Spousal Sponsorship and Social Assistance

Photo by George Vnoucek

The Toronto Star had an editorial yesterday deploring the case of an individual who was ruled inadmissible to sponsor his wife.  The reason?  The man received a $413 cheque from the City of Toronto which was issued to 900 people who were displaced by a high-rise fire in 2008.

Section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the “Regulations“) prohibits an individual from sponsoring someone if that person is in receipt of social assistance for a reason other than a disability. Social assistance is defined as any benefit in the form of money, goods or services provided to or on behalf of a person by a province under a program of social assistance, including a program of social assistance designated by a province to provide for basic requirements including food, shelter, clothing, fuel, utilities, household supplies, personal requirements and health care not provided by public health care, including dental care and eye care.

Other things that can disqualify an otherwise eligible sponsor from sponsoring someone include:

  • The sponsor being subject to a removal order;
  • The sponsor being detained in any penitentiary, jail, reformatory, or prison;
  • The sponsor have previously been convicted of a specified offence (such as a sexual offense);
  • The sponsor being in default of spousal or child support payments;
  • The sponsor being in default of a debt owed under the IRPA;
  • The sponsor being an undischarged bankrupt;
  • The sponsor being in receipt of social assistance other than for reasons of a disability; and
  • The sponsor being in default of a of a previous sponsorship undertaking.

If you are considering sponsoring someone and you have concerns about any of these criteria, you should talk with a lawyer to determine your eligibility, and, if you are not eligible, what other options are available to bring your family member in.


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