One of the most common questions that I get asked is whether the sponsor, or the principal applicant, or both can travel outside of Canada after an In-Canada Class (Inland) spousal or common-law sponsorship application has been submitted.
The answer is YES! Either the sponsor or applicant for PR, or both of you can leave Canada after the application is submitted. However, there are several important caveats and considerations.
Work Permit Application and Implied Status
If the applicant for PR in an inland spousal/common-law sponsorship application has also submitted a work permit application (which they should almost universally do), frequently they are submitting the application just prior to the expiry of their current Canadian work permit in order to benefit from implied/maintained status. Implied status allows the worker to continue working under the same conditions after their work permit expires until the decision is made on the new work permit application.
The important caveat here is, IF YOU LEAVE CANADA WHILE WORKING ON IMPLIED STATUS, YOU LOSE IMPLIED STATUS. Implied status is only in place while you remain in Canada. If you leave Canada while on implied status, you will be able to return to Canada (assuming you have the necessary travel documents), however you will be returning as a visitor and will NOT be authorized to work until the new work permit is approved, no matter how long that takes, which can be months and months.
Click here for more information about implied status.
Visitor Status and Implied Status
If you held status as a visitor rather than a worker at the time you have submitted your inland sponsorship application, then you do not need to worry about losing the ability to work from leaving Canada on implied status as a visitor. You still need to ensure that you reside in Canada together with your sponsor throughout the duration of the processing of the application until the final decision is made, however you are allowed to leave Canada periodically and for short periods of time for vacations, family visits, business trips, etc. If you are travelling outside Canada, you are allowed to leave on your own or together with your sponsor. If you are travelling with your sponsor, it is recommended to enter Canada together through the “non-Canadians” line at the airport.
If you leave Canada while you are on implied status as a visitor, when you re-enter Canada as a visitor, then your visitor status will begin again and your previous implied status is gone. However, nothing has really changed because you are still a visitor. If you submitted a work permit application with your inland sponsorship application, then you do not need to continue to submit visitor record (visitor extension) applications while you are waiting for the work permit to be approved – the work permit application itself counts toward maintaining valid status in Canada through an extension/change of conditions.
Eligibility for Inland Sponsorship
Part of the eligibility of a couple to submit an application for sponsorship under the In-Canada Class is that both parties are resident in Canada. This means that both the sponsor and the applicant are required to:
- Be present in Canada at the time the application is submitted
- Reside in Canada for the duration of processing of the application
- Be present in Canada at the time the final decision is made
Further, the couple has to reside together at all of these times as well – they cannot live apart from one-another either inside Canada or outside Canada.
What this means is that both the sponsor and the principal applicant are required to RESIDE in Canada for this time. It does not mean that neither of you is allowed to leave Canada.
Leaving Canada During Inland Sponsorship
There is no law or rule stating that a couple applying for sponsorship under the In-Canada class is forbidden from leaving Canada while the application is in process. This is one of the biggest sources of confusion and anxiety in Canadian immigration, and there is so much misinformation online. However, if you leave Canada after submitting an inland sponsorship application, you must be allowed to re-enter Canada in order for the application to eventually be approved.
How Long Can I Be Away From Canada During Inland Sponsorship?
Unlike the residency obligation for people who are already permanent residents/landed immigrants in Canada, there is no number of days that applicants for inland sponsorship are required to remain in Canada per year while their application is in process. What this means is that how much time you need to remain in Canada is at the discretion of the Canada Border Services Officer who is determining whether to allow you back into Canada, as well as at the discretion of the immigration officer who is making the decision on your sponsorship application and will know how long you were gone.
Since there is no set number of days you need to be in Canada, your best bet is to simply do the right thing and act in good faith, which goes very far with both CBSA and immigration officers. During processing of an Inland sponsorship application, we generally recommend that our clients not travel outside Canada more frequently than 4 times per year, for 2 – 4 weeks at a time, which is approximately the time that someone would normally spend on holiday. During processing, we recommend that our clients do not:
- Travel home to stay with family for long periods of time, or too frequently
- Fly to Las Vegas, the Caribbean, or other close yet international destinations every weekend
- Travel without the other half of the couple (sponsor or principal applicant) frequently or for long periods of time
- Do anything else that may make it appear that sponsor and spouse do not live in Canada together
If these conditions are too restrictive for your personal circumstances, it may be in your best interest to apply for sponsorship under the Family Class (Overseas), which will allow you to travel outside Canada as frequently as you like.
Never lose sight of the fact that 1. it is a privilege, not a right, for any person who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to enter Canada, and 2. CBSA does not have to re-admit the principal applicant to Canada. If the principal applicant were to be trapped outside Canada, or if IRCC determined that either the sponsor or the applicant did not meet the eligibility requirements at any time during processing (see above), the In-Canada sponsorship application would be refused.
Inland Sponsorship Applicants Without Status in Canada
If the principal applicant is out of status (illegal) in Canada, for a reason such as their work permit, study permit, or visitor status expired, this is alright because In-Canada Class sponsorship is one of the few pathways to PR which allows the applicant to land as a permanent resident without status.
However, if the applicant is in Canada without status, they should not leave Canada even if they have a valid visa or eTA. The reason is that if they leave Canada after having overstayed, when they attempt to return to Canada, Canada Border Services Agency is very likely not to let them into the country because they have already shown that they will not abide by the conditions of their entry. CBSA has to refuse entry to anyone who they believe will not leave Canada on time at the end of their stay.
If the applicant for In-Canada Class sponsorship leaves Canada while the application is in process, and is then barred from entry by CBSA, the application will ultimately be refused as the applicant must be present in Canada at the time the decision is made.
See our guide to Inland sponsorship applications for out of status applicants HERE.
Contact us if you have questions about inland sponsorship.