Immigration & Refugee Law

Canadian immigration law applies to people who want to visit Canada, study in Canada, work in Canada, and live in Canada. People living with HIV may have questions or concerns about Canadian immigration law. Immigration law is complex and is a very specialized area of law.

HALCO provides a variety of free immigration law services for people living with HIV in Ontario, as well as public legal education materials and public legal education workshops . For more information about other resources and Getting legal help, please scroll down.

Immigration Law Updates:

HALCO news Summer 2013 edition

Our HALCO news/brief Summer 2013 newsletter includes an article about Proposed Changes to Definition of “Dependent Children”.

HALCO news Spring 2013 edition

Our HALCO news Spring 2013 newsletter includes Immigration law updates beginning on page 10:

  • Refugee Law Changes, and
  • Changes to the Interim Federal Health Program.

Canadian Citizenship Language Requirements Changed on November 1, 2012

If you are living with HIV in Ontario and you think you are eligible for citizenship, please contact us right away for advice and for assistance with a citizenship application.

As of November 1, 2012, if you are between 18 and 54, your citizenship application will have to include proof that you have good knowledge of English or French.  More details about the types of proof can be found on the Government of Canada website

Even if you are not concerned about the new English and French language requirements, it is a good idea to apply for citizenship at the earliest opportunity to ensure that your status in Canada is as secure as possible.

For more information about citizenship, you can visit the Government of Canada’s Citizenship website:

Changes to the Interim Federal Health Program

(May 2012)

The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) provides health care coverage to refugee claimants and some refused refugees.

Effective June 30, 2012, the government implemented a number of significant changes to the IFHP.  HIV medications, doctor’s visits for HIV follow-up and blood work continue to be covered under the new IFHP system.  However, some important non-HIV related health care benefits are no longer covered by the IFHP.

There are now two categories of IFHP coverage, depending on the country the person is from or the stage of the person’s refugee claim:

Category 1: Full coverage (referred to as “health care coverage”):

  1. Refugee claimants who are waiting for their hearing or decision (unless they are from a “Designated Country of Origin,” see below).
  2. Successful refugee claimants who are not yet eligible for OHIP.

Category 2: Reduced coverage (referred to as “public health or public safety health care coverage”):

  1. Refused refugee claimants whose deportation order is not yet enforceable.
  2. Refugee claimants waiting for their hearing or decision who are from a “Designated Country of Origin” (DCO).  A DCO is a country that Minister of Immigration has decided is generally a safe place to live.  The current DCO list can be found on the Immigration Canada website: IFHP health care services covered under each category are:

Category 1: Full coverage

Urgent and essential hospital, doctor, diagnostic and ambulance services, as well as medicines and vaccines needed to prevent or treat a disease that is a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern.  Here are some examples of what is and is not covered in Category 1: Full Coverage:

  • Covered: HIV medications, doctor’s visits for illnesses and injuries, childbirth care, flu shots, tuberculosis medicine and treatment
  • NOT covered: medicines and vaccines for diseases that do not pose a risk to public health (e.g.: asthma, diabetes); medical services used for “elective purposes,” rehabilitation care, benefits not paid for by provincial or territorial health care programs, cost of long-term care and home care.

Category 2: Reduced coverage

Hospital, doctor, diagnostic services, medicines, and vaccines only if needed to prevent or treat a disease posing a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern.  Here are some examples of what is and is not covered in Category 2: Reduced Coverage:

  • Covered: HIV medications and treatment, flu shots, tuberculosis medicine and treatment
  • NOT covered: childbirth care, doctor’s visits, hospital services, and medications for illnesses that do not pose a risk to public health (e.g.: asthma, diabetes)

Benefits cut from IFHP

The following benefits were cut completely from the IFHP and are available in either category:

  • Vision Care (eyeglasses, lenses, vision tests)
  • Dental Care (emergency exams, x-rays, extractions, fillings, anaesthesia, dentures)
  • Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy
  • Home care visits and long-term care home facilities
  • Speech therapy
  • Oxygen therapy and respiratory aids
  • Hearing aids
  • Mobility aids (such as wheelchairs)
  • Orthotics and Prosthetics
  • Pressure garments and continence aids
  • Ostomy and surgical supplies

Prescription drug coverage was also eliminated for all IFHP recipients unless the drugs are to treat a disease that is a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern.  The list of diseases that are a “risk to public health” is found on the Public Health Agency of Canada website:  A condition of “public safety concern” is a mental health condition in a person for which a physician is of the opinion that the person will likely cause harm to others.

Refugee claimants or refused refugee claimants who receive a drug card through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) will still be able to access prescription medications using their ODSP or OW drug card.  It is the doctor’s visits and hospital visits for issues other than HIV treatment that are affected.

In special circumstances, the Minister may grant IFHP “custom coverage” to those who would not otherwise qualify for the full IFHP coverage.

For more information about the IFHP for people living with HIV in Ontario, please contact us.

Sponsorship of Parents and Grandparents suspended

(November 2011)

As of November 5, 2011, Immigration Canada will no longer accept applications from people to sponsor their parents and grandparents for permanent residence in Canada.  Applications that have already been filed will still be processed.  The suspension will last for up to two years while the government reconsiders the immigration process for parents and grandparents.

New “super visa” for visiting Parents and Grandparents
(November 2011)

Immigration Canada has also announced that starting in December 2011, there will be a new type of visitor visa for parents and grandparents who wish to visit their family in Canada.  These “super visas” will be valid for 10 years and will allow for multiple trips and stays in Canada of up to 24 months at a time.  A requirement for the “super visa” will be that the parent or grandparent will need private health insurance to cover any health care necessary during their time in Canada.  For more information about these new announcements, please contact HALCO.


Immigration Law Resources

Our HALCO news newsletters often include articles about immigration and refugee law (scroll down on Our Publications page to access all of our newsletters):

Watch for our HIV and Immigration law booklets that are coming soon.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network produces a variety of publications about HIV and Canada’s immgration laws that are available on the Legal Network’s

Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) produces public legal education pamphlets and fact sheets about Canada’s immigration and refugee law available on-line on the CLEO website:

The Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) website also has information about Canadian immigration law:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is the Government of Canada department that is responsible for citizenship, immigration and refugee law in Canada.  The CIC website includes citizenship, immigration and refugee information:

Getting legal help

If you are living with HIV in Ontario and have questions about Canadian immigration law, please contact us for free legal advice.

If you are living in Ontario, you can also contact your local community legal clinic.  If your local legal clinic does not assist with immigration law matters, the clinic may give you information and provide referrals to other services.

The Law Society of Upper Canada operates the LawSociety Referral Service (LSRS).  The LSRS provides callers with a referral for up to 30 minutes of consultation with a lawyer or paralegal either by phone or in person at no charge.  An LSRS Legal Information Officer receives the call, assesses the needs of the client, and then provides the name of a lawyer or paralegal who best fits the client’s stated needs. The LSRS is not designed to provide legal advice or second opinions, and any fees should be discussed with the lawyer or paralegal.  The LSRS can be reached by calling either 416-947-3330 or toll free 1-800-268-8326 outside the Greater Toronto area (TTY Phone: 416-644-4886). For more information please see the Law Society Referral Service information on the Law Society of Upper Canada website: