Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Uncertain Future, Unsettled Present? Everyday Geographies of Precarious Immigration Status in Toronto, Canada

Document type Thesis
Author Dennler, Kathryn Elizabeth
Degree Ph.D., Geography
Publisher York University; Toronto
Date 2020
Pages 299 pages


Increasing processing times for immigration applications and increasing numbers of people admitted on temporary visas mean that more newcomers spend longer periods of time living in Canada with restricted rights and uncertain if they will be able to remain. This has contributed to an increase in precarious immigration status, which refers to a sense of insecurity caused by ones formal immigration status. The purpose of the dissertation is to examine how people are affected by living for prolonged periods of time with uncertainty about future residence and how these effects vary across space and time. The study, based on qualitative research with migrants in Toronto and people who work on migration issues, investigates how immigration status is performed in everyday life and how immigration status intersects with other social relations to produce distinctive affective textures of life in Toronto. The research shows that formal immigration status affects people differently depending on their migration motivations, capacities, and community support networks. Lack of reliable information about the time required to become eligible for permanent residence and application processing times make it more difficult for people to make decisions about how to orient themselves towards the future, the present, and the passage of time in ways that meet their needs. It identifies two salient temporal orientationssuspending or embracing engagement with everyday lifeeach of which comes with benefits and risks. Finally, the research suggests that contemporary practices of immigration control can lead to an internalization of discourses that construct people with precarious immigration status as unworthy of membership in Canadian society. Participants sought to undermine these discourses through narrative redefinition of themselves as people who have something to contribute but are stopped from doing so. I find that this resistance is necessary to peoples ability to persist, yet it has a limited effect on the harm done. The research findings contribute to scholarly understandings of formal immigration status and the slow violence of living with precarious immigration status.