Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs) are the crazy glue, the duct tape, the Swiss Army Knife of the Canadian immigration world. Overstayed your TRV and past the point of restoration? Have a little criminal record admissibility problem? Worry not, there’s always the TRP. 

The term TRP is so commonly thrown around, you’d think it was a mini-chocolate bar being given out at Halloween. In reality, getting one can be more like randomly going up to people’s doors in the middle of summer demanding candy. Sure, they might have some. And sure, you might even get some if you ask nicely enough. But you shouldn't expect it just because you shove a pillow case through a front door in their general direction. 

WHAT IRCC SAYS ABOUT GROUNDS FOR ISSUING TRPs

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says TRPs respond to “compelling reasons” to enter or remain in Canada where there are “exceptional circumstances to meet Canada’s social, humanitarian and economic commitments while maintaining the health and security of Canadians.” 

So what are those compelling reasons and exceptional circumstances? It’s almost easier to pin down what they’re not. Seeing Niagara Falls from the Canadian side isn’t among them!

To get a TRP, you need to focus on the words “compelling” and “exceptional.” Simply wanting to get married in Canada likewise doesn’t cut it, even if you’ve got a Canadian fiancee. It’s possible to go elsewhere to get married.  The fact of getting married by itself is neither compelling nor exceptional.

HOW TO FIND THE TRP HOLY GRAIL RATHER THAN HOLY HAND GRENADE

To secure the TRP Holy Grail, you’ve got to do the hard-sell. Why are you different? What’s so special about your reason for needing to enter or stay in Canada? Why is that a much better reason than most people’s reasons. 

If you don’t do the hard-sell, your TRP aspirations for the Holy Grail could turn into a Holy Hand Grenade that you fumble. And we all know from at least watching the odd Hollywood movie (or having actually been in the military) what happens to a fumbled hand grenade.

Why the analogy? I’ve seen people plan their entire lives around their certainty of being able to get a TRP. Plan weddings. Buy houses. Enrol children in school. Pack up belonging for an imminent relocation. All equally confident that their little problem will be erased by the TRP immigration Holy Grail. 

When that TRP gets turned down, Holy Grail turns into Holy Hand Grenade as your life plans explode in your face. You could even get banned for life from Canada as a result of a failed TRP if you attempt to present it at a Port of Entry (see 5 Terrible Things that Happen at Canadian Borders), which is a pretty explosive result. 

Rather than being supremely confident in TRP success in making your immigration plans, you should do the opposite and assume you won’t get a TRP. Then, if you do find the Holy Grail, there won’t be any risk that you narrowly averted a Holy Hand Grenade accident. 

TRPs fix status problems, but don’t give you status in and of themselves. Meaning, if you are a spouse wishing to submit a spousal sponsorship notwithstanding a criminal inadmissibility problem, you can still do that without a TRP. You just might need to wait outside Canada during the processing of the application, because there are no TRP compelling reasons and exceptional circumstances to let you wait inside Canada. 

THE 4 MUSTS FOR GETTING THE MYTHICAL TRP HOLY GRAIL

So to find that TRP Holy Grail, you must:

1. show why your situation is exceptional and your reasons for entering or remaining in Canada are compelling;

2. provide convincing proof through documentary evidence of that exceptionality and those reasons;

3. tie that evidence to Canada’s social, humanitarian or economic commitments;

4. offer guarantees that will minimize the risk to the health and security of Canadians of your being in Canada. 

BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT SPECIAL, YOUR REASONS & CIRCUMSTANCES MUST BE

Remember, and repeat after me, “I’m not special.” There, was that so hard? Let’s try it again. “I’m not special.” Keep telling yourself that. 

Because you’re not special, it’s your reasons and circumstances for entry that need to be the special things. So saying how you volunteer five times a day brushing kittens isn’t going to get you a TRP - you aren’t special - but demonstrating what you do is special by being one of the few people in the world who is most qualified to repair special types of water treatment systems that are installed in Canada’s Indigenous communities, and that a community will be without safe drinking water unless you are let into Canada for precisely two weeks in order to repair that system is special. That might win on economic, social and humanitarian grounds.

Likewise a wedding in Canada could be exceptional if your mother whom you haven’t seen for 5 years is now terminally ill, living in Toronto and unable to travel, and thus you plan to hold the wedding in Toronto in the next 6 months so that she can attend. That might win on both the social and humanitarian front. But just including vague promises that this is the plan is NOT going to cut it. 

So, on the wedding front, #1 would you explain those reasons. But #2, you would dump in lots of documentary medical evidence of your mother’s illness, together with the certainty of your wedding plans - receipts from deposits on ceremony and reception venue, sample of the invitation cards that have already been printed, pictures of wedding rings or bridal gown and bridesmaids dresses or anything else that would make this real. Then #3, you explain the law supporting why this is truly consistent with Canada’s social and humanitarian commitments. Finally, #4 you offer some security guarantees to protect Canadians, like:

  • you’ll only be in Canada for one week just for the wedding and events immediately prior to and after it,

  • you won’t drive when you are in Canada (if you have a record involving a driving offence),

  • you won’t drink while you are in Canada (if alcohol was a factor in rendering you inadmissible),

  • you could even restrict your presence in Canada to never leaving the wedding and reception hotel, other than travelling directly to and from the airport. 

The foregoing types of arguments, evidence and conditions can be equally adapted to business entry to Canada, like in the above water treatment repair example. Business entry can be sold as really anything that’s good for Canada’s economy, including training in Canada of workers that a Canadian company is collaborating with overseas.

It all depends on how much you want this. If you really, really want the TRP Holy Grail, then you’ll be willing to make sacrifices. And even willing to risk your plans collapsing, including loosing deposits, if the Government of Canada says no. 

While not 100% of Canadian immigration application processes necessarily need the involvement of a lawyer, TRPs are so tricky that the involvement of legal counsel is highly advisable. That same counsel can then also give you alternatives for how to eventually make it into Canada, even if the TRP is unsuccessful.

Gordon Scott Campbell is a Canadian immigration and citizenship lawyer who especially helps clients with admissibility problems to Canada. He is author of three Canadian criminal law books, served as a Federal Crown Prosecutor for immigration and customs offences, and litigated public law trial and appellate cases as high as the Supreme Court of Canada. Learn more at www.compleximmigration.ca.