Overstaying your Canadian welcome
It is never a good idea to overstay as a visitor or to ignore a removal order if you have been requested to leave Canada.
It is always more difficult to become landed, return to Canada as a visitor or be a landed immigrant if you have a history of breaching the rules under which you were granted entry. In the past, there have been initiatives taken by the Canadian government to allow for an amnesty of undocumented persons, where they qualified under certain conditions. However, that is not now the case.
If you are in the position where you are in Canada without legal status, your options are very limited. In fact, these options also depend on the circumstances under which you arrived or lost legal status.
a) You may apply for a Temporary Resident Permit if you do not meet the requirements of medical or security checks and/or if you have minor criminal charges.
b) You may apply under Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds in very special circumstances.
c) You may obtain legal status through a valid marriage.
d) You may be sponsored by a parent if under age 22.
e) You may make a claim as a Convention Refugee if you are in need of protection because you have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
If you overstayed, you may be sponsored either by a spouse or a parent. In either case, your sponsor must be well-established citizens or hold permanent resident status, in good standing and can show means of support. The applicant must be at least 19, must be residing in the country and must satisfy an immigration officer that he/she will reside in Canada for the period of sponsorship.
In the case of marriage, it must be deemed genuine in order to qualify. The family class does not include a spouse who entered into a marriage primarily for the purpose of gaining admission to the country and not with the intention of residing permanently with the other spouse. Any indication that a marriage is one of convenience - only for the sake of immigration - will not guarantee your status in Canada. A bona fide marriage would indicate that the parties are (a) cohabiting and (b) have not entered into any monetary arrangement for the purpose of immigration.
If you are unmarried, under 22 years old and/or the last remaining relative, you may be sponsored by your parent, or under a one-time sponsorship by a citizen or permanent resident who has no other relative in Canada.It is very important to get good legal advice and to avoid persons who claim to have legal knowledge, but are not either (a) a lawyer who has been called to the Bar or (b) a registered member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants.Many persons have lost large sums of money as fees without benefiting from proper legal advice and representation and without the protection of regulatory bodies. So, seek advice by calling the Jamaican High Commission in Ottawa, or the Jamaican Consulate in Toronto for information and guidance as to where to go for help in immigration matters.
Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams is a barrister/solicitor of bars in Jamaica and Ontario, Canada. She is president of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation and former counsel at the Ontario Human Rights Commission.