Divorce After Sponsorship in Canada – Does Divorce Affect Your Permanent Residence?

Did you sponsor your spouse to become a permanent resident in Canada? Were you sponsored by your spouse to come and live in Canada through the spousal sponsorship program? As lawyers, we’ve handled many cases that involve divorce and citizenship. If you are considering divorcing a spouse you sponsored to come to Canada, we can help provide legal guidance to navigate this somewhat complex process. In this article, we will provide some insights on spousal sponsorship and what happens if you divorce someone you sponsored.

How Spousal Sponsorship Works in Canada

There are foreigners who migrate to Canada through the spousal sponsorship program. If you are a foreigner and your spouse is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can be sponsored to apply for permanent residence in Canada through the spousal sponsorship program if you meet certain criteria.

To qualify as a sponsor, a spouse must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be able to provide financial support to the sponsored spouse
  • Not be a recipient of government financial aid
  • Must not have been convicted of a criminal offence such as a sexual offence
  • Must not have been imprisoned

Additionally, common-law partners can also sponsor their foreign spouse to immigrate to Canada under the spousal sponsorship program. This means that if you have been in a serious relationship with someone that has lasted for at least a year, you may be recognized as a sponsor. To prove a common-law relationship, you will have to provide:

  • Details of joint bank accounts and other regular joint transactions
  • Titles of property you co-own
  • Documents supporting your living situation, e.g. shared household costs and rental lease
  • Official documentation that shows you share the same address

One of the biggest challenges such couples face when it comes to immigration is proving their relationship. There are people who enter into “marriages of convenience” for the sole purpose of immigration. The immigration department thus performs thorough scrutiny of spousal sponsorship applications to prevent exploitation of the system.

Other than providing the necessary documentation to support your spousal sponsorship application, you will be required to prove that your marriage is real by:

  • Provide pictures of your wedding, honeymoon, and major life events you’ve experienced together
  • Providing phone and email conversations
  • Affidavits that support your relationship

These are just a few things you can provide to prove your relationship. There’s a lot more on the list, but the best approach is to submit an application that is honest by answering all the questions truthfully. Any application that is deemed fraudulent will be denied and the applicant barred from entering Canada for two years.

Marrying a Canadian permanent resident or citizen doesn’t automatically grant you approval. You will first have to apply for sponsorship and then permanent residency, which may take some time before you can get a response.

The best course of action would be to first apply for a temporary visa which would allow you to spend time with your spouse in Canada as you wait for the spousal sponsorship application to be processed. You can also apply for a temporary work permit to begin your life in Canada before your sponsorship application is approved.

How Is Foreign Divorce Recognized in Canada?

International divorce in Canada will only be recognized if the divorce was valid under the laws of that jurisdiction and one or both spouses were residents of the foreign country for at least 12 consecutive months before applying for the divorce. You will require a foreign divorce opinion letter if you have been divorced outside of Canada and would wish to marry a Canadian citizen. This document proves that your divorce is recognized in Canada.

What Happens to Your Permanent Residence if You Are Divorcing a Spouse Who Sponsored You to Come to Canada?

If you have attained Canadian permanent residency status through spousal sponsorship, you do not have to leave Canada if you are no longer with your sponsor. Initially, there was a two-year cohabitation rule that had to be met but this is no longer the case. This means that there is no minimum period to have to live with a spouse in Canada in order to maintain your immigration status.

If the relationship with your sponsor was genuine but has since become abusive or dissolved due to other reasons, you have an option to separate or divorce and still maintain your permanent resident status. If your relationship ends and you only have a temporary status and have not applied for permanent residence, you will need to seek legal guidance on the immigration options available for you.

Can I Divorce my Sponsored Husband?

If you sponsored someone to immigrate to Canada, you can still pursue a divorce. However, you will continue to fulfill the terms of the undertaking you made when sponsoring them for at least three years after they become a permanent resident. This means that you will still be responsible for the basic needs of your sponsored spouse, including food, shelter, and clothing, throughout the period of the undertaking. Even though the undertaking terms may vary from one application to the other, you are often required to provide for your spouse for the period which you signed. For instance, if your sponsored spouse receives any government assistance payments during the three-year period, you as the sponsor will be required to pay back those amounts.

Sponsors often have a hard time withdrawing any undertaking, even after a divorce. However, once someone has been approved as a sponsor, he/she can cancel the undertaking so long as the permanent resident application is not finalized. Once the permanent resident application of the sponsored spouse is finalized, the sponsor no longer has an option to withdraw or cancel the undertaking.

Will PR be Revoked After Divorce in Canada?

Once you have been granted permanent residency by the immigration department, your status cannot be revoked, or you be deported because your relationship ended. However, if your spouse claims that you entered into the relationship for immigration purposes and provides proof of this, you will undergo a thorough investigation and may lose your status if the claims are validated. Unfortunately, the immigration department takes such cases of fraudulent marriages and misrepresentation very seriously. Any signs that you were deceitful, whether in your written application or the verbal interviews with the IRCC, can lead to a revocation of your permanent resident status.

If you decide to break up with your partner or get a divorce while your permanent resident application is still in process, you must submit a notification to the immigration office to cease the processing of the application.

How Long After Divorce Can You Sponsor Someone in Canada?

If you were a sponsored spouse and you have since been separated or divorced sponsor, you cannot sponsor another person immediately to immigrate to Canada. There is a five-year sponsorship bar that prevents you from sponsoring a new spouse or partner. This means that you will have to wait for a minimum of 5 years from getting your permanent residence even if you have already remarried.