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Dual Intent in Canadian Immigration

Published on: November 25th, 2016
Last updated: February 14th, 2022

‘Dual intent’ refers to the intention to come to Canada for both temporary and permanent residence. While having dual intent is legitimate, it can make applying for a temporary resident visa more complicated.

Failure to demonstrate dual intent is a common reason for temporary resident visa refusal. This issue often affects overseas spousal sponsorship applicants and can even arise for applicants with a submitted Express Entry profile.

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What is dual intent in Canadian immigration?

Dual intent essentially means a foreign national has two intents – one for permanent residence status and one for temporary residence status. Foreign nationals that apply for a temporary resident visa in Canada, and have already applied for, or have shown their intention to apply for, permanent residence in Canada, demonstrate dual intent.

This may also apply to candidates that have submitted a Canadian Express Entry profile since doing so demonstrates an applicant’s intention to settle permanently in Canada.

How can dual intent affect my Canadian temporary residence application?

To apply for a temporary residence visa (visit, study, or work), foreign nationals must demonstrate their intent to leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay. For applicants that have already established that they plan to settle permanently in Canada, this is often harder to prove.

In other words, dual intent often contradicts the conditions that applicants must meet to come to Canada temporarily.

Can I still come to Canada as a temporary resident if I’ve applied for permanent residence?

Although it might seem contradictory, individuals can receive both temporary residence and permanent residence if they can prove that they have genuine dual intent. When deciding whether to issue a temporary visa, visa officers must assess whether the applicant has the genuine intent to leave the country upon the expiration of their visa. Even if the applicant has an ongoing application for permanent residence, the visa officer may grant a temporary visa if they are convinced that the applicant will respect the terms on which the temporary visa is issued.

If the applicant is not able to convince the visa officer that their dual intent is genuine, the officer may refuse the temporary visa application.

In these types of cases, the visa officer might suspect that the applicant is only applying for a temporary visa in order to live in Canada while their application for permanent residence is processed. Therefore, they have no intent to leave the country when their temporary visa expires. Being refused a temporary visa does not mean that the applicant’s permanent residence visa will be refused.

International students

Foreign nationals who wish to study in Canada must convince the visa officer that they intend to respect the conditions of a temporary visa. Namely, that they intend to leave the country at the expiry of their student visa.

However, the federal government of Canada has an interest in retaining international students following the completion of their studies. Programs like the Post-Graduation Work Permit, and Provincial Nominee Programs for international students, are promoted to make it easier for international students to remain in Canada once their program of study is completed. This would seem to directly contradict the conditions that international students must meet in order to be issued a student visa.

This is a common example of where dual intent applies. When applying for a study permit, the foreign national must clearly demonstrate that he or she intends to respect the requirement that study permit holders leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay. That foreign national’s desire to apply for permanent residence before or during the period of study in Canada does not automatically preclude them from being issued a temporary visa, as long as they meet this condition.

Spousal sponsorship

When assessing temporary residence applications, visa officers often look at whether the applicant has strong ties to Canada to determine whether they would likely leave Canada by the time their permit expires. For this reason, the refusal rate of temporary resident visas (TRV) to applicants with an ongoing overseas spousal sponsorship application is very high.

While it is possible for spousal sponsorship applicants to receive a TRV, it can be made much more difficult due to their strong ties to Canada.

How to demonstrate genuine dual intent

Visa officers must distinguish between applicants who hold genuine dual intent and those who have no intention of leaving Canada if the application for permanent residence is refused. It’s up to the applicant to convince the visa officer that they have dual intent.

When determining whether an applicant has genuine dual intent on a temporary visa application, an officer looks at several factors, including:

  • How long do they plan to stay in Canada
  • Whether they have strong ties or obligations in their home country (ex. work, family, property)
  • Their reason for coming to Canada temporarily
  • Whether they have previously overstayed a visa, in Canada, or any other country

When preparing an application for temporary residence, it is important to address the above factors to help demonstrate one’s genuine dual intent.

If your application for permanent residence is approved while you are in Canada, you do not need to leave at the end of your temporary status. Once you become a Canadian permanent resident (PR), you can stay in Canada as long as you continue to meet PR obligations.

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