Who We Can Help
The Newcomer Legal Clinic provides free legal support to immigrants, refugees, and people without immigration status who are living in Northwestern Ontario and who need help with an immigration, refugee, or citizenship law problem.
We can also support Northwestern Ontarians hoping to sponsor family members for immigration to Canada, and private refugee sponsorship groups who are hoping to bring resettled refugees to the Northwest.
Northwestern Ontario includes the Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Rainy River Districts. Though we are located in Thunder Bay, we can provide services to individuals in other regions by phone and video.
If you are not sure whether you are eligible for our Clinic’s services, please contact us. If we cannot help, we will do our best to provide you with information about where else to look for help.
You may be living in Canada without valid immigration status if, for example, your temporary status has expired and you haven’t taken steps to renew it. Being without status can mean you are not allowed to work or study, and that you are at risk of being removed from Canada.
If your immigration status has expired and you are still in Canada, you might wish to talk about whether you have options for getting back into valid status.
Temporary foreign workers, international students, and visitors are temporary residents. They are in Canada under rules about how long they can stay, whether they can work or study, and sometimes where they are allowed to work.
Temporary residents might need legal support to:
- Extend their temporary residence status or apply for a new type of temporary status
- Understand their options for permanent residence
- Understand whether they are allowed to work or study
- Deal with complications that can affect immigration status like losing a job or having to take a leave from studies
- Apply to have their family members abroad join them in Canada
Note for International Students: If you are an international student studying at a College or University, please contact your International Student Advisor for questions about study permits, study permit extensions, working while studying, and post-graduation work permits.
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada has special programs for persons who are temporary residents or out of status and who are victims of family violence or vulnerable workers.
Victims of family violence and their children can face difficult immigration issues when a permanent residence application they planned to make depends on a spouse or common-law partner who is abusing them physically, sexually, psychologically, or financially. Special immigration programs exist for people in this situation.
If you would like more information about these programs, please contact us.
If your abuser monitors your phone or computer use, please click here for information about how to hide your browsing history.
Vulnerable workers who are abused by their employers may be eligible for an open work permit that can allow them to stay in Canada and work temporarily while looking for a new employer.
Employer abuse can include physical harm, unsafe work, unsafe living conditions, unwanted sexual touching or sexual comments, controlling where you can go, stealing from you, taking all or some of your pay, stopping you from seeing friends or co-workers, threats, insults, and intimidation, forcing you to commit fraud, or making you pay fees for a job or making promises that are not real.
If you would like more information about the immigration programs available to vulnerable workers, please contact us.
If your employer monitors your phone or computer use, please click here for information about how to hide your browsing history.
Permanent residents are allowed to live in Canada permanently. They may need legal support to:
- Reunite with family members overseas by sponsoring them for permanent residence or supporting their temporary residence applications
- Appeal a decision refusing a family sponsorship application
- Apply for a new permanent residence card or request a change of name or gender
- Apply for Canadian citizenship
Resettled refugees are permanent residents who arrived in Canada under government or private sponsorship. Refugee sponsors are the community groups who commit to supporting refugees for the first year after they arrive in Canada.
Resettled refugees in Canada may need legal support to:
- Reunite with family members under the one-year window of opportunity program or other immigration programs
- Apply for travel documents
- Resolve problems when identity documents have the wrong information
- Apply for a new permanent residence card or request a change of name or gender
- Apply for Canadian citizenship
Refugee sponsors and the refugees they are sponsoring overseas may need legal support to:
- Understand the requirements to sponsor a refugee and eligibility for refugee protection
- Complete the sponsorship and refugee application paperwork
- Help prepare the overseas refugees for their visa office interviews
- Advocate when processing delays or complications arise
People fleeing persecution may be able to apply for refugee status when they enter Canada at a border crossing, or from inside the country at an Immigration office. Refugee claimants may need legal support to:
- Understand whether they are eligible to make a refugee claim
- Complete their Basis of Claim and other claim forms
- Understand the evidence they need to gather to support their claim
- Present their claim before the Refugee Protection Division
- Apply for work or study permits while their claim is being processed
If their claim is refused, refugee claimants may need legal help to file an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division or an application for judicial review in Federal Court
If their claim is successful, refugee claimants may need legal support to complete their application for permanent residence and reunite with family members overseas.
In many cases, Legal Aid Ontario with pay a lawyer in private practice to prepare your Basis of Claim form, to prepare and represent you at your hearing, and to appeal or seek judicial review of a negative refugee decision.
Our clinic may be able to help you apply for a Legal Aid certificate, to help you find a lawyer who is able to represent you in your claim, and to help you with services Legal Aid Ontario does not cover.
If you filed an immigration, refugee, or citizenship application that was refused, you might have options for challenging, appealing, or judicially reviewing the decision. You might also have other options for staying in Canada.
Dealing with a refusal is time-sensitive and can be complicated, so please get in touch with us as soon as possible if an application is refused and you would like legal support.
Criminal charges, convictions and sentences can affect the immigration status of permanent residents, temporary residents, and persons without status. It is important for the person concerned, their criminal defence lawyer, and the Court to have accurate information about the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction before a guilty plea or imposing a sentence.
The Clinic may be able to provide advice on the impact of criminal charges, processes, or convictions on immigration, refugee, and citizenship applications.
Permanent residents may want legal support to decide whether they are ready to apply for citizenship, to understand the legal requirements, and to review the paperwork they have prepared.
People born outside of Canada to Canadian citizen parents or, in some cases, grandparents, may want legal support to find out if they are Canadian citizens and how to apply for proof of citizenship.
Individuals already in Canada can be found inadmissible and ordered to leave the country for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Failing to comply with an immigration condition (for example, working or studying without authorization)
- Misrepresentation (providing false or incomplete information on an immigration application)
- Being convicted of certain criminal offences in Canada, or committing a criminal offence outside of Canada
- Financial reasons
- Medical reasons
- Security reasons
If you are accused of inadmissibility in Canada, Canada Border Services Agency might ask you to come to an interview, and might refer you to the Immigration Division for a decision, depending on your status in Canada. You might be able to appeal an inadmissibility finding, depending on your status in Canada.
Allegations of inadmissibility are time-sensitive, and they can give rise to serious consequences. We invite you to contact us at your earliest opportunity if you are concerned about inadmissibility.
When migrants are detained, they are entitled to appear before the Immigration Division for a detention review hearing. They may have access to Legal Aid Duty Counsel, and they might be entitled to a Legal Aid certificate for advice and representation at the detention review hearing.
Immigration documents sometimes contain incorrect information that needs to be changed. For example, a permanent residence card, citizenship certificate or passport might spell your name incorrectly, or might have the wrong date of birth or gender.
If you are an Indigenous person who has reclaimed your Indigenous name, you may be able to apply to have any immigration documents you hold, including your passport, changed to your Indigenous name.
If you are a trans person, you might wish to have your name and gender on your immigration documents corrected.
Please contact us if you need support through the process of seeking to change information on your immigration documents.
How to Access our Services
Step 1: Contact us
If you would like to request an appointment with our Clinic, please fill out our request form. If you cannot fill out the request form, please call us at 807-346-7800.
We will review your form to determine if you are eligible for our services. You are eligible for a first meeting if you or your family live in Northwestern Ontario, and if you have a question about Canadian immigration, refugee, or citizenship law.
After we review your request, we will contact you by email or phone. If you are eligible and if we have appointments available, we’ll schedule a consultation meeting. If we cannot help, we will do our best to suggest other service providers.
Step 2: Meet with us for a consultation
Our consultation meeting can happen in person at our office in Thunder Bay or remotely by video. At the meeting, you can expect to meet with a law student and an immigration lawyer. We can also ask an interpreter to come to the meeting if you need one.
We will ask you a number of questions and you can ask us any questions you have. We will give you as much information and advice about your immigration questions as we can during our meeting. We will also follow up in writing to summarize our advice and share resources that might help.
Step 3: Continuing support for those at greatest need
For services after the consultation meeting, we prioritize clients who need legal help and would otherwise have a hard time getting it.
Some clients find that one meeting is enough and use our advice navigate the application process independently. Some clients need more support to complete their application, and some need representation in Court or with Immigration. When you meet with us, we will talk about whether you need continued support and what services we are able to provide after the consultation meeting.