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What happens when you do not fulfill the obligations of a sponsorship undertaking?

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couple standing looking outside of a window towards a forest

A sponsorship undertaking is a contract, signed by the sponsor, that states they are taking on responsibility for their dependent spouse, common-law partner, child/children, parent or grandparent.

The scope of responsibility defined by an undertaking is both non-financial and financial, including such things as food, shelter, and clothing — among other living needs.

Because a sponsored dependant does not have the same rights to access government support such as social assistance or disability as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, an undertaking also requires that the Canadian sponsor pays back any money that a dependant applies for and receives from the provincial or federal government. Appropriately, an undertaking becomes a significant financial commitment for the sponsor.

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While the length of an undertaking varies by the dependent individual’s relationship to their sponsor and their chosen settlement location, it is vital to remember that an undertaking does not end until the official end of the legal period, even if the dependant acquires Canadian citizenship.

Examples of the variance in an undertaking include the following. A spouse or common-law partner undertaking is three years, while sponsoring a parent or grandparent through the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) includes a 20-year undertaking agreement. Further variance exists in Quebec, where a PGP undertaking is a 10-year commitment.

Regardless of the specific circumstance, the importance of honouring an undertaking cannot be understated. Still, there may come a time when a sponsor is unable or chooses not to fulfill the terms associated with their sponsorship responsibility. Such circumstances may include a couple becoming estranged or getting divorced, for example. If this occurs and a sponsor stops fulfilling their obligations, the individual will have defaulted on the sponsorship, which can lead to significant consequences.

What is a sponsorship default?

A sponsorship default occurs when the sponsor has not met the financial obligations of the sponsorship. This can take place if a sponsor either breaches the contractual obligations involved with the undertaking itself or fails to fulfill any required obligations, either financial or non-financial.

When sponsorship obligations stop being met, it is typically the result of a sponsorship breakdown. Sponsorship breakdowns can occur for a variety of reasons, which include unresolvable disputes (interpersonal conflicts), a change in the dependant’s situation that makes the sponsorship terms impossible to fulfill (marital separation) or a sponsor not fulfilling certain undertaking obligations such as providing settlement support.

Penalties for defaulting on a sponorship

A sponsorship default can result in several different penalties for the sponsor.

For instance, particular to the sponsor’s obligation to cover any costs associated with social assistance given to their dependant(s), failure to meet this specific obligation will restrict the Canadian sponsor from acting as a sponsor for any other newcomers until this debt is paid off.

More generally, one potential consequence of defaulting on an undertaking is legal action taken against the person(s) responsible for the default. While legal action pursued by the Canadian government does not always occur upon the breakdown of sponsorship, both the primary sponsor as well as their co-signer(s) could face legal consequences if they default on their undertaking.

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