I was sponsored to come to Canada but I want to leave my spouse. Will I have to leave Canada if we separate?
If you became a Canadian permanent resident through spousal (or common-law partner) sponsorship and you are no longer with your sponsor, you do not necessarily have to leave Canada.
It is important to note that the two year cohabitation rule that was previously in place in Canada was revoked and no longer applies to new permanent residents. This means that there is no minimum period of time which you need to remain living with your spouse/partner in Canada to keep your immigration status.
In fact, even if you and your spouse separate or divorce, they are still responsible for fulfilling the undertaking they made when they sponsored you for the three X period after you become a permanent resident. This includes being on the hook to the Canadian government to repay any social assistance payments you might receive during that undertaking period of three years.
Your sponsor cannot easily withdraw their undertaking to sponsor you. Once they have been approved as a sponsor (i.e. the first step in the application process) they cannot simply change their mind and decide they no longer want to sponsor you or be responsible for you during the undertaking period. If a sponsor wishes to cancel the undertaking, they must write to the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga before the application for permanent resident is finalized. Afterward, they will no longer have the option to withdraw or cancel their sponsorship.
Once you have been granted permanent resident status, your sponsor cannot have you deported or request that your permanent residence status be revoked on the basis that your relationship did not last. However, your status may become the subject of an investigation if your sponsor tells Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) that your relationship was entered into for immigration purposes or that you misrepresented yourself in your initial application. Cases of fraudulent marriage and misrepresentation (either in your written application or any verbal communication with IRCC, including your landing interview) can be grounds to have your permanent resident status revoked and face deportation from Canada.
If your application is still in process and you and your sponsor decide to break up or get a divorce, you must notify the office processing your application immediately and cease to proceed with the application.
If you and your sponsor have separated, or divorced, you should also understand that there is a five year sponsorship bar for anyone who was sponsored as a spouse/common-law partner themselves. This means that you cannot sponsor a new spouse or partner within the first five years of you gaining permanent residence, regardless of whether you left your sponsor and have now remarried. This also applies if you receive your Canadian citizenship within five years of becoming a permanent resident.
If your relationship with your sponsor was genuine during your application and at the time you landed as a permanent resident, but has since dissolved or become abusive, you have the option to separate or leave your partner without having your permanent resident status revoked.
If you are in Canada with your spouse or common-law partner but have not yet been sponsored and landed as a permanent resident, or have not applied for permanent residence and have temporary status only, you may wish to consult with a lawyer about the potential impact to your status and ability to remain in Canada after a separation or divorce.