Conditional permanent residence for sponsored spouses

Conditional Permanent Residence: Failure in Policy and Practice

***Conditional permanent residence for sponsored partners has been repealed! See the CCR's release:***

This report describes the impacts of conditional permanent residence, three years after its implementation.

See 3rd anniversary report here

Condittools & resourcesional Permanent Residence: What Front-line Workers Should Know

Under the rules on conditional permanent residence, there is a period of two years during which the permanent residence of the sponsored person is conditional on their remaining in a conjugal relationship and cohabitating with their sponsor. If they don’t fulfill these conditions, their permanent residence could be revoked, and they could be deported. An important exception to the condition is provided for cases of abuse or neglect. This resource is intended to help front-line workers understand the implications of this rule and the abuse exception for their clients, especially for newcomer women in abusive situations. 

See resource for front-line workers here

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What do the Conditional Permanent Residence rules mean?

  • The change applies only to people who apply for permanent residence on or after October 25, 2012
  • The change applies to spouses and partners who have been in a relationship with their sponsor for two years or less, and have no children with their sponsor at the time of the sponsorship application.
  • These sponsored spouses/partners will be subject to a period of “conditional" permanent residence for two years following receipt of their permanent residence status in Canada. During this period, they must cohabit and remain in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor.
  • If the sponsored spouse/partner does not meet the above condition, their permanent residence could be revoked, leading to deportation
  • The condition would cease to apply in instances where there is evidence of abuse or neglect by the sponsor, or of a failture by the sponsor to protect from abuse or neglect by another person related to the sponsor during the conditional period.

The CCR is firmly opposed to the change, and has joined with other organizations in opposing it.

Introducing “conditional permanent residence” represents a major step backwards in Canadian immigration policy, increases inequalities in relationships between spouses, and puts women in particular at heightened risk of violence. The CCR believes that the exemption for abused spouses and partners will be ineffective.

* Violence in intimate relationships is not limited to heterosexual relationships, and may also occur in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual intimate relationships. As such, the problem of abuse between sponsors and sponsored partners is not limited to heterosexual couples, and the Conditional Permanent Residence provisions will also have an adverse effect on LGBT sponsored partners in situations of abuse.

What are the main concerns with this legislation?

  • Making permanent residence conditional on staying in the marriage for two years traps abused partners (mainly women) into staying in abusive relationships for fear of losing their status.
  • Abused partners, especially women, will not be able to take advantage of the exemption because of: barriers to access information on the exemption (e.g. language, isolation); burden of proving their own abuse; cost of providing evidence of abuse.
  • Children will also be hurt, for example when they remain with their parent in an abusive home, or if they face being separated from one parent if the sponsored parent is removed from Canada.
  • Making permanent residence for the sponsored partner/spouse conditional puts all the power into the hands of the sponsor, who can use the precarity of his or her partner’s status as a tool for manipulation – at any time, he can declare the spouse fraudulent and have her deported. This can be a constant threat and source of fear for the sponsored person.
  • This power imbalance affects all sponsored partners, regardless of “genuineness” of relationship, and reinforces unequal gendered power dynamics.
  • There is no evidence that this measure is necessary, and that marriage fraud is a significant problem in Canada
  • There is no evidence presented to indicate that a two year conditional period will deter sponsored partners entering relationships with the objective of obtaining legal status in Canada, who may simply wait out the conditional period. However this period will have significant impact on those in genuine relationships that break down, whether due to abuse or not.
  • The notice mentions that similar policies are already in place in the UK, Australia and the U.S. But experts in those countries have reported that conditional status creates the problems mentioned above, putting abused partners at risk and giving increased power to abusive sponsors.