Q: Can you tell me what happens if you leave the country after your status expires? Are there any penalties? Will there be any issues going through the U.S.?

A: When you arrive in Canada, the officer at the port-of-entry determines how long you will be allowed to stay in the country -- usually a period of six months.

In the normal case, no one from the Canadian government will scrutinize this date to see if you leave on time. Essentially, you are admitted on the honour system: we trust that you will leave when you are supposed to. If border officials wish to exercise some control over you, they will issue a visitor’s record that be will stapled in your passport, and you will be asked to verify your departure upon leaving Canada. If you don’t, they will come looking for you.

Unlike some countries, Canada has no exit controls. That means when you leave Canada you will not be inspected by immigration officials who might discover that you have overstayed.

However, should you come back to Canada, this may be discovered since border officials are able to discover your previous overstay by simply counting the days between your last admission to Canada and the next date in which you entered another country -- evidence shown as a port stamp in your passport. This could easily complicate your re-entry because the officer might conclude you are not likely to comply with any time limits that may be imposed on your stay.

As for penalties, if you are caught overstaying while in Canada you can expect to be arrested, detained, and issued a removal order. If this is only discovered upon your attempt to re-enter Canada, chances are you will be denied entry and sent home.

As for going through the U.S., don’t even think about it.

If you are without status in Canada, whether you have a visa to the U.S. or are exempt from having one, the first thing American border officials do when you are inspected is figure out what status you have in Canada. If you don’t have any, not only will you be denied entry to the U.S., your U.S. visa will likely be cancelled and you will be turned over to Canadian border officials who will then be aware that you were staying in Canada illegally. You will likely be detained by immigration officials and then given the boot.

If you find yourself here without status, its best to find a direct flight back home in order to avoid difficulties in any countries through which you might otherwise have to transit through.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an
immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at