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Common-Law Partner Sponsorship

Common-law partner sponsorship: A common-law partner is a person who has been living with their partner in a conjugal relationship (marriage-like relationship) for at least one year. The partners can be either of the opposite sex or the same-sex. In the context of immigration, the term "common-law partnership" refers to a situation in which a couple has been living together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year.

 

A common-law partnership is a de facto relationship, whereas marriage is considered a de jure relationship. While common-law partners are not legally bound to each other in the same way that married couples are, they do enjoy many of the same benefits, such as the ability to sponsor one another for immigration purposes.

 

Sponsoring one's common-law partner for immigration to Canada requires a sponsor to demonstrate that they are capable of supporting their partner in terms of providing them with adequate housing and financial assistance. A common-law relationship starts when two people show proof that they have been living together as a married couple. The onus is on the applicant to prove that they have been living common-law for at least one year before filing an application.

quick facts

  • Processing time: 12 - 27 months

  • Fees: C$1165.00

  • Minimum income required - Not Applicable

 

  • Minimum age of sponsor: 18 years

  • Sponsor must be Canadian citizen of Permanent Resident

Definition of Common-law relationship for Canadian immigration purpose​

 

A common-law relationship is legally a de facto relationship, meaning that it must be established in each individual case, based on the facts. This is in contrast to a marriage, which is legally a de jure relationship, meaning that it has been established in law.

De Facto Relationship vs De jure Relationship

Understanding the differences between a de facto and de jure relationship is essential to successfully navigate the Canadian common law sponsorship process. A de facto relationship is one in which two people live together as if they were married or in a conjugal relationship, but without a legal marriage or civil union. De jure relationships are those that are legally recognized by law and typically involve marriage, civil union, or common-law partnership.

Who is a common-law partner for Canadian immigration purposes?

Your common-law partner:

  • isn’t legally married to you

  • can be either sex

  • is 18 or older

  • has been living with you for at least 12 consecutive months, meaning:

    • you’ve been living together continuously for one year, without any long periods apart

    • if either of you left your home it was for:

      • family obligations

      • work or business travel

    • any time spent away from each other must have been:

      • short

      • temporary

 

Note: If at least one partner chooses to end the relationship, IRCC will consider the partnership to be over in terms of a sponsorship application.

Who is eligible to sponsor a common law partner?

You can sponsor the person as your common-law partner (same or opposite gender) as long as you’ve been living or have lived with your partner for at least 12 consecutive months in a marriage-like relationship.

In addition to the above, a sponsor must: 

  • Be at least 18 years old.

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or a person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act.

    • Canadian citizens living outside Canada must show they plan to live in Canada when the sponsored person(s) become permanent residents.

    • Permanent residents living outside Canada cannot be sponsors.

  • Be able to prove they are not receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability.

  • Be able to provide for the basic needs of those being sponsored.

 

To sponsor a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, the sponsor will be financially responsible for the sponsored person(s) for at least 3 years from when they become permanent residents. This means they would need to sign an undertaking stating that they will provide food, shelter, clothing and all other basic needs and necessities for a period of 3 years from the day their partner becomes a Canadian permanent resident.

 

Note: This includes providing financial support and repaying any social assistance received by the sponsored person(s) in that time.​

When you sponsor a spouse or common-law partner, you must specify the “Class of Application” on the checklist you’ll submit.

Which class of application to choose between Family Class and Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada class when submitting a sponsorsorship application?

Apply under the Family Class if:

  • the person you want to sponsor does not live in Canada. Check Outland Spousal Sponsorship

  • the person you want to sponsor currently lives with you in Canada but doesn’t plan to stay in Canada while the application is being processed

  • you plan to appeal if the application is refused

  • you’re sponsoring your conjugal partner or dependent child

 

Apply under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class if your spouse or common-law partner:

  • is currently living with you in Canada and plans to stay in Canada while the application is being processed. Check Inland Spousal Sponsorship

  • has valid temporary resident status in Canada, or is exempt from needing this status under a public policy

  • would like to apply for, and qualifies for, an Open Work Permit so that they can work while the application is being processed

What is the mandatory 12 month cohabitation requirement for Common-law partner sponsorship? 

Cohabitation means living together in a marriage like relationship. Cohabiting couples must have combined their finances and established their household in the same house. This shows emotional as well as financial co-dependency. The couple must have cohabited for at least 12 months to be considered common-law partners for Canadian immigration applications. Since this is the official definition used while assessing your common-law partner sponsorship application for permanent residence in Canada, it needs to be 1-year of continuous cohabitation, not one year of intermittent cohabitation. The continuous nature of cohabitation is a case-law-based universal understanding.

While cohabitation implies continuous living together, one or both partners may have leave home for work or business travel, family obligations, and so on. The time spent apart (not living together) must be brief and temporary.

Common-law partner sponsorship and the period of cohabitation

I am eligible to sponsor as soon as I start cohabiting with my common-law partner - INCORRECT. Those who believe they may be eligible to sponsor right away as soon as they begin living together frequently consider a common-law relationship to be equivalent to a spousal relationship, and because married people can sponsor their spouses, they can also sponsor their partners right after they begin cohabiting together. When applying as a common-law partner you need to wait until 1-year of cohabitation between you and your common-law partner has been completed.

It is also INCORRECT to believe that you need to wait for 3 years to apply for sponsorship as a common-law partner. DO NOT confuse the requirement with family law interpretation of common-law (for at least three years to claim spousal support) as under immigration context you only need to have cohabitated in a marriage like (common-law) relationship for a period of 12 months.

Can I sponsor my common-law partner if I am currently not living inside Canada? 

The physical presence requirements when sponsoring your common-law partner are different for Canadian Citizens as opposed to Canadian Permanent Residents.

Canadian Citizens: If you are sponsoring your common-law partner and you yourself are a Canadian citizen, then you can apply for the sponsorship from outside Canada. However, you will need to sign a declaration in addition to convincing the immigration officer that you and your common-law partner will move to Canada once the application has been processed.

Canadian Permanent Residents: Must be physically present & living inside Canada in order to be eligible to sponsor their common-law partner. Permanent residents can not sponsor their common-law partners whilst living abroad. 

Can I sponsor my common-law partner if they are currently living outside Canada? 

1-year of continuous cohabitation is a minimum requirement when applying to sponsor your common-law partner. However, upon completion of the mandatory 12 months of cohabitation the partners may live apart for temporary periods while maintaining their common-law partnership.

The reasons for temporary separation include:

  • Educational or employment related reasons

  • Death or illness of a family member

  • Extreme country conditions such as war or political unrest.

 

In such circumstances, the couple may still apply for sponsorship if they can provide documentation to support their situation and evidence of their intent to cohabit as soon as the situation changes. Similar to a marriage, the partners in a common-law relationship should demonstrate their intent to be together and reconcile as quickly as possible.

 

A prolonged length of separation may be detrimental to the application's success.

Can I sponsor my common-law partner if either of us were previously in a common-law relationship?

A common-law relationship ends when one of the partners dies or when at least one of the partners doesn't want to keep living together. When the sponsor or applicant has been in a common-law relationship before, they need to provide enough evidence to show that at least one partner wanted to stop living together in that relationship and that the relationship has ended.

Can I sponsor my common-law partner if either of us are legally married to another person?

People who are married to other people can be considered common-law partners if their marriage has ended and they have lived apart from their spouse for at least a year, during which time they have lived with their common-law partner in a married relationship. Cohabiting with a common-law partner isn't considered to have begun until the couple is physically apart from their spouse. A common-law relationship can't be recognized by the law if one or both of the people involved are still legally married to someone else and are still living together.

When the sponsor is legally married to someone else, assessing officers must be satisfied that the sponsor is separated from and no longer cohabits with the legal spouse. The same restriction applies to the applicant, when applicable. In light of insufficient proof, an officer may request additional evidence, such as:

  • a signed formal declaration that the marriage has ended and that the person has entered into a common-law relationship

  • a separation agreement

  • a court order in respect of custody of children substantiating the marriage breakdown, or

  • documents removing the legally married spouse(s) from insurance policies or wills as beneficiaries (a “change of beneficiary” form)

 

In the above circumstances, the legal spouse will not be examined. This spouse cannot subsequently be sponsored by the principal applicant

Can I sponsor a previously-separated spouse as a common-law partner?

A sponsor's legally separated spouse who was a non-accompanying family member and wasn't told about or looked into because the sponsor was in a common-law or conjugal partner relationship at the time can't be sponsored by the spouse in Canada.

In these situations, an officer must decide that R 4(1)(a)(b) doesn't apply, which means that the common-law or married relationship wasn't ended just for immigration reasons and that the new relationship with the former spouse is real.

As per the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations R 4(1)(a)(b):

“Bad faith

  • 4 (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered a spouse, a common-law partner, or a conjugal partner of a person if the marriage, common-law partnership, or conjugal partnership

    • (a) was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act; or

    • (b) is not genuine.”

The sponsor has to show that the previous relationship has ended in a way that is acceptable.

If information provided in the Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation form is insufficient, an officer may request additional evidence, such as:

  • Proof of joint ownership of property.

  • Proof of joint bank accounts.

  • Documents showing the same addresses such as licenses, insurance policies, etc.

  • Documents from other institutions or government authorities, such as the Canada Revenue Agency, that indicate a marital relationship

Divorce and subsequent remarriage do not overcome exclusion under R117(9)(d). If a Canadian citizen or permanent resident submits an application to sponsor a previously separated spouse, the previously separated spouse may be excluded if they were married but not examined at the time that the sponsor applied for permanent residence.

What are the income requirements for a Common-law partner Sponsorship application for Canada?

In most cases, there is no income requirement to sponsor a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner.

The financial requirements for sponsoring a common-law partner change when a spouse or partner that has a dependent child, and their dependent child has 1 or more children of their own. In such a scenario, the sponsor must prove that they meet the Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) as determined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This income level varies depending on the number of people being sponsored and how many dependents they have. Sponsors must also sign an undertaking that they will support the common-law partner financially for three years after they become permanent residents of Canada.

In order to demonstrate their MNI, sponsors must provide their Notice of Assessment (NOA) from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the past three years or present other proof of their income, such as pay stubs or bank statements. They must also show that they have not received any social assistance during the sponsorship process. If a sponsor is unable to meet the MNI criteria, they may be eligible to submit a common law sponsorship application with a co-signer who meets the financial requirements.

Note: Your financial commitment will remain in place for 3 years even if you and your common-law partner break-up/ are not together anymore.

Assessing a Common-Law Partnership

Since the couple is not married, providing a marriage certificate is impossible. However, a common-law partner relationship can be proved by sharing (but not limited to) the following proof of relationship documents:

  • Declaration of common-law partnership​

  • Proof that you and your spouse own property together,

  • If you are renting, then a joint lease agreement,

  • Evidence of a common mailing address,

  • Shared bank accounts/credit cards, 

  • Utility bills with both of your names, 

  • Copies of government-issued IDs, 

  • Life insurance beneficiary nomination, home/auto insurance co-policy owner,

  • Combined household expenses,

  • Pay stubs or tax forms that show that you live at the same address

Prohibited Common-law Partnerships

 

You can't be a common-law partner or a conjugal partner with more than one person at the same time. By definition, the word "conjugal" means that two people are only together and have a strong commitment to each other. It can't happen with more than two people at the same time. 

 

Polygamous-like relationships cannot be considered conjugal and do not qualify as common-law or conjugal partner relationships.

Because common-law relationships are defined as conjugal relationships, they are subject to the same legal restrictions as marriages, such as prohibited degrees of consanguinity. The list of relationships in the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act that fall within the prohibited degrees also applies to common-law partners.

The following persons are not recognized as common-law partners specifically for matters of Canadian immigration:

  • persons in an incestuous relationship

  • one or both partners under the minimum age of consent (less than 18 years* old)

  • Criminal Inadmissibility - one of the partners detained or incarcerated for what would be offences in Canada under the Criminal Code

*Partners may begin to live together before age 18, but their relationship is not legally recognized as common-law until both partners have been cohabiting for one year since both were at least 18 years of age.

On what grounds can my common-law partner sponsorship application to Canada be refused?

Always remember that the burden of proof lies with the applicant. The immigration department of Canada will make a decision on proof that they find genuine and authentic. If for any reasons, an assessing officer doubts that your relationship has been purposely entered into for Canadian permanent residence, your application will be denied.

Here are some of the main reasons why your spousal sponsorship application could be refused:

  1. You did not provide enough proof of relationship to prove it is legitimate;

  2. There were errors in the Canadian common-law sponsorship application forms;

  3. There was a misrepresentation of facts presented in your application;

  4. You are unable to meet basic requirements for spousal sponsorship;

  5. You or your partner are inadmissible due to a conviction or pose a risk to Canadian society.

Need help in applying for Sponsorship? Hire an authorized paid representative.

IMMERGITY Immigration Consultant are very experienced with the application process and can help you navigate the system. We will also provide valuable insights and tips on how to increase your chances of success. Get in touch now.

If you're thinking of hiring a representative, be sure to check that they're authorized by IRCC. You can verify our credentials by clicking here.

Hiring a representative is not required, but it can be helpful, especially if you're not familiar with the application process. If you decide to hire a representative, be sure to choose someone who you trust and who you feel comfortable working with.

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