I don’t have status in Canada. Can I get financial assistance from OW?

Ontario Works (OW) can help pay for living expenses, like rent and food. You don’t have to have permanent immigration status to get financial help from OW.

The law says you might not qualify for OW if:

  • you’re in Canada as a tourist,
  • you’re in Canada as a visitor, or
  • there’s a for you that can be used to make you leave Canada.

But you might still qualify for OW if you can show that you’re not able to leave Canada for a reason that is out of your control. Or you might qualify for OW if you have made an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.


Tourists in Canada can’t get from OW. A tourist is someone who is here for a short period of time and plans to leave. Usually, a tourist has temporary status in Canada.

But even if you came to Canada as a tourist, your status can change. For example, if you make a refugee claim, you are no longer a tourist and you might qualify for OW.


A visitor is similar to a tourist, but the difference is that visitors get a visitor visa in their country before they come to Canada. Someone with a valid visitor visa doesn’t qualify for OW unless they make:

  • a refugee claim, or
  • an H & C application for status.

People with no immigration status

The law is not clear on whether people with no immigration status are eligible for OW.

If you need financial assistance but you don’t have permanent status, you should get legal advice.

If your visitor status expired a while ago or because COVID-19 flight restrictions prevent you from leaving Canada, you should contact a community legal clinic. You might qualify for financial assistance.

People who have a removal order against them

You might not qualify for OW if there’s a removal order against you that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can legally use to remove you from Canada.  

As a result of COVID 19, CBSA is not removing most people from Canada. There are also other reasons that CBSA might not be able to remove you. For example:

  • You don’t have a passport or travel document and you haven’t been able to get one
  • You’re waiting for the CBSA to make arrangements to remove you
  • You’re from a country that Canada is not removing people to

But the CBSA will remove you if they think you’re a danger to the public or a threat to security in Canada, or if you tell them that you want to leave.

The CBSA can’t remove you if no other country will take you.

Even if CBSA could remove you, if you have already made an H & C application, you can apply for OW. But you should get legal advice first.

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