Q.: I sponsored my ex-husband eight years ago and the ten-year undertaking is still in effect. I did everything possible to support him. He borrowed almost $15,000 from me. I even have an I.O.U. signed by him. After we divorced last year, he went on social assistance. No one informed me of this.
I met someone else, fell in love, and got married again. I sponsored my new husband a few months ago but it was just refused.
They are holding me to my ten years. Is there anything I can do to change the agreement to three years, as I know the law changed in 2002?
What should I do? I cannot pay back all of the social assistance since he is still on it. I need advice soon.
A: You are in a tough spot because, strangely, our laws protect the sponsored relatives more than they protect Canadian sponsors or the Canadian public.
You sponsored your husband before the current law came into effect in June 2002 and you agreed to reimburse the government for any social assistance he receives during the first ten years of his arrival here. If you don’t, you will be ineligible to sponsor anyone else. Under the new law you would have been expected to support him for only three years. Unfortunately, you are stuck with the 10-year deal.
Accordingly, the finding that you are ineligible to sponsor is legally correct.
In the new application, you were asked to choose one of two options in the event you were found to be an ineligible sponsor. One option was to withdraw you sponsorship and get a $475 refund of the $550 processing fee that you paid. The second option was to forfeit the refund and continue with your spouse’s application for permanent residence. If you chose the latter, your new husband’s application will proceed as normal, with one exception…it will be refused. However, you will have the right to appeal the refusal to the Immigration and Refugee Board. Your appeal may be allowed if “sufficient humanitarian and compassionate considerations warrant special relief in light of all the circumstances of the case.”
These cases can be pretty tough to win. However, it doesn’t look like you really have much of a choice but to try since you can’t force your husband off of welfare nor can you pay the growing welfare bill.
I have always wondered why our welfare laws allow sponsored relatives to go on welfare the very second they arrive here. In my view, it is this eligibility that is at the root of this common problem. Canadian sponsors cannot prevent their relatives from claiming welfare and are powerless to stop the flow once it starts. If the relationship breaks down, then, perhaps, the sponsored relative should either support themselves or return to their country of nationality.
Either way, the financial fallout should not be borne by the public nor should the Canadian sponsor’s life be put on hold indefinitely as yours has been.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at .