Understanding the IRCC’s Humanitarian And Compassionate Applications For Permanent Residency


A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.
A young person sits in front of a lake in Banff, Alberta with the Rocky Mountains in the background

Canada is known for its diverse society and welcoming immigration policies. Among the many paths to Canadian permanent residency, one of the most compassionate is the application for permanent residence on Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) grounds. This pathway reflects Canada’s commitment to fairness and offers a lifeline for individuals who may not meet the criteria for other immigration programs but have established deep ties to Canada.

What Are Humanitarian & Compassionate Applications?

H&C applications are considered under Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). They are designed for people who are currently living in Canada and would experience unusual, undeserved, or disproportionate hardship if required to leave the country.

Unlike refugee or asylum applications, H&C applications are not for those facing risks in their home country, such as persecution. Instead, they are assessed on the applicant’s establishment in Canada and the potential hardships they might face upon return to their homeland.

Who Can Apply Under H&C Grounds?

Eligibility for H&C consideration is not defined by strict criteria, making it a unique component of Canada’s immigration system. Generally, anyone can apply; however, some individuals are exempt from H&C consideration, such as those who have had a negative refugee determination within the last 12 months. It’s also important to note that H&C applications should be the last resort and not an alternative to other immigration avenues.

Factors Considered In H&C Applications

The assessment of an H&C application is highly personalized. IRCC officers look at several factors, including:

Establishment in Canada

This is perhaps one of the most significant factors in an H&C application. The term “establishment” refers to how settled an individual is in Canada and their contributions to the community. Here are some aspects that officers consider:

  • Employment History: Long-term, stable employment is a strong indicator of establishment.
  • Community Involvement: Active participation in community organizations, volunteer work, or other civic engagements.
  • Social Connections: Relationships with neighbors, friends, and community members.
  • Economic Contributions: Whether the applicant is self-sufficient, pays taxes, and has not needed social assistance.

Best Interests of Children Involved

The impact of the decision on children is given considerable weight in H&C decisions:

  • Impact on Education: How a move might disrupt a child’s education or access to educational resources.
  • Psychological Impact: The mental and emotional effect that leaving Canada could have on a child.
  • Stability and Security: Consideration of the child’s need for a stable and secure environment.

It’s important to note that the best interests of the child do not automatically lead to a positive H&C decision but are given significant importance.

Health Considerations

Health issues are carefully reviewed, particularly when the applicant or their dependents have medical conditions that cannot be adequately addressed in their home country:

  • Availability of Treatment: The availability and quality of medical treatment for the applicant’s condition in their home country.
  • Impact on the Applicant’s Health: How removal from Canada would worsen the applicant’s health or well-being.

Family Ties to Canada

The existence of family in Canada and the potential impact on both the applicant and their family members if the applicant were to leave is considered:

  • Separation from Family: The emotional, psychological, and financial consequences of separation.
  • Status of Family Members: The immigration status of family members in Canada (e.g., are they citizens, permanent residents, etc.).

Consequences of Separation

The broader consequences of the applicant being forced to leave Canada are taken into account:

  • Hardship Upon Return: The conditions of the country of origin and the personal circumstances that might lead to hardship upon return.
  • Integration into Canadian Society: How well the applicant has integrated into Canadian society and the life they have built in Canada.

Additional Considerations

Aside from the factors listed above, several other considerations may come into play:

  • Length of Residence in Canada: Time spent in Canada can indicate how rooted an individual is in Canadian society.
  • Age: Elderly applicants may face greater hardship if removed from Canada.
  • Gender-related Issues: Women and LGBTQ+ individuals may face unique hardships in their countries of origin that can be considered under H&C grounds.

While H&C applications offer a chance for those with compelling stories, they also come with challenges. The burden of proof lies with the applicant, and there is no guarantee of success. Moreover, there are no appeals for refused H&C applications, though judicial review by the Federal Court is possible.


Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds applications are a testament to Canada’s inclusive approach to immigration. They offer individuals who have made Canada their home a chance to avoid undue hardship and contribute fully to Canadian society. 

IRCC’s provision for H&C applications underscores a compassionate understanding that sometimes the strict criteria of immigration programs do not capture the nuances of human lives and circumstances. As with all immigration pathways, applicants must carefully consider their eligibility and the strength of their application before proceeding.

Ksenia Tchern

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.