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Divorce After Spousal Sponsorship in Canada: Legal Insights and Consequences

Divorce can be a challenging process, especially for individuals who have sponsored their spouses to become permanent residents in Canada or have been sponsored themselves through the spousal sponsorship program. This article explores the workings of spousal sponsorship in Canada, the implications of divorce on permanent residency, and the legal considerations involved in such situations.

Understanding Spousal Sponsorship in Canada:

The spousal sponsorship program allows foreigners married to Canadian citizens or permanent residents to apply for permanent residence in Canada, provided they meet specific criteria. To qualify as a sponsor, one must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, at least 18 years old, financially capable of supporting the sponsored spouse, and free from criminal convictions or imprisonment.


Proving the Legitimacy of the Relationship:

One of the significant challenges faced by couples undergoing spousal sponsorship is proving the authenticity of their relationship. Marriages of convenience are closely scrutinized by immigration authorities, necessitating the submission of extensive documentation, including joint bank accounts, property titles, shared living expenses, and evidence of major life events.


Divorce and Permanent Residency in Canada:

If a sponsored individual attains permanent residency and later divorces their sponsor, they are not obligated to leave Canada immediately. Unlike the previous two-year cohabitation rule, there is no longer a minimum period that sponsored spouses must live with their sponsors to maintain immigration status. However, if the relationship dissolves due to abuse or other reasons, the sponsored spouse can separate or divorce while retaining their permanent resident status.

Sponsorship Bar After Divorce:

A divorced sponsored spouse faces a five-year sponsorship bar, preventing them from sponsoring a new spouse or partner immediately after divorce. This waiting period begins from the date of obtaining permanent residence, reinforcing the commitment undertaken during the sponsorship process.


Responsibilities of the Sponsor After Divorce:

Sponsors, even after a divorce, are bound by the undertaking they signed during the sponsorship process. This commitment involves providing basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing as well as other health aids not covered by public health services for the sponsored spouse for at least three years even after they become a permanent resident. This commitment remains intact and cannot be terminated even in the event of a divorce, separation, or breakdown in your relationship with the sponsored individual. It persists irrespective of relocations to different provinces or countries, the sponsored person acquiring Canadian citizenship, or encountering financial challenges. 


Protection Against Fraud and Misrepresentation:

Canada takes marriage fraud and misrepresentation in immigration applications seriously. If a sponsor is accused of entering a relationship for immigration purposes, a thorough investigation may be conducted. Permanent residency can be revoked if deceit is proven, emphasizing the importance of honesty in the application process.


Individuals facing marriage fraud should contact Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to report the situation. IRCC has the authority to charge the perpetrator with a crime, impose a five-year ban from Canada, remove them from the country, or revoke their permanent resident or Canadian citizen status. The Canadian government offers guidance on guarding against immigration fraud, advising caution when considering marriage and sponsorship for individuals immigrating to Canada. Particular attention is emphasized in situations where the couple has recently met, desires a rapid marriage, has a history of multiple marriages, or has been hesitant to disclose significant details about their background or family.


Divorce after spousal sponsorship in Canada involves understanding the legal complexities surrounding permanent residency, sponsorship obligations, and protection against fraud. By adhering to the guidelines and seeking legal advice when needed, individuals can navigate this process with confidence and ensure compliance with Canadian immigration laws.

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