Sponsorship and family violence

Many women are sponsored by a spouse or partner for permanent resident status. This month's On the Radar looks at the immigration rules that apply when a woman who has been sponsored experiences family violence.

Can a woman be forced to leave Canada if she separates from a spouse or partner who sponsored her?

It depends on the immigration status she has when they separate. If she doesn't have permanent resident status, she should get legal advice right away. She may be at risk of being removed from Canada.

Immigration law in Canada is complicated and it's easy for someone to make a serious mistake. If a woman is concerned about her immigration status, it's important for her to get legal help.

If a woman's permanent resident status is not "conditional", she can't lose her status or be forced to leave Canada only because she leaves her spouse or partner. This is true even if her spouse or partner sponsored her application for permanent resident status.

Why would a woman have conditional status?

A woman who is sponsored will get conditional permanent resident status if:
  • she and her sponsor don't have a child together, or
  • the marriage or the relationship, whether it's with a conjugal or common-law partner, has existed for two years or less.

What are the rules if a woman's permanent resident status is "conditional"?

If a woman's status is conditional, she's expected to live with her sponsor for two years from the time she becomes a permanent resident.

What can happen if a woman with conditional status separates from her sponsor?

She risks losing her status and being forced to leave Canada.

But if she leaves her sponsor because of abuse or neglect, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) could set aside the condition that she live with her sponsor for two years after becoming a permanent resident.

What does a woman have to show for CIC to decide that she won't lose her permanent resident status even though she has separated?

She will have to prove to CIC that:
  • she and her sponsor lived together as a couple until they separated, and
  • they separated because of the abuse or neglect.
The abuse or neglect could be by the sponsor or a family member. And it could be aimed at:
  • the woman,
  • her child or the sponsor's child, or
  • a family member who usually lives in their household.

What kind of abuse or neglect will a woman need to show?

Abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, or financial.

Neglect means:
  • not providing someone with the things that they need to survive, for example, food, clothing, medical care, or shelter, or
  • by not doing something, putting someone at risk of being seriously harmed.

Getting legal help

For legal advice, a woman can contact a legal clinic or a lawyer. Community legal clinics give free legal advice to people with low incomes, but not all clinics deal with immigration issues.

To find the nearest legal clinic, visit the Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) website.

A woman might be able to get a legal aid certificate from LAO to pay for a lawyer's services. LAO decides if a woman qualifies based on her income and her legal issue.

Victims of family violence may be able to get a legal aid certificate on an emergency basis. And it may be possible to apply for and get the certificate on the same day.

Victims of family violence may also be able to get help through LAO's Family Violence Authorization Program. Staff at a women's shelter or community legal clinic can refer women who qualify for a free two-hour session with a lawyer. A woman who needs advice from a family lawyer and an immigration lawyer can ask for both.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
April 2014
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.
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