Immigrating to Canada When You Are Illegal in Your Country of Residence

One of the most common immigration questions is “Can I immigrate to Canada even though I am living illegally, without status in another country? Many individuals, across the globe, are residing without legal status and many want to move to Canada, knowing about the great immigration programs and opportunities. In the U.S., with the current administration, there are not many opportunities to become lawful and many face the risk of deportation on a daily basis. So, are these foreign nationals allowed to lawfully immigrate to Canada?

Foreign National’s with Illegal Status

When a lawyer is examining a case of unlawful status in another country, there are many factors to consider. The most important question is whether the foreign national’s illegal/unlawful status renders them ineligible to immigrate to Canada?  If they are eligible, the next question would be whether the Canadian visa office where the foreign national is residing illegally will accept the application and process it without bias of the unlawful presence.

Eligibility to File

Having illegal status in a third country will not render a foreign national ineligible to immigrate to Canada unless there are issues of criminality. Even these are not an automatic disqualification and a closer look must be made on the type of crime and the final disposition.

Where to File Your Application

Unfortunately, even though you may be eligible, you still have another obstacle to encounter when you file your application with the Canadian visa office that has jurisdiction to accept your paperwork. Generally, the application should be filed with the Canadian visa office in the country in which the applicant is currently residing if:

  1. the applicant has at any point in the past lawfully resided in that country for a period of one (1) year or more, or
  2. the applicant is in possession of a valid visa, authorizing him/her to remain in that country for a period of at least one (1) year; if not,
  • the application must be filed with the Canadian visa office which normally serves the applicant’s home country/country of habitual residence/country of citizenship

Applying Through Your Home Country:

It is always recommended to file your application through your home country as you are lawfully permitted to reside there. Once you leave the country where you are accruing unlawful stay, you can no longer be deported as you have voluntarily departed. Now, there may be bars for you to return there, but if you were never legally residing there, it is in your best interest to submit an application for Canadian permanent residency, where you can live and work, or study, lawfully. One thing I caution clients is to look at their ultimate goal. If you are planning to have a family, would you want them to live in a country where they could never truly feel safe from deportation? I think the answer is “no”. We all want to live freely, away from fear, and to make a better life, a safer life.

If you should have any questions or need more information about how these immigration rules may impact you or your family, please contact us by e-mailing us at or by calling us Toll-Free +1 (833) 464-7866 / USA +1 (678) 978-5848 / Canada +1 (647) 689-7526. You can also visit our Law Firm’s website at