There are two different ways to be sponsored for permanent residence under the family class: within Canada and outside Canada. Outside Canada does not necessarily mean that the applicant has to be physically overseas; sometimes you can be in Canada while the application is being processed in your country of origin.
There are several differences between having the application processed within or outside Canada. Some of them are the length of time to be processed; the right of appeal and the option to obtain a work permit while waiting for permanent residence.
For people who decide to have their application processed within Canada, there is a common question: Can I travel outside Canada if I have an application for permanent residence in process?
Before I answer the question. It is important to know that the Manual IP 8, Section 5.28 reads as follows:
5.28. Applicants who leave Canada before a final decision is taken on their application for permanent residence.
Foreign Nationals are not provided with any guarantees that they will be allowed to return to or re-enter Canada. If they are unable to do so, their application for permanent residence may be refused because they are not cohabiting with their spouse or common-law partner at the time the case is finalized [R72(1)(d) and R124(a)].
This being said, should you travel outside Canada while having an application to be sponsored for permanent residence by your spouse or common-law partner there are several factors to be considered prior to your departure from Canada:
1) Did you have legal status prior to applying for permanent residence?
2) Have you maintained your legal status after submitting the application? (Having filed a separate application from the PR application as a visitor, student or worker and have been issued the right document already)
3) Do you currently have a multiple-entry visa (different from a permit or status), if you are from a visa required country? – If you are from a visa exempt country, question #3 does not apply to you.
If you answered YES to all of the questions above, there is a chance that you may not have any problem to travel and come back to Canada.
If you answered NO to at least one of the questions, it means you must not leave Canada as you will not be granted re-entry due to the lack of legal status or having contravened any of the conditions of your previous stay in Canada.
You should consider that the officer at the port of entry has the discretion to refuse your entry. Should this be the case, your application for permanent residence will be cancelled because you will not meet the requirement of being physically present in Canada with your sponsor while the application is being processed.
It is common to hear that if you are applying for permanent residence you are not allowed to leave Canada at any time. This is not entirely true, however, this saying is accurate for people who are applying under public policy (applied for permanent residence when they did not have legal status in Canada).
If you are planning to travel outside Canada while your application is being processed, it would be a good idea to leave only for a short period of time, if your sponsor can accompany you is better and be prepared to be asked some questions at the port of entry. Also keep in mind this article and remember that if for some reason you are not allowed to enter Canada your application for permanent residence may be cancelled as per the regulations.
Although, some of my clients travel outside Canada often while having their applications for sponsorship in process, I have made sure they have all the proper paperwork with them prior to departing in order to reduce the risk of being denied entry into Canada after their trip.
Please note that no regulation forbids you to leave the country while in process, but it is your obligation to make sure you meet the requirements to re-enter Canada.