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I do not have permanent status in Canada. Can I get financial assistance from Ontario Works?

Question
I do not have permanent status in Canada. Can I get financial assistance from Ontario Works?

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I do not have permanent status in Canada. Can I get financial assistance from Ontario Works?
Reviewed: 
May 5, 2020
Answer

Ontario Works (OW) can help pay for living expenses, like rent and food. You don’t have to have permanent immigration status to get financial help from OW.

The law says you might not qualify for OW if:

  • you’re in Canada as a tourist,
  • you’re in Canada as a visitor, or
  • there’s a removal order that says you have to leave Canada and there’s nothing to legally stop the CBSA from forcing you to leave.

But even if you are in one of these situations, you might still qualify for OW.

Tourists

Tourists in Canada can’t get financial assistance from OW. Usually, a tourist is someone who is here for a short period of time, has temporary status in Canada, and plans to leave.

But even if you came to Canada as a tourist, your status can change. For example, if you make a refugee claim, you are no longer a tourist and you might qualify for OW.

Visitors

A visitor is similar to a tourist, but the difference is that visitors get a visitor visa in their country before they come to Canada. Someone with a valid visitor visa doesn’t qualify for OW unless they make:

  • a refugee claim, or
  • an application for permanent resident status based on Humanitarian & Compassionate (H&C) reasons.

If you need financial assistance but you don’t have permanent status, you should get legal advice. You may also qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

If your visitor status expired a while ago or COVID-19 flight restrictions prevent you from leaving Canada, you should contact a community legal clinic. You might qualify for financial assistance.

People who have a removal order against them

You might not qualify for OW if there’s a removal order against you that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can legally use to remove you from Canada.

As of March 19, 2020, CBSA is not removing most people from Canada. This will be in place until at least May 21, 2020. There might be an exception to this if CBSA thinks you’re a danger to the public or a threat to security in Canada.

There are other reasons that CBSA might not be able to remove you. For example:

  • you don’t have a passport or travel document and you haven’t been able to get one
  • you’re waiting for the CBSA to make arrangements to remove you
  • you’re from a country that Canada is not removing people to
  • no other country will take you

If you can’t be removed from Canada at this time for any of these reasons that are not within your control, you should be eligible for OW. If you are denied assistance, you should get legal advice.

Even if CBSA could remove you, if you have already made an H&C application for permanent residence status, you can apply for OW. But you should get legal advice first.

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