February 16, 2024

Impact on Sponsorship if Sponsored Family Goes on Welfare

One of the ways foreign nationals can come to Canada and potentially obtain permanent residency is through the family sponsorship program. Eligible citizens or permanent residents can sponsor family members to immigrate. 

Eligible sponsors, including spouses, partners, children, parents, or grandparents, must prove they have the financial means to support the sponsored individual or individuals, ensuring they don’t rely on government aid. Sponsorship entails a binding commitment for a set period to provide essential needs for the sponsored person and dependents. The sponsorship obligation is irrevocable. 

The sponsorship process offers a pathway for families to reunite, but a component of financial responsibility is critical to maintain the well-being of the sponsored individuals and ensure there is not an undue burden on public services such as healthcare, social assistance, and housing.

Responsibility of the Sponsor

The sponsor is responsible for providing financial support to the sponsored family members for a certain period, usually lasting 3 to 20 years depending on whether a spouse, parent, grandparent, or children are being sponsored.

For example, spouses or partners are usually sponsored for about 3 years from the date the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident. For parents and grandparents, the undertaking is typically 20 years. It is important to remember that the sponsor is completely responsible for financially supporting the family member for the full length of the specified period of time.

Cases Where There May Be Difficulties 

Unforeseen financial difficulties for the sponsor, such as job loss, medical emergencies, or unexpected expenses, may arise. This can make it challenging for a sponsor to continue supporting the sponsored family members. A sponsor may underestimate the financial burden, as well. 


The sponsored family members may face challenges in finding suitable employment opportunities due to language barriers, lack of Canadian work experience, or qualifications not being recognized in Canada, resulting in financial strain and reliance on social assistance programs. If a member of the sponsored family starts to experience health issues or disabilities that prevent them from working or earning sufficient income, they may require additional financial support.

Changes in family size or composition, such as the birth of a child or unexpected family members joining the household, can increase financial responsibilities and strain the sponsor’s ability to provide adequate support.

Delays or complications in the immigration process, such as processing delays, visa refusals, or changes in immigration policies, can also lead to a longer period of financial dependency on the sponsor.

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What Happens If the Sponsor Needs to Go on Welfare?

The sponsor’s legal obligations under the sponsorship undertaking generally remain in effect, despite financial hardship regardless of the reason for the hardship. The sponsor still needs to support the sponsored family members according to the terms outlined in the sponsorship agreement. Some supports may be available to help, however.

If the sponsor cannot meet the financial obligations, there may be legal consequences, such as penalties. The sponsor may be barred from sponsoring other family members in the future, as well. Immigration authorities may review the sponsorship if the sponsor’s finances change significantly; in very rare cases, where the financial hardship is outside of the sponsor’s control, the debt may be forgiven.

The financial hardship may lead to the sponsored family members seeking social assistance. In these cases, the sponsor may need to reimburse the government for any social assistance the family receives.

What Happens if the Sponsored Family Uses Social Services?

During the Sponsorship Period

As mentioned above, the sponsor may be required to reimburse the government for any social assistance payments received by a sponsored family member during the sponsorship period. However, there are also impacts on the sponsored members. Receiving social assistance can affect the sponsored person’s eligibility for certain immigration benefits or sponsorship in the future.


At this point, the legal obligation of the sponsor to provide financial support has ended. If a sponsored family then goes on welfare or social assistance, the consequences and implications can vary depending on the specific circumstances. 

Going on welfare or social assistance after the sponsorship period typically does not directly affect the immigration status of the sponsored family members if they have already obtained permanent resident status. However, if they are still in the process of obtaining permanent residency or are on temporary status, needing to receive social assistance could have implications for their immigration status and future applications for permanent residency or citizenship.

Oro Immigration provides personalized advice and help to those who are interested in sponsoring a family member to come to Canada. Our experienced team can increase the likelihood of a successful application. We’ll also guide you on important considerations and potential challenges to be aware of, with practical resources to help.


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