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What happens if your sponsorship support breaks down?

Canada’s immigration laws allow one spouse to “sponsor” another by providing material and financial support as they seek residency or citizenship. A sponsor must provide financial support for their spouse for three years.

If the relationship between the sponsor and their spouse — the applicant — falls apart, it could jeopardize the immigration process. This is called a sponsorship breakdown.

Sponsorship breakdown occurs when the sponsor becomes unable or unwilling to provide for an applicant’s basic needs, such as food, housing, and medical care and the applicant cannot care for themselves.

Breakdown could occur for many reasons, including:

  • The sponsor is willing but unable to support the applicant (due to reduced income, for example).
  • One spouse leaves the other and the sponsor withdraws support.
  • The sponsor kicks the applicant out of the home and withdraws support.
  • The sponsor is physically or sexually abusive.

Does sponsorship breakdown affect you?

Losing your sponsor could affect your right to remain in Canada, depending on your residency status.

If you are a permanent resident with non-conditional status, losing sponsorship doesn’t affect your place in Canada. Regardless, a permanent resident should still contact immigration authorities immediately to notify them of their changed status.  If a relationship ended badly, a vengeful sponsor could find ways to sabotage your application, perhaps claiming you’re a security risk, or that there’s a misrepresentation on your application.

Before April 28, 2017, there was a requirement that conditional permanent residents (sponsored spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents) had to live with their sponsors for two years if, at the time they applied:

  • Their relationship with their sponsor was shorter than two years; and
  • They had no children in common.

As of April 28, 2017, the Government of Canada eliminated conditional permanent residence. It no longer applies to anyone, whether:

  • A person was sponsored by their spouse or partner for permanent residence, or
  • A person was sponsored by someone who had conditional permanent residence (i.e. a child or parent)

A conditional permanent resident may be at risk of removal from Canada.  According to rules introduced in 2012, conditional permanent residents must cohabit in a “legitimate relationship” with their sponsor for two years from the date the conditional status is granted.

You‘re a conditional permanent resident if:

  • Your application was received after October 25, 2012.
  • Your relationship with your sponsor has lasted less than two years and you don’t have children together.

If a conditional permanent resident separates from their sponsor after less than two years, they may have to leave Canada.

There are two exceptions: if your sponsor dies, or is abusive or neglectful. You do not have to stay in an abusive relationship with your sponsor in order to keep your residency.

If you are a conditional permanent resident, who’s lost their sponsor and wants to remain in Canada, you have two options:

  • Apply for refugee status.
  • Apply for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

You can contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada to request an exception at any time during your two-year conditional period.

Read more:

Information for sponsored spouses of partners

Exceptions for conditional permanent residents in case of abuse or neglect

Applying on humanitarian and compassionate grounds

Conditional Permanent Residence Requirement Removed