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  • Writer's pictureImmergity Immigration Consultant

First Stage Approval of Spousal Sponsorship Application

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

First Stage Approval of Spousal Sponsorship Application

Explanation of the two-stage process for spousal sponsorship applications

The spousal sponsorship application consists of a two-stage process. The first stage focuses on the eligibility of the sponsoring spouse, while the second stage assesses the sponsored spouse's admissibility to the country. Both stages must be successfully completed for the sponsored spouse to obtain permanent residency.

First Stage Approval in Spousal Sponsorship

  • Canada introduced this two-stage approval system to curb fraudulent applications. At this stage, immigration officers evaluate if the relationship is legitimate, whether it's marriage, common-law, or conjugal.

  • If the relationship is found to be genuine, the application moves to the second stage. If doubts arise, applicants may receive a Request for More Evidence (RFE).

  • It's essential to know that passing the first stage doesn't guarantee permanent residency. It merely signifies that the relationship isn't considered fraudulent.

  • The emphasis in this stage is on the relationship itself. The sponsored person's medical, criminal, and security evaluations typically occur in the second stage.

  • As a sponsor, one should be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, meet specific age and financial requirements, and not have been sponsored as a spouse within the last 5 years.

  • To understand the importance of the first stage, consider its role as a filtering mechanism. It weeds out applications that don't meet the primary criteria for spousal sponsorship.

  • If an application doesn't pass the first stage, it's denied without further review. This underscores the need for a well-prepared and documented application.

  • Applicants should be proactive. Regularly checking the status of their application through their online account helps them stay updated.

  • This stage is equally vital for both inland and outland applications. The primary difference being where the sponsored person resides during the application process.

  • In the case of doubts or complications, it's always wise to consult an immigration expert. They can provide guidance tailored to the specifics of the application.

Documents Required for First Stage Approval

When preparing for the First Stage Approval, documentation is paramount. The correct documents validate the relationship's authenticity and establish its legitimacy.

  • Proof of Relationship: This could include marriage certificates, shared property or lease agreements, photographs over time, correspondence, and more.

  • Forms: The required forms need to be duly filled, including the sponsorship evaluation form and the relationship information and sponsorship evaluation.

  • Proof of Sponsor's Status: A Canadian sponsor must provide proof of their citizenship or permanent residency.

  • Proof of Termination of Previous Marriages: If either partner was previously married, they need to furnish divorce certificates or death certificates.

Document Type



​Marriage Certificate

Verifies the marital status

Mandatory if Married


Showcasing the relationship over time

Highly Recommended

Joint Accounts

Proof of shared financial responsibilities

Optional but Beneficial

Previous Marriage Termination

Divorce or death certificate

​If applicable

  • Make sure all documents are clear, legible, and, if not in English or French, accompanied by a certified translation.

  • If you're missing a document, provide an explanation. A letter detailing why a particular document is absent and any proof corroborating the reason can be beneficial.

  • Timelines matter. Ensure that all documents, especially financial ones, are recent and up-to-date.

  • Organizing documents in a logical order, with an accompanying index, can aid officers in efficiently processing the application.

  • While the focus of the first stage is on relationship genuineness, it's crucial not to overlook the sponsor's requirements. They must meet specific financial thresholds and not have a criminal record that makes them ineligible to sponsor.

Timeline for First Stage Approval Process

Understanding the timeline for the First Stage Approval ensures applicants can plan accordingly and set realistic expectations.

  • The processing time can vary significantly based on several factors including the visa office, application volume, and whether it's an inland or outland application.

  • On average, the first stage approval might take anywhere between 3 to 6 months. However, this is a rough estimate and can change.

Application Type

Estimated Duration


​4-6 months


3-5 months

  • Regularly checking the status of the application through the online portal provides insights into its progress.

  • Delays can occur, especially if there's a surge in applications or if additional verifications are needed.

  • If there's a Request for More Evidence (RFE), this can extend the timeline. It's essential to respond promptly to any RFEs to minimize delays.

  • The presence of public holidays, operational efficiencies, and internal policies can also influence the timeline.

  • Always be prepared for variability. While it's helpful to have an estimated timeline, understand that each case is unique.

  • Periodic updates from the immigration department can offer insights into where the application stands.

  • If it seems like the application is taking longer than the average time, consider consulting with an immigration expert to understand any potential issues.

Ensuring Success in First Stage Approval

Securing success in the First Stage Approval of the Spousal Sponsorship Application requires thorough preparation, understanding the nuances of the process, and ensuring all criteria are met. Here are guidelines and steps to enhance your chances of a positive outcome.

  1. Complete Documentation: This can't be stressed enough. Ensure you have all the required documents ready. Whether it's proof of relationship, financial documents, or any other supporting evidence, completeness is key. [Link to Documentation Checklist]

  2. Authenticity in Relationship Proof: Present genuine evidence that showcases the progression and authenticity of your relationship. Photographs, letters, chats, joint account statements, and more can serve as evidence. Avoid the temptation of overloading with redundant proof; quality over quantity matters.

  3. Clear & Legible Copies: Ensure all submitted documents are clear and easy to read. If they're in a language other than English or French, provide certified translations.

  4. Follow Instructions to the Letter: The guidelines provided are there for a reason. Ensure every instruction, whether it’s about the format, size, or order of documents, is followed precisely.

  5. Continuous Updates: If there are any changes in your circumstances, like a change of address, job, or family situation, update the immigration authorities promptly. This keeps your application current and avoids any miscommunications or doubts.

  6. Timely Response: If you get a Request for More Evidence (RFE), respond as quickly as possible. Delaying your response can not only elongate your processing time but might also raise questions about the authenticity of your evidence.

  7. Seek Expert Help: If you're unsure about any aspect of the application, consider consulting with an immigration expert. Their experience can guide you, ensuring you haven't overlooked any details.

  8. Stay Updated on Policy Changes: Immigration policies can change. Keep yourself updated about any new rules or guidelines regarding spousal sponsorship. Regularly visiting the official IRCC website or subscribing to their updates can be beneficial. [Link to IRCC Updates]

  9. Financial Readiness: As the sponsor, you need to demonstrate financial stability to support your spouse once they're in Canada. Ensure your financial documents are up-to-date, and you meet the necessary requirements.

  10. Prepare for Interviews: While not always mandatory, be prepared for a potential interview. This could be a chance for the officer to ask further questions about your relationship. Honesty, consistency in responses, and showcasing genuine relationship evidence are pivotal during these sessions.

Common Reasons for Delays in First Stage Approval

The First Stage Approval in the Spousal Sponsorship Application process is crucial, as it focuses on the sponsor's eligibility and the genuineness of the relationship. However, several factors can lead to delays during this stage. Understanding these factors can help applicants be proactive and avoid potential hold-ups.

  1. Incomplete Documentation: One of the most frequent reasons for delays. Missing documents or submitting incomplete forms can result in requests for additional information, pushing back the approval timeline. [Link to Documentation Checklist]

  2. Unclear or Illegible Copies: Submitting copies that are hard to read or unclear can prompt the reviewing officer to request clearer versions, causing a delay. It's always wise to double-check that all copies are legible.

  3. Questions About Relationship Authenticity: If the reviewing officer has concerns or doubts about the genuineness of the relationship, it might lead to further scrutiny. This can include requests for additional proof or even interviews.

  4. Volume of Applications: Sometimes, the delay isn't due to the applicant's error but rather the sheer volume of applications the immigration office is handling. Peak application times can lead to longer processing times.

  5. Background Checks: Comprehensive background checks are standard, and sometimes these can take longer than anticipated, especially if there's a need for further verification.

  6. Medical Exams or Criminal Checks: If there are issues or delays with medical exams or criminal background checks, this can stall the application. For instance, if a medical condition needs further tests or if there's a criminal record that requires more detailed examination. [Link to Medical Exam Details]

  7. Errors in Application: Small errors, even things like typos or inconsistencies in different sections of the application, can lead to delays as officials might need clarification.

  8. Changes in Personal Circumstances: Any changes in the sponsor's or applicant's status, such as financial status, job, or family situation, which aren't updated promptly can cause delays.

  9. External Factors: Events like postal strikes, global pandemics, or other unforeseen circumstances can influence processing times.

  10. Policy Changes or Updates: Changes in immigration policies or rules during the application process can sometimes affect ongoing applications, leading to extended review times.

  11. Incomplete or Delayed Responses: If the immigration authorities request additional information or clarification and the applicant doesn't respond promptly, this can significantly delay the process.

How to Address a Request for More Evidence (RFE) During First Stage

Receiving a Request for More Evidence (RFE) during the First Stage Approval of a Spousal Sponsorship Application can be unsettling. However, it's crucial to view it as an opportunity to provide clarity or additional documentation to support your application. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to appropriately address an RFE:

Carefully Review the RFE: Read through the entire request thoroughly. Understand exactly what evidence or information is being asked for. This will guide your next steps.

Stay Calm and Organized: Remember, an RFE is not a rejection. It's a request for further information to make a decision on your application. Approach the situation calmly and methodically.

Take Note of Deadlines: The RFE will have a deadline by which you must respond. Mark this date prominently and aim to address the request well in advance to account for any unforeseen delays.

Gather the Necessary Documents: Based on what's asked in the RFE, gather all required documents. This might include bank statements, photos, communication records, affidavits, or other specific evidence to prove the genuineness of your relationship.

Ensure Clarity and Legibility: All documents, especially copies, should be clear and legible. If translations are required, ensure they are professionally done and accompanied by a certificate of translation.

Include a Cover Letter: Write a cover letter to accompany your response. This should outline the contents of your reply and address each point raised in the RFE. It helps in guiding the reviewing officer through your submission.

Consider Seeking Professional Help: If you're unsure about any aspect of the RFE, consider consulting with an immigration attorney or consultant. They can provide guidance and ensure your response is comprehensive.

Double-Check Everything: Before sending, review everything thoroughly. Ensure no document is missing, and all information is accurate.

Keep Copies and Records: Make copies of everything you send in response to the RFE. This includes the cover letter, all documents, and even the envelope and postage. It's good practice to have a record of your communication.

Send Via Trackable Mail:

When mailing your response, use a service that provides tracking and delivery confirmation. This ensures you have proof of timely submission.

Follow Up:

After sending your response, you can monitor its delivery via the tracking service. Once you confirm it's been received, wait for the immigration department's feedback. If you don't hear back after a reasonable time, consider following up to ensure everything is in order.

Addressing an RFE comprehensively and promptly is vital. It's an opportunity to solidify your application and provide the necessary evidence to move forward in the sponsorship process. Always be thorough and, when in doubt, seek expert advice.

Can I Travel During First Stage Approval Process?

For those undergoing the First Stage Approval for spousal sponsorship in Canada, a common question is about the feasibility and implications of traveling. The answer largely depends on whether the application is being processed via the Inland or Outland pathway. Let's delve into the specifics:

Inland Sponsorship:

Risk of Entry Denial: If the sponsored spouse travels outside of Canada during the processing of an Inland application, they risk being denied entry upon their return. This is especially true if the border officer believes the individual may not leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay.

Potential Application Refusal: If the sponsored spouse is denied re-entry into Canada, their Inland application could be refused because one of the primary conditions of Inland sponsorship is that the sponsored individual remains in Canada.

Application for Travel Document: In some cases, if the sponsored spouse needs to travel for compelling reasons, they might consider applying for a travel document. However, this can be a lengthy process, and there's no guarantee of approval. [Link to Applying for a Travel Document]

Outland Sponsorship:

Flexibility in Travel: Outland sponsorship generally offers more flexibility in terms of travel. The sponsored individual can travel in and out of Canada during the application process.

No Guarantee of Re-entry: While traveling is allowed, re-entry to Canada is never guaranteed. It's up to the discretion of the border officer to determine if the sponsored individual can re-enter.

Considerations for Extended Stays: If the sponsored individual plans to stay in Canada for an extended period during the application process, they should consider entering as a visitor. It's essential to ensure they have the necessary documents (e.g., a valid visitor visa) and can prove their intent to leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay.

General Travel Recommendations:

Stay Informed: Always be updated on current travel restrictions and guidelines, especially with ever-changing conditions like global health crises.

Keep Documentation Handy: It's a good idea to travel with copies of essential application documents, showing that there's an ongoing spousal sponsorship application. This can be useful if questioned upon return.

Consult Before Travel: If uncertain, consider consulting with an immigration expert or lawyer about the potential risks and implications of travel during the application process.

First Stage Approval Decision

Positive decision

  1. Proceeding to the second stage: If the first stage approval is successful, the application will proceed to the second stage, focusing on the admissibility of the sponsored spouse. During this stage, the authorities will assess the sponsored spouse's medical examination, background checks, and other relevant factors to determine their eligibility for permanent residency.

  2. Preparing for the next steps: Both the sponsor and the sponsored spouse should familiarize themselves with the requirements of the second stage and be prepared to submit additional documentation, if necessary. It is essential to be responsive to any requests for information from the authorities to avoid delays in the process.

Negative decision

  1. Possible reasons for refusal: The first stage approval may be refused for various reasons, including insufficient financial resources, incomplete or inaccurate documentation, concerns about the authenticity of the relationship, or the sponsor's criminal history or immigration violations.

  2. Options for reconsideration or appeal: If the first stage approval is denied, the sponsor may have the option to request a reconsideration or appeal the decision. The specific appeal process varies depending on the country and the reasons for refusal. It is crucial to follow the appropriate procedures and provide any additional evidence or documentation to support the appeal.

  3. Tips for reapplying: If an appeal is unsuccessful or not possible, the sponsor and the sponsored spouse may consider reapplying for spousal sponsorship. They should carefully review the reasons for refusal and address any issues or concerns before submitting a new application. Consulting with an immigration expert or attorney may also be helpful in identifying potential challenges and creating a plan to improve the likelihood of success.

At IMMERGITY Immigration Consultant, we are committed to reuniting families in Canada using our specialized skills and unwavering devotion. Our team of legal professionals offers expert services in sponsoring family members including spouses, partners, children, parents, and grandparents, as well as the Super Visa program. If you require assistance with family sponsorship, please don't hesitate to reach out to us for support.

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