Many Canadian citizens and permanent residents see sponsorship as an effective means to reunite their families in Canada. But what most sponsors don’t realize is that when they sign a sponsorship agreement they are signing more than just a ticket to Canada for a loved one; they are signing up for some serious responsibility.
When signing a sponsorship agreement, a sponsor makes four promises.
The first is to provide the sponsored person and that person’s family members with all “basic requirements” for the length of the sponsorship agreement. Basic requirements include food, shelter, clothing, fuel, utilities
, household supplies, personal requirements and health care not provided by public health, including dental care and eye care.
The second promise is to honour the sponsorship agreement, no matter what other financial obligations or personal circumstances arise.
The third promise is that the sponsored person and his or her family will not need to apply for social assistance benefits.
The fourth promise is to promptly respond to requests for help from the sponsored person and his or her family members by giving money, buying items or providing services for their living expenses
The promises made under a sponsorship agreement last for the term of the agreement, which can range from 3 years to 10 years, depending on the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person.
Penalties for Breaking Sponsorship Agreements
These promises are enforceable by the government of Canada. If, for example, a sponsored immigrant goes on welfare or some other social assistance that is paid for by a provincial or federal program, the government of Canada or a provincial government can collect money from the sponsor equal to the amount paid to the sponsored immigrant.
If you are considering sponsorship or if you have sponsored someone be sure to know your rights as the consequences of breaking these agreements can be severe.
In recent times, the British Columbia provincial government has increased its efforts to collect on sponsorship debts by taking collection actions against sponsors in default. In some cases, the provincial government has tried to collect more than $100,000 from sponsors that failed to provide “basic requirements” for the sponsored persons.
In a typical case, a sponsored person will go on welfare because they can’t find work
in Canada. Welfare payments will not be refused by the province if the person otherwise qualifies, even though a sponsorship agreement is in place. Once the province recognizes the existence of a sponsorship agreement, they try to collect all of the welfare payments from the sponsor.
In some cases the provincial government registered liens against sponsors’ homes and in others they have sued. Default on a sponsorship agreement will also prevent a sponsor from ever sponsoring another person until their debt is repaid.
Sponsorship agreements are generally enforceable, but there are circumstances where they may not be. For example, if the sponsor is the victim of abuse at the hands of the sponsored person, the sponsorship agreement may not be enforceable. There are other grounds that may make a sponsorship agreement unenforceable in law; however these grounds have not been tested in the courts.
If the government is trying to collect a sponsorship debt from you as a sponsor, be sure to know your rights before you pay the government a single penny. In some cases a debt will not be collectable at all while in other cases, there will be severe consequences.
Article courtesy of Ryan Rosenberg
& Steven Meurrens
, Canadian Immigration Lawyers based in Vancouver BC.
Copywright 2011 © No text or graphical material may be copied without the express written permission of Larlee Rosenberg.