Refugee law
Legal Aid Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Système d’octroi de l’asile
Legal Aid Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For an overview of the refugee claim process, see the following resources.

Web The Refugee Claim Process
Community Legal Education Ontario
English

Web Refugee Claim Process
FCJ Refugee Centre
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Refugee Claim Flow Chart
Legal Services Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about your rights as a refugee and government supports available to refugees, see the following resources.

Web Refugee Rights in Ontario
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Refugees
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Réfugiés
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Refugees and social assistance: FAQs
Canadian Council for Refugees
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Les réfugiés et l’aide sociale: FAQ
Canadian Council for Refugees
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Find help to adjust – Refugees
Government of Canada
English


Web Health care for refugee claimants
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web Immigration and Refugee Law
Legal Aid Alberta
English

For more information about losing your right to stay in Canada after you have been granted refugee status (also called “cessation”), see the following resources.

Web Cessation - Basic Information
Canadian Council for Refugees
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Cessation - Informations de base
Canadian Council for Refugees
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Learning about family law in Alberta

You may want to start your research by reading the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

The process you will need to follow to resolve your separation issues will depend on many different factors. These include whether you were married, and whether you have children.

Your options for solving all of your legal issues will be described in detail on the Information Pages for each topic. Below is a list of the Information Pages that deal with different aspects of relationship breakdown.

Be Aware

For child and support-related issues, married spouses can choose between the federal Divorce Act and the Alberta Family Law Act. For detailed information about what to consider when making this choice, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

If you were not married, or married but choose to use the Family Law Act

If you were married and choose to use the Divorce Act

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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