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Family violence when a woman is sponsored by a spouse or partner

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If a woman is not a Canadian citizen, will she be forced to leave Canada if she leaves her spouse or partner?

It depends on her immigration status here.

A woman's abusive spouse or partner might threaten to have her deported from Canada if she reports the abuse. A spouse or partner does not have the right to have a woman deported. Only federal immigration authorities make the decision to deport someone.

Permanent resident status

A woman with permanent resident status cannot lose that status or be forced to leave Canada only because she leaves an abusive relationship. This is true even if her abusive partner sponsored her application for permanent residence.

But immigration authorities may investigate if a sponsor tells them that:

  • the relationship was not genuine, or
  • the sponsored woman left out required information or included information that was not true in her application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

This could lead to the loss of her permanent resident status. A woman who is concerned about this possibility should get legal advice.

A woman with permanent resident status may choose to start a new relationship after separating from her sponsor. But she cannot sponsor a new spouse or partner until 5 years after the date she became a permanent resident.

Conditional permanent resident status

Between October 2012 and April 2017, some sponsored women were given "conditional" permanent resident status. A woman with conditional permanent resident status was expected to live with her sponsor for 2 years from the date she received that status.

A woman who separated during those 2 years risked losing her status and being forced to leave Canada. But if she separated because of abuse or neglect, IRCC could set aside the 2-year condition.

In April, 2017, the government got rid of the condition that said a woman had to live with her sponsor for the 2 years. Since then, women get permanent resident status without the condition.

And women in Canada who had conditional permanent resident status now have permanent resident status without the condition.

In most cases, this applies even if a woman separated from her sponsor within the 2-year period. But this does not apply if the woman was ordered to leave Canada, and she:

  • did not appeal the removal order, or
  • appealed the removal order to the Immigration Appeal Division and lost her appeal.

A woman in one of those situations should get legal advice about her options.

Sponsorship application in process

A woman already in Canada may have an application in process under a category known as the "Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class". The woman and her sponsor make the application together and it is processed in Canada. It is sometimes called an "inland spousal sponsorship".

Applications for permanent residence take time to process. If a spouse or partner withdraws the sponsorship or the couple separate while the application is being processed, the woman will no longer be eligible for permanent resident status under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class and she may be forced to leave Canada.

If a woman leaves Canada while her application is being processed, she may not be able to come back. And her application will not be accepted if she is not living with her spouse or partner in Canada.

If a woman who is being sponsored in this category leaves a relationship, or is thinking about leaving, she must get legal advice right away. She may still be able to pursue an application to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds. For more information about this, see Making a humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) application in this series.

She may also be able to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit.