3.11 Sponsored immigrants
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Sections 13(1), 71(1) and 72 of the Act.
Sections 6, 13, 15, 17 and 51 of Regulation 134/98.
Adequate documentation is on file to support eligibility as it relates to sponsored immigrants.
Information on file demonstrates that the applicant or participant has made reasonable efforts to pursue support from their sponsor during the period of the sponsorship agreement.
Application of policy
Sponsorship is defined as legal undertaking in which the sponsor is obligated "to provide for essential needs" of day-to-day living for the sponsored person and their dependents for the duration of the sponsorship undertaking. It is expected that there will not be a need to apply for social assistance or any other government benefits during the sponsorship period.
Convention refugee and family class immigrants are sponsored immigrants. Applicants who are sponsored immigrants must access resources available from their sponsors and must have exhausted all other financial resources with respect to the provisions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) before eligibility for financial assistance is considered.
Convention refugees are selected by the federal Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) based on the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Convention refugees may be sponsored by either the federal government or a private sponsor, and are provided with resettlement assistance. Convention refugees are not eligible for social assistance during the period in which they are eligible to receive resettlement assistance (see Directive 3.1: Residency requirements for more information).
Family class immigrants
Family class immigrants are sponsored by eligible relatives who reside in Canada. In these cases, the sponsor signs an undertaking to the federal government to look after the needs of the sponsored family member(s) for varying lengths of time. The family class sponsorship agreement is between the Government of Canada, the sponsor and the sponsored immigrant, and includes the following documents:
- Undertaking: signed by the sponsor (and co-signer, where applicable). The sponsor commits to the Government of Canada that they will look after the needs of the sponsored immigrant and their dependent(s) as applicable.
- Sponsorship agreement: signed by the sponsor (and co-signer, where applicable) and the sponsored immigrant. The sponsor commits to provide the basic requirements for daily living for the sponsored immigrant and their dependent(s) included in undertaking. The agreement includes a promise that the sponsored immigrant and their dependents will not need to apply for social assistance. As part of the agreement, the sponsored immigrant consents to the release of information to the sponsor (or co-sponsor, where applicable) concerning social assistance that the sponsored immigrant or their dependents applied for or received during the undertaking period.
The sponsor’s financial obligation depends upon several factors, including the relationship and age of the sponsored individual, as well as the legislation in place at the time Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processed the original application. The following chart summarizes the length of time a sponsor must provide for the basic requirements of the sponsored person.
Length of sponsorship undertaking
Spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner
Sponsor must provide financial support for three years from the date that person became a permanent resident
Dependent child who is less than 22 years of age
Sponsor must provide financial support for 10 years from the date that person became a permanent resident or until the child turns 22 years of age, whichever comes first
Dependent child who is 22 years of age or older
Sponsor must provide financial support for 3 years from the date that person became a permanent resident
Parents and grandparents and accompanying dependents
Sponsorship agreements signed before January 2014: Sponsor must provide financial support for 10 years from the date that person became a permanent resident
Sponsorship agreements signed after 2014: Sponsor must provide financial support for 20 years from the date that person became a permanent resident
Any person not mentioned above
Sponsor must provide financial support for 10 years from the date that person became a permanent resident
For up-to-date information please refer to the following:
The sponsor’s obligation to provide for the essential needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter and other needs for everyday living, dental care, eye care and other health needs not covered by public health services) of the sponsored immigrant continues for the full sponsorship period even if the sponsored immigrant becomes a Canadian citizen.
Requirement to pursue sponsorship support
A family class sponsored immigrant may be eligible for financial assistance while a sponsorship agreement is in effect if the sponsor is not meeting their support obligations.
As a condition of eligibility, a sponsored person must pursue all available financial resources, including support from their sponsor. If a sponsor provides partial support to a sponsored immigrant on social assistance, the amount that is received as support is treated as income and is deducted from the sponsored immigrant’s social assistance dollar-for-dollar.
An applicant or participant cannot be declared ineligible because the sponsor refuses to honour their obligation to provide support or refuses to provide requested information. However, an applicant or participant can be found ineligible if they are unwilling to provide information about their sponsor.
Where the sponsor of the applicant or participant may have child support obligations, the applicant/participant is encouraged to pursue child support for their dependents under the Family Law Act (see Directive 5.5: Family support for more information). Where the sponsor is the former spouse of the applicant or participant the applicant/participant is expected to pursue spousal support for themselves under the Family Law Act (see Directive 5.5: Family Support for more information).
In situations where a former spouse has both sponsorship and support obligations, neither "obligation" takes precedence. A sponsor who makes child or spousal support payments pursuant to an order or agreement will still incur a sponsorship debt for the full amount of social assistance attributable to the sponsored person
Waivers from pursuing sponsorship support
The requirement to pursue support from a sponsor may be temporarily waived for a period of 3–12 months depending on the individual merits of the case.
Circumstances supporting the reason for and the length of the waiver should be clearly documented, and the waiver should be reviewed at the end of the waiver period. A sponsored immigrant is temporarily waived from the requirement to pursue support from their sponsor if:
- the sponsor is in receipt of, or eligible for social assistance
- the Administrator is satisfied that there is a breakdown in the sponsorship relationship because of abuse and/or family violence. If at application, there is no clear evidence to establish abuse, the person is expected to make reasonable efforts to verify the claim of abuse to the satisfaction of the Administrator (e.g., reasonable third party verification from the police, a lawyer, or a community or health care professional)
A sponsored immigrant is permanently waived from the requirement to pursue support from their sponsor if:
- the sponsor is in receipt of a payment under Part II of the Old Age Security Act (Canada), known as the federal supplement, or a payment under the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act
- the sponsor is deceased and there is no co-signer
- there is evidence of abuse or family violence over a prolonged period of time and the Administrator is satisfied that it is not in the best interests of the sponsored immigrant to pursue support
Procedure in sponsorship default cases
A Declaration of Support and Maintenance (Form 2212) is completed and signed by all sponsored applicants. This form assists in capturing relevant information about the sponsor and gives the sponsored person an opportunity to make a declaration of their intent to pursue support from the defaulting sponsor.
Reports are run based on the information entered into Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) to identify sponsorship default cases.The Social Assistance Centralized Services Branch (SACSB) The ministry will send a Request for Family Class Information (RFCI) form to IRCC to confirm if the sponsorship undertaking is valid.
IRCC will verify whether there is a valid undertaking in effect and whether a default has or will occur. IRCC also provides their most recent information on file for the sponsor and any co-signer (e.g., address, phone number, date of birth, etc.).
If there is a valid undertaking, IRCC automatically sends a warning letter to defaulting sponsors to advise them that there is a potential sponsorship breakdown and reiterates the requirement to resume full support obligations and that they will not be allowed to sponsor again unless they meet their obligations. If the sponsored person is at risk of domestic violence as a result of the notice to IRCC, this must be added to the Domestic Violence evidence within SAMS to ensure no letter is to be sent by IRCC.
Once a sponsored immigrant is in receipt of any amount of social assistance, the ministry sends a letter to notify the sponsor that debt is being incurred.
The letter reminds the sponsor of the obligation to provide for the sponsored person, advises that the federal government has been notified of the default, and advises that any social assistance paid to the sponsored person is a debt of the sponsor, which is subject to collection by the government. In addition, the sponsor will not be allowed to sponsor while the debt exists.
If a defaulting sponsor and/or a co-signer reimburse the Province of Ontario for the full amount of social assistance that was paid to the sponsored immigrant while the sponsorship agreement was in force, the ministry will notify IRCC that the repayment has been made by sending the Confirmation of Repayment of Social Assistance Benefits form to IRCC.
If a defaulting sponsor and/or co-signer does not respond after fifteen days and/or does not resume their support of the sponsored immigrant, the ministry uses the Notification of Sponsorship Debt Form to confirm the default to IRCC.
Once the ministry validates the sponsorship debt, the case is referred to the Ministry of Finance for collection activities.
The amount of the sponsorship debt is not negotiable.
Abuse and/or domestic violence
The delivery agent must address alleged incidents of abuse or family violence at intake and update the Domestic Violence evidence information in SAMS before the RFCI form is sent by the ministry to IRCC. In cases where there is an allegation of abuse, the ministry must advise IRCC not to send the warning letter. IRCC will provide the most recent information on the sponsor and co-signer (if applicable) to the ministry, however the warning letter will not be sent to the sponsor and co-signer (if applicable).
If the sponsored person alleges that the reason for leaving the sponsor is due to abuse or family violence, the ministry will notify IRCC that the Default Notification Letter must not be sent to the sponsor and co-signer (if applicable) regardless of whether or not the abuse or family violence has been substantiated by a third party.
In these situations, IRCC will register the default but will not send the Default Notification letter to the sponsor and co-signer (if applicable). The ministry does not send warning letters or collection letters to the sponsor and co-signer (if applicable). Debt recovery is not pursued in these cases.
The sponsor and co-signer (if applicable) are still considered to be in default of their sponsorship agreement and will be barred from future sponsorship. If during a subsequent review by the delivery agent, new information reveals that the alleged incident of abuse or family violence has been resolved, the sponsored person will need to complete a statutory declaration confirming there is no further threat of violence and the Domestic Violence evidence must be updated. At that time, the ministry will advise IRCC that the Default Notification letter can be issued and recovery of the sponsorship debt can be pursued.
Treatment of cases being transferred to ODSP
The ministry may be in the process of pursuing sponsorship support when the applicant or participant has been determined to be a person with a disability. Normal case file transfer guidelines apply to the transfer of these case files.
Ontario Works delivery agents are responsible for completing all the necessary documentation and case notes should be fully documented in SAMS (or First Nations technologies) indicating what documentation has been completed.
Repayment of social assistance by defaulting sponsors
Under IRPA, all social assistance received by a family class sponsored immigrant is considered a federal and provincial debt of the sponsor. Financial assistance received from Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities is not considered "social assistance" under IRPA.
Calculating assistance when a sponsor is in default
A basic needs amount is provided. Shelter allowance depends on whether the person is living with or apart from the sponsor.
1. Sponsored immigrants living with the sponsor or in a place owned or controlled by the sponsor:
A shelter allowance is provided only if one of the following criteria is met:
- the sponsored immigrant has a legal obligation to pay shelter costs (e.g., the sponsored immigrant is a lessee or named as a co-owner on a deed/mortgage)
- the sponsored immigrant satisfies the Administrator that they cannot remain in the sponsor’s residence or in a place owned or controlled by the sponsor unless they pay for shelter costs (e.g., documentation of an obligation to pay for heat or utilities)
- the sponsor is in receipt of Ontario Works, ODSP, the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) under the Old Age Security Act or GAINS under the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act
2. Sponsored immigrants not living with sponsors:
There is no sponsorship deduction for sponsored immigrants who are living apart from their sponsors unless the sponsor is providing actual support (money or in-kind).
Deferral of sponsorship debt recovery
There are certain circumstances where sponsors may be deferred from debt recovery activity. In such cases, sponsorship debt continues to accrue until the end of the sponsorship period.
Sponsorship debt recovery may be deferred in cases where:
- the sponsored person is temporarily or permanently waived from the requirement to pursue support from their sponsor
- the sponsor is incapacitated
- the sponsor has undergone bankruptcy and the entire sponsorship debt was covered by the bankruptcy discharge
- the sponsor has documented extraordinary circumstances
- an open eligibility investigation has commenced for the sponsored person
- IRCC confirms the validity of an undertaking is under review
Debt collection should not be pursued for deferred cases; however, if the sponsor voluntarily comes forward to repay their sponsorship debt, debt recovery activity will be resumed by the ministry.
The sponsorship debt recovery may be deferred for up to 12 months in cases where the sponsor’s circumstances are likely to change (e.g., the sponsor is in receipt of social assistance and the sponsored immigrant is temporarily waived from the requirement of pursing support). Circumstances supporting the reason for deferral should be clearly documented and the deferral should be reviewed by ministry staff after 12 months.