Do you know Canadian Immigration Law?
September 23, 2016 6:34 PM   Subscribe

How to get Canadian citizenship with no documents? I know a person living in Canada who is of Caribbean origin. They have no citizenship, which means no ID and no Social Insurance Number. They would like to get Canadian citizenship but are terrified of being deported. What should they do?

This is a wonderful young person who deserves a chance but is overwhelmed by the system.

I don't know this person's entire history, but here is what I know:

Currently in their mid 20s.
Born in Tobago around 1990. They have a birth certificate and an expired Trinidad/Tobago passport.
Moved to Grenadines as a child - has an expired St.Vincent/Grenadines passport.
Came to Canada with their mother, somewhere around 2003 (approx age 13)
Person has lived in Canada for 10+ years.
They have a perfectly clean criminal record.
They identify as Canadian, and would like to stay in Canada permanently.
As far as they know, they have no Canadian identification documents.

The person has no family on the paternal side. Maternal family situation in Canada was difficult.
In their teens, the person severed relationships with all family members.
Recently they reconnected with some relatives (a sibling and maternal grandparent-- but not their mother). All the family relationships are fragile and somewhat dysfunctional.
The newly reconnected relatives do have ties to the mother, but she might decide to withhold her own documents from the person (which might make it harder to prove when they came to Canada, parents' citizenship, etc).

Person is currently essentially homeless- was living with a common-law domestic partner but after an unhealthy breakup, they are now couch-surfing.

Now they'd like to get their Canadian citizenship so they can get a SIN number and some Canadian ID, and move forward in life. They are terrified of being deported.


1. If they start this process, is there a chance they could be deported? Best ways to avoid that?

2. The first step seems to be to renew their long-expired Grenadine passport, then use that to get a Canadian ID card... is that accurate? Is it better to ditch the Caribbean ID and just try to become a Canadian citizen? It's confusing!

3. What should they do, where should they go to do it?

Note: I know immigration clinics use catchment areas, so in case anyone is knowledgeable about these- he lives in Toronto and could access mailing addresses in Scarborough, Downtown Centre, Junction, High Park, or Mimico.

posted by spockpuppy to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your friend is very likely in Canada illegally, and really needs an attorney. Full stop. Hopefully someone from Canada can recommend a legal aid program that can help.
posted by anastasiav at 6:37 PM on September 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Enter some addresses in here and see which clinics he can access that have immigration divisions. I know Parkdale has an immigration division and I imagine others will too. This is likely a good first step - they don't check citizenship and often don't require any income or identification verification. They will have more information and relevant referrals.
posted by hepta at 6:48 PM on September 23, 2016

Yes, they may be deported if they have no legal status. Identifying as Canadian is not enough to grant citizenship; however, they may have legal status in Canada and simply need to apply for a appropriate documents.

1. clinics are fine, but overworked; if possible, pay for a good immigration lawyer or paralegal (cheaper); it sounds like they may be lacking in life skills and so need a bit more support than a clinic can offer.

2. Apply for the Trinidad passport (I believe they lost St G's citizenship after living abroad five years) as it allows dual citizenship (like Canada)

3. Establish an address and get a cell phone bill and bank account bills sent to that address (they can still couch surf but they need to have one address as base where they can pick up mail). Start getting other ID such as a library card based around that address. Contact the secondary school they went to, ask for a copy of their diploma/transcript; elementary too if it was in Canada. Get a guarenteed credit card (you give them a cheque for $500 and they issue you a card with that credit amount BUT, it MUST be Canadian - so not Capital One). Do not use the card, you just want to use it for ID with the bill mailed to the address and to establish credit (also needed to get a cell phone that isn't pay as you go - needed for ID).

4. Use the newly issued Trinidad passport, birth certificate, and bank statement to get an Ontario Photo Card

5. Pull their Eqifax credit account (about $16 online) to see if there is any info there that can help such as a SIN (the first three digits are possible clues to status)

6. Apply for a verification of status (VOS) for $30 with the photocopies of the birth certificate and two expired passports - the wait is currently six months but they will email the results which will inform your next steps. (No need to wait for the new St G passport or other ID)

7. They sound homeless (couch surfing is homeless under the definition). I do not believe they are eligible for PAID for the ID documents but you can double-check with PAID.

8. Try to have them reconstruct, in writing, the chronology of their life, where was they were when, and if thsir mother worked in Canada or other clues to her status in Canada (is she still here? Is she working?).

9. With the new ID apply for OW and then look for stable housing.

10. Apply for OHIP with the VOS, cell phone/bank statement bill and foreign passport. Have they ever gone to the doctor while a teen living with their mum? Go back to that doctor to get copies of medical records (and possible OHIP number)

11. File taxes for last year, and previous years, if they had no income they made be eligible for some programmes/rebates but the NOA is also used to prove address and residency. It will most likely have to be filed via a paper form due to the lack of a SIN (residency for CRA is different to residency for CIC)

Good luck to your friend. It is a big apple but they can do it one bite at a time. This will all cost money, of course, I hope someone can front the several hundred dollars need to collect all the ID and needed documents as well as going to all the different locations needed.
posted by saucysault at 12:39 AM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as to question one, if they DON'T start this process they are at a greater risk of deportation. The onus is on them to prove their residency (I have a friend with legal status in Canada being deported on Monday to a country they have not seen since they are twelve, in a language they do not speak, after months in CIC detention because they didn't have proof of their legal status and pretended the situation didn't exist). So yes, they can't be passive and hope for the best; homeless, unemployed (or not legally employed) and no ID is a recipie for disaster and deportation.
posted by saucysault at 12:51 AM on September 24, 2016

*prove their legal status (not residency)
posted by saucysault at 12:58 AM on September 24, 2016

This person might be able to access support and perhaps some kind of assistance with the process via advocacy organizations like No One Is Illegal. Not sure about the group in Toronto specifically, but in Montreal an equivalent organization offers things like accompaniment during the immigration process, peer support, and I think also help around finding housing to folks in situations like this.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:11 PM on September 24, 2016

From a friend, who is clinic immigration lawyer, comes the following information (sinyl, tinla - but info about where to go and get some legal advice)
It's not about ID - it's about the underlying status. He sounds like he'd be a good candidate for a Humanitarian & Compassionate application. Almost all clinics in the GTA have immigration counsel on staff. Their job is to help clients without status regularize their status so no papers won't be a barrier to accessing legal services. A Humanitarian & Compassionate application is a relatively extensive process and it's not something he should try to do on his own without legal assistance. Clinics are overworked but they do great work and they can also assist clients in applying for a Legal Aid certificate for the Humanitarian & Compassionate application and connect them with a trusted member of the private bar. There are a lot of "consultants" out there who are scammers - it's vital that he knows & can fully trust his counsel.

The issue of risk is always present, but he's already at risk today even without an application. Submitting an application to regularize his status increased the risk a bit but it also gives him possible avenues of recourse if he's detained (deferrals or stays of removal). If he's detained today with no application in process there's nothing anyone can do to help him - he's gone. People are typically detained over the smallest details too - forgot to do up their seat belt in a car, etc.

It's important to note that applications are sent to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. They only do paper applications (work permits, sponsorships, etc etc etc). They have nothing to do with immigration enforcement. Immigration enforcement is the responsibility of Canada Border Services Agency, which is a totally different department under a completely separate Minister. There is some info sharing between the two departments but it's nowhere near as efficient as people think. If he came as a visitor with his mom and overstayed then that probably means there's no arrest warrent for him. This means CBSA wouldn't know to go looking for his info in the database. Risk is always there but he's in as good a position as one can be in these situations.

Also he's not eligible for OHIP, OW or housing supports until he has legal status here. Once he wins the Humanitarian & Compassionate he can apply for work permits, study permits & OHIP while the application is finalized and then he will be landed with all the rights & privileges of any Permanent Resident in Canada.
posted by girlpublisher at 6:37 AM on September 25, 2016

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