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Spousal Sponsorship - Everything you need to know

If a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is in a relationship with a foreign national, the foreign national may be sponsored to immigrate to Canada as their spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner.

This is possible due to the Family Class Sponsorship Program, which allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their foreign partner if they are in a genuine and continuing relationship. This program allows couples to reunite and build a future together in Canada, while also providing economic benefits to the Canadian economy by bringing foreign workers with in-demand skills and knowledge.

 

There are 2 main options you can choose to apply under: Inland Spousal Sponsorship - Primarily for common-law partners and spouses who live with their Canadian citizen or permanent resident partner inside Canada, and Outland Spousal Sponsorship - for spouses or conjugal partners who live outside Canada.​​

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Spousal Sponsorship Canada – Definition and Understanding

 

Spousal sponsorship in Canada is a part of the Family Class immigration category, which is aimed at bringing families together. The program allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner for permanent residence in Canada. The primary purpose is to allow families to reunite and live together in Canada.

There are two major types of spousal sponsorship: the Inland Spousal Sponsorship and the Outland Spousal Sponsorship.

  1. Inland Spousal Sponsorship: This applies when the spouse or partner being sponsored is already in Canada legally, on a valid temporary resident status such as a work permit, study permit, or visitor visa. The couple must prove that they are living together in a genuine relationship. During the application process, the applicant can also apply for an open work permit, allowing them to work in Canada while their application is being processed.

  2. Outland Spousal Sponsorship: This applies when the spouse or partner being sponsored is outside Canada. Although the couple must still prove that their relationship is genuine, they do not need to demonstrate that they are living together at the time of application.

 

In both scenarios, the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (the sponsor) must be at least 18 years old and must not be receiving social assistance for reasons other than disability.

The sponsor must also meet certain financial obligations. For instance, they must sign an undertaking to provide for the basic needs of their sponsored spouse or partner. This means they are financially responsible for the person they sponsor for a period of three years from the date the spouse becomes a permanent resident.

The relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person must be recognized as one of the following:

  1. Spouse: The couple is legally married. For those married outside Canada, the marriage must be valid under the law of the country where it took place and under Canadian law.

  2. Common-law Partner: The couple has been living together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. This relationship is recognized for both opposite- and same-sex couples.

  3. Conjugal Partner: The couple has been in a relationship for at least one year, but they could not live together or get married due to significant legal or immigration barriers. This category is typically only used in exceptional circumstances.

 

The applicants must provide documents to support their application, proving their relationship's authenticity. These may include photographs, letters, proof of shared bank accounts, residential leases, etc.

Please note that the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) takes misrepresentation very seriously. A relationship that is not genuine, or is entered into primarily for the purpose of gaining immigration status in Canada, is considered a fraudulent relationship. If the sponsored spouse is found to be in a fraudulent relationship, it can lead to serious consequences, including removal from Canada.

Difference between Outland Spousal Sponsorship and Inland Spousal Sponsorship for Canadian Immigration

The Outland Spousal Sponsorship and Inland Spousal Sponsorship are two distinct pathways for spousal immigration in Canada. Both programs aim to reunite families by allowing Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their spouse or common-law partner for Canadian permanent residence. Here is a detailed comparison between these two types of spousal sponsorship:

  1. Definition:

    • Outland Spousal Sponsorship: In this category, the person being sponsored resides outside of Canada. The application is processed through the visa office that serves the sponsor's country of origin or where they legally reside if not currently living in Canada.

    • Inland Spousal Sponsorship: In this category, the person being sponsored is already living in Canada on a valid temporary visa (like a student visa, work permit, or visitor visa). The application is processed by the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

  2. Living Together:

    • Outland Spousal Sponsorship: For Outland sponsorship, there's no requirement for the couple to be living together at the time of application.

    • Inland Spousal Sponsorship: For Inland sponsorship, the couple must be cohabiting in Canada at the time of application, and the foreign spouse or partner must maintain legal status in Canada throughout the processing period.

  3. Work Permit:

    • Outland Spousal Sponsorship: The foreign spouse or partner can't apply for an open work permit under the Outland sponsorship unless they already have a temporary resident status allowing them to work.

    • Inland Spousal Sponsorship: With Inland sponsorship, the foreign spouse or partner can apply for an open work permit while their application for permanent residence is being processed. This allows them to work in Canada during the waiting period.

  4. Application Processing Time:

    • Outland Spousal Sponsorship: Generally, Outland sponsorship applications tend to be processed more quickly than Inland applications. However, the processing time may vary depending on the country of origin of the sponsored spouse or partner.

    • Inland Spousal Sponsorship: Processing times for Inland applications are typically longer. During this time, the sponsored person must remain in Canada.

  5. Appeal Rights:

    • Outland Spousal Sponsorship: If an Outland application is refused, the sponsor has the right to appeal the decision to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) within a specified period.

    • Inland Spousal Sponsorship: If an Inland application is refused, there are no rights to appeal. However, the decision can be challenged through a judicial review by the Federal Court of Canada.

Common law Partner vs Conjugal Partner Sponsorship

Check these links for:

Spouse or Common Law Partner Sponsorship

Conjugal Partner Sponsorship

Factors
Common Law Partner Sponsorship
Conjugal Partner Sponsorship
Appeal Rights
In case of refusal, both Inland and Outland applicants have rights to appeal. However, Inland applicants can only appeal through a judicial review by the Federal Court of Canada.
If an Outland application is refused, the sponsor has the right to appeal the decision to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) within a specified period.
Application Processing
Common-law partners can choose to apply either through the Inland or Outland route depending on where they are residing and other factors.
Conjugal partners usually apply through the Outland route as they are typically living outside of Canada.
Work Permit
The foreign common-law partner living in Canada can apply for an open work permit while their application for permanent residence is being processed.
Conjugal partners are typically living outside Canada, so they do not have the same access to an open work permit during the application process.
Marriage Requirement
No marriage is required, but the couple must have been in a conjugal relationship for at least one year.
No marriage is required. However, the couple must have been in a conjugal relationship for at least one year.
Living Together
Applicants must provide proof that they have been living together for at least one year. The couple must share the same home, support each other financially and emotionally, and appear as a couple publicly.
Living together is not required. However, evidence of a genuine and continuing relationship must be provided.
Definition
This category involves two people who are not legally married but have lived together continuously for at least one year in a marriage-like relationship.
This category involves two people who have had a binding relationship for at least one year but have not been able to live together or get married due to reasons beyond their control, like immigration barriers, religious reasons, or sexual orientation.

Eligibility Criteria for Spousal Sponsorship Application

 

The Sponsor must:

  1. Be of 18 years or older

  2. Be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or a registered Indian under the Canadian Indian Act

  3. Reside in Canada or intend to live in Canada after your spouse is granted permanent residency

  4. Accept the undertaking obligations

  5. Not be the subject of a removal order

  6. Have no criminal convictions inside or outside Canada in the following areas:

    • Bodily harm toward current or former family members (domestic violence)

    • Sexual abuse

    • Significant violence 

  7. Not being an undischarged bankrupt and have enough income to provide for basic needs of any grandchildren (dependent children of a dependent child) of the principal applicant.

  8. Not in receipt of social assistance unless because of disability

  9. Debt free to the federal government of Canada

  10. Not under a five-year ban (If you were sponsored by a spouse or partner, you may not be a sponsor yourself until five years have passed since you became a permanent resident.)

  11. Not under an undertaking ban (If you have already sponsored a spouse or common-law partner to Canada, you may not sponsor another spouse or common-law partner while the current undertaking duration is not over.)

The applicant must be your:

  1. Spouse: a spouse is a partner with whom you are legally married. This includes both opposite- and same-sex relationships. 

  2. Common-Law Partner: a common-law partner is not legally married to you but has been living with you for at least 12 consecutive months. Any time spent apart – for work/family related matters or any other reasons, must have been short or temporary.

  3. Conjugal Partner: a conjugal partner is a person outside Canada who has had a binding relationship with you for at least one year, but could not, for some reason(s), live with you. Individuals living in Canada are not eligible to be sponsored as conjugal partners.

 

The person you are sponsoring must:

 

  •  Be at least 18 years old;

  •  Pass all background, security and medical checks.

Sponsorship Agreement when applying for Spousal Sponsorship Canada

The sponsorship agreement is a critical part of the Spousal Sponsorship application process in Canada. It is a document that outlines the responsibilities and obligations of the sponsor, which are agreed upon when applying to sponsor a spouse or partner for permanent residence in Canada.

The purpose of the sponsorship agreement is to ensure that the sponsor understands their duties and is capable of supporting the sponsored person, minimizing the chance that the person being sponsored will need to seek financial assistance from the government.

 

Here are some of the key elements and responsibilities included in the sponsorship agreement:

  1. Financial Support: The sponsor agrees to provide financial support to their sponsored spouse or partner. This includes basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, healthcare (not covered by public health), and other necessities.

  2. Duration of Agreement: The duration of the agreement is typically three years from the date the sponsored spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident. It's crucial to understand that this obligation remains even if the relationship status changes (for example, in case of divorce or separation) within the three-year period.

  3. Repayment of Social Assistance: If the sponsored person receives any social assistance during the duration of the agreement, the sponsor is obligated to repay the government for those benefits.

  4. No Social Assistance: The sponsor agrees that the sponsored spouse or partner will not need to apply for social assistance. If the person being sponsored does receive social assistance, the sponsor is obligated to repay the government.

  5. Agreement with Canadian Province or Territory: The sponsor agrees that the sponsored person will live in a Canadian province or territory where the sponsor is eligible to sponsor. If the sponsor lives in Quebec, they must also meet Quebec’s sponsorship requirements.

 

The sponsorship agreement is signed by both the sponsor and the sponsored person, indicating that they understand and agree to the terms. It's important to note that the sponsor's responsibilities begin as soon as the sponsored spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident, and not when they arrive in Canada.

It's crucial to take these obligations seriously, as failing to meet them could have legal implications. For instance, the sponsor might be ordered to repay any social benefits the sponsored person receives during the agreement period. Furthermore, the sponsor may not be allowed to sponsor anyone else until they have repaid the debt.

Before entering into a sponsorship agreement, it is advisable to fully understand the responsibilities and to seek legal advice if needed. 

Spousal Sponsorship Obligations

Sponsor's Obligations

 

Spousal sponsorship in Canada involves certain obligations or responsibilities that must be adhered to by the sponsor. These obligations exist to ensure the welfare of the sponsored spouse or partner and to prevent them from becoming a burden on the Canadian social assistance system.

Below are the key obligations that a sponsor must understand and agree to when applying for spousal sponsorship:

  1. Financial Support: The sponsor agrees to provide financial support to their spouse or common-law partner. This includes ensuring that their basic needs are met, such as providing food, clothing, personal requirements, and accommodation. It also includes healthcare needs not covered by public health services, such as eye and dental care.

  2. Length of Obligation: For spousal, conjugal, or common-law partner sponsorships, the length of the obligation is three years from the day the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident. The sponsor is responsible for the financial support of the sponsored person for the entirety of this period, even if the relationship or marital status changes.

  3. Repayment of Social Assistance: If the sponsored person receives social assistance during the validity of the sponsorship agreement, the sponsor will need to repay the Canadian government. This includes any provincial assistance the sponsored person receives.

  4. Residence Requirement: The sponsor must be able to prove that they will live in Canada when the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident. They must continue to live in Canada for the duration of the sponsorship period. The only exception is for Canadian citizens sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner, who can live abroad but must demonstrate an intention to return to Canada when their spouse or partner immigrates.

  5. No Reliance on Social Assistance: The sponsor agrees to make enough provisions for the sponsored person so that they do not need to apply for social assistance. In case the sponsored person does apply for social assistance, the sponsor will have to repay the government.

  6. Undertaking: The sponsor must sign an undertaking, promising to provide for the basic needs of their spouse or partner. The undertaking is a binding promise of support, meaning that it is your responsibility to support the applicant for the length of the undertaking period, even if your situation changes.

  7. Support Even After Separation or Divorce: Even if the sponsor separates or divorces from the sponsored person, they are still financially responsible for them until the end of the sponsorship period, which is three years for spouses or partners.

 

Failure to meet these sponsorship obligations can lead to legal consequences. The sponsored person can also enforce the sponsorship agreement in court, which means they could sue the sponsor for support.

 

It's also worth noting that a sponsor's obligations towards the sponsored person are not cancelled if the sponsored person becomes a Canadian citizen, if the couple divorces or separates, if the sponsored person moves out of the province, or if the sponsor or the sponsored person declares bankruptcy.

These obligations are serious and not meeting them can lead to the sponsor being ineligible to sponsor in the future, among other consequences. Thus, sponsors should thoroughly understand these obligations before proceeding with the application.

Applicant's Obligations

 

While the majority of obligations in a spousal sponsorship application fall upon the sponsor, the principal applicant, or the person being sponsored, also has some responsibilities they must fulfill during the application process and after obtaining permanent resident status. Here are the key obligations of the principal applicant:

  1. Admissibility: As the primary applicant, you must meet the eligibility criteria set by IRCC for spousal sponsorship. This includes demonstrating that your relationship with the sponsor is genuine and not solely for the purpose of immigration.

  2. Honesty: The principal applicant must provide accurate and honest information during the application process. Providing false information or withholding relevant details (also known as misrepresentation) can lead to a refusal, and in some cases, can lead to a finding of misrepresentation which could result in a five-year ban on applying for Canadian immigration.

  3. Medical and Background Checks: The principal applicant must complete and pass medical, criminal, and security checks. This ensures they don't pose a risk to Canada's public health or security and they are not inadmissible.

  4. Abide by Canadian Laws: Once in Canada, the principal applicant must abide by all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels.

  5. Signing the Sponsorship Agreement: The principal applicant must sign the sponsorship agreement, confirming they understand that the sponsor is obligated to provide financial support, and that they will make efforts to support themselves and any dependent children.

  6. Not Receive Social Assistance: Unless the sponsored person has reason to (such as a disability), they should avoid seeking social assistance. If social assistance is received, the sponsor is obligated to pay back the government.

  7. Inform IRCC of Changes: If there are any changes in the principal applicant's situation, such as a change in marital status, address, or new criminal convictions, they are obligated to inform Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) promptly.

  8. Respect the Sponsorship Duration: While not necessarily an obligation, it's important for the principal applicant to understand that the sponsor is responsible for them for the duration of the sponsorship period, which is three years for a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner.

 

The sponsored spouse's obligations are largely based on ensuring the validity and authenticity of their relationship, complying with immigration procedures and Canadian laws, and avoiding undue burdens on Canada's social assistance programs. Violating these obligations could impact their immigration status and the sponsor's ability to sponsor in the future.

12 Month Cohabitation for Spousal Sponsorship

In the Canadian immigration context, cohabitation refers to two people living together in a marriage-like relationship. For spousal sponsorship purposes, one of the ways that a couple can demonstrate their commitment to each other is by providing evidence of having lived together for at least 12 months. This is often referred to as "12-month cohabitation."

Here are some key points to understand about 12-month cohabitation for spousal sponsorship:

  1. Consistency: The cohabitation must be continuous, meaning you have lived together without long periods of separation. If a couple is separated for an extended period, they will need to provide a reasonable explanation, such as work or travel related reasons. If the couple is not living together when the application is submitted, they need to provide a plan of when and how they will live together in the future.

  2. Evidence: It's important to provide evidence of cohabitation. This might include shared lease or property agreements, utility bills or other mail showing the same address, joint bank accounts, or other proof of a shared life together.

  3. Common-Law Partner Sponsorship: The 12-month cohabitation rule is particularly important for those applying under the "Common-Law Partner" category of spousal sponsorship. To be considered common-law partners, you must have lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 months, with no long breaks in cohabitation.

  4. Breaks in Cohabitation: Temporary breaks in cohabitation are allowed, provided that the couple can prove that they did not cease being in a conjugal relationship during the breaks. The breaks can be for reasons such as business travel or family obligations.

  5. Conjugal Relationship: Beyond just living together, the couple also needs to demonstrate that their relationship is conjugal in nature, meaning it is similar to a marriage in terms of economic, physical, and social aspects, and level of commitment.

 

In essence, 12-month cohabitation is a key component of demonstrating the authenticity of a relationship for spousal sponsorship, especially for those applying under the Common-Law Partner category. However, it's just one factor that IRCC considers, and all aspects of the relationship will be taken into account when assessing the application. It's always a good idea to provide as much evidence as possible to clearly demonstrate the genuine and continuing nature of the relationship.

 

Financial Requirements to Sponsor Your Spouse or Partner For Permanent Residence

In the case of spousal sponsorship in Canada, the financial requirements differ somewhat from other types of sponsorships. For spousal, common-law partner, or conjugal partner sponsorships, there is no specific income requirement that the sponsor must meet. However, the sponsor must demonstrate the financial ability to meet the basic needs of the sponsored individual and any dependent children.

Here are some key points about the financial requirements for sponsoring a spouse or partner to Canada:

  1. No Minimum Income Requirement: Unlike sponsorship of other family members, there is no set minimum income that a sponsor must have to sponsor a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner. However, the sponsor must show that they can meet the sponsored person's basic needs, including food, clothing, and accommodation.

  2. Sponsor's Financial Obligations: The sponsor must agree to support the spouse or partner for three years from the day the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident, even if the marriage or the relationship breaks down during that period.

  3. Not Receiving Social Assistance: The sponsor cannot be receiving social assistance for reasons other than disability. If a potential sponsor is receiving social assistance, they will generally not be eligible to sponsor a spouse or partner to come to Canada.

  4. Repayment of Social Assistance: The sponsor will need to repay any social assistance benefits paid to the sponsored person during the duration of the sponsorship agreement. If the sponsored person receives social assistance, the sponsor will be required to repay the government.

  5. Debt to the Canadian Government: A sponsor may not be eligible if they have a debt due to immigration or have defaulted on a previous sponsorship agreement.

  6. Bankruptcy: Individuals who are not discharged from bankruptcy cannot sponsor.

  7. For Residents of Quebec: Quebec has its own separate agreement for spousal sponsorship. The sponsor must meet Quebec’s immigration sponsorship requirements after IRCC approves them as a sponsor.

 

In summary, while there is no minimum income requirement to sponsor a spouse or partner to Canada, the sponsor does have to demonstrate that they can provide for the basic needs of the sponsored person and are not reliant on social assistance. As such, the sponsor's financial status will be evaluated during the application process to ensure they are capable of fulfilling their obligations.

 

Steps to apply for Spousal Sponsorship Application

Applying to sponsor a spouse is a four-step process:

Step 1. Obtain the application package found on the government website; it contains a guide with instructions and forms that will help you complete the process correctly.

Step 2. Pay the online application fee, which includes the following:

  • Processing fees for all persons included in the application;

  • Right of Permanent Residence Fee;

  • Biometrics fees;

  • Other third-party fees, if applicable.

 

Step 3. Submit your application by following the submission instructions provided in the guide you downloaded.

 

Step 4. Submit the required supporting documents when prompted.

 

Spousal Sponsorship Application Processing Time

Spousal sponsorship applications can take 12-17 months from the date of application. In late September last year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister unveiled a plan to speed up spousal applications and help families build their lives together in Canada.

There are plans to adopt new technologies to keep up with the family reunification values embedded in the Canadian Immigration system, which would shorten the application processing time to anywhere between 6-9 months.

 

Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR) for Spousal Sponsorship Application

 

The Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR) is a critical milestone in your spousal sponsorship application process. The AOR is essentially a notification from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirming that they have received your application.

Upon receipt of your application, the IRCC initially checks for completeness. If all required forms and supporting documents are present, they will issue the AOR and begin the more detailed evaluation of your application. If, however, your application is found to be incomplete, it will likely be returned without being processed.

The Importance of AOR in Your Application Process

Receiving your AOR serves several essential purposes:

  1. Confirmation of Receipt: The primary function of the AOR is to confirm that the IRCC has received your application. This can provide some peace of mind, as you can be assured your application has not been lost in transit and has reached the intended department.

  2. Start of Processing Time: The AOR date is typically considered the start of your application's processing time. IRCC's processing times usually begin from the date they send the AOR.

  3. Application Number: Your AOR notice will contain your application number, which is crucial for any future communication with the IRCC regarding your application.

 

Stages of Spousal Sponsorship Application Process

The spousal sponsorship application process in Canada is generally divided into two main stages. Each stage involves different criteria and checks. Below is a comprehensive look at both stages:

1) First Stage - Approval of the Sponsor:

The first stage of spousal sponsorship involves the assessment and approval of the sponsor. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) checks if the sponsor is eligible to sponsor a spouse or partner to Canada.

 

In this stage, the sponsor must:

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

  • Be at least 18 years old.

  • Be living in Canada and continue to live in Canada when the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident.

  • Sign an agreement confirming their commitment to support the sponsored person for a specified period.

  • Prove that they have sufficient financial resources to provide for the basic needs of the sponsored person and any dependent children.

 

In this stage, the IRCC also verifies the sponsor's financial stability, checking if the sponsor is receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability, and ensuring that the sponsor doesn't have a record of unfulfilled sponsorship agreements or unpaid immigration loans.

 

If the sponsor meets all the requirements, the IRCC approves the sponsor. This leads to the second stage of the process.

 

2) Second Stage - Approval of the Sponsored Person:

 

The second stage involves the evaluation of the sponsored person's application for permanent residence. In this stage, the genuineness of the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person is assessed. IRCC officials check if the relationship is legitimate and not primarily for the purpose of gaining immigration status in Canada.

The sponsored person must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.

  • Be the spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner of the sponsor.

  • Have a genuine and continuing relationship with the sponsor.

  • Be living with the sponsor in a marital situation for at least one year (if they are common-law partners).

 

In addition, the sponsored person must pass the necessary medical, criminal, and security checks to ensure they are not inadmissible to Canada.

If the relationship is found to be genuine and the sponsored person is not inadmissible, they will be granted permanent residence.

 

Once both stages are successfully completed, the sponsored person is issued a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and, if necessary, a permanent resident visa. It's important to note that the processing times for these stages can vary, and both the sponsor and the sponsored person are responsible for ensuring their applications are accurate and complete to avoid delays or refusals.

 

How to Track Your Spousal Sponsorship Application

A. Online Tracking through the Government of Canada Website

 

1. Creating an Account

To track your spousal sponsorship application, you will first need to create an account on the Government of Canada's official immigration and citizenship website. This account is your gateway to all online services and will be the primary method for receiving updates about your application.

 

To create an account, visit the website and look for the option to "Sign in or create an account." You will be given two options: you can either sign up using a GCKey (a Government of Canada login) or sign in through a partner (such as online banking). Choose the option that is most convenient for you and follow the prompts to set up your account.

2. Linking Your Application to Your Account

 

Once your account is set up, the next step is to link your spousal sponsorship application to your account. This will allow you to receive updates and track the status of your application online.

 

To link your application, you will need some information from your application package, including the application number and details about the applicant. Follow the instructions provided on the website to link your application. Once linked, you can view the status of your application at any time by logging into your account.

 

B. Understanding the Status Updates

 

1. Explanation of Different Status Terms

 

As you track your application, you will encounter various status terms. Here are some common ones:

  • "Received": Your application has been received by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

  • "In Progress": Your application is currently being reviewed.

  • "Decision Made": A decision has been made on your application. You will receive further instructions or information.

 

Remember, each application is unique and may go through different stages during the review process.

 

2. Typical Timeline for Application Processing

 

The processing time for spousal sponsorship applications can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, including the volume of applications received by IRCC, the complexity of your case, and whether all necessary documents were correctly submitted.

 

As of the time of writing, the average processing time for most spousal sponsorship applications is approximately 12 months, but this can vary. Regularly check your account for updates on the status of your application.

 

Remember, patience is key during this process. While waiting, ensure that your contact information is up to date in your account, and respond promptly to any requests for additional information from IRCC to avoid unnecessary delays.

Spousal Sponsorship - Proof of Relationship and supporting documents

 

When applying for spousal sponsorship in Canada, one of the most critical components of the application is the proof of relationship. This is essentially the evidence that you provide to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and not primarily for the purpose of gaining immigration status in Canada.

Here are the types of proof you might include in your application, depending on whether you're sponsoring a spouse, a common-law partner, or a conjugal partner:

  1. Marriage Certificate: If you're sponsoring your spouse, you will need to provide a marriage certificate. If your marriage took place outside of Canada, it must be valid both under the laws of the place where it occurred and under Canadian law.

  2. Proof of Cohabitation: For common-law partners, you need to show that you've been living together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. Evidence of this might include shared lease agreements or property deeds, bills for shared utility accounts, joint bank accounts, or identification documents showing the same address.

  3. Evidence of a Genuine Relationship: All types of relationships must demonstrate that they are genuine. This evidence could include photographs of you together, records of correspondence (letters, emails, phone records), evidence of shared financial responsibilities (joint bank accounts, shared bills), travel records, testimonials from friends and family, or any other evidence that indicates a lasting and genuine relationship.

  4. For Conjugal Partners: In the case of conjugal partners, in addition to proving a genuine relationship, you also have to provide evidence as to why you could not live together or get married in your partner's country or the country where you both currently reside.

 

It's important to note that the more evidence you can provide to prove your relationship's authenticity, the better. This doesn't mean overwhelming IRCC with a mass of documents but rather providing a well-curated and diverse collection of evidence that clearly demonstrates the ongoing and genuine nature of your relationship.

 

Also remember that providing false information or fraudulent documents can lead to severe penalties, including being barred from entering Canada for five years, having permanent resident status revoked, being charged with a crime or removed from Canada. Therefore, all provided information and documentation must be accurate and truthful.

 

The list of documents to be submitted with the application can be found in the specific document checklist provided by the IRCC based on the type of sponsorship (Inland or Outland) and the relationship (spouse, common-law, or conjugal partner). The checklist typically includes forms like the sponsorship evaluation and relationship questionnaire, the sponsored spouse/partner questionnaire, use of a representative form (if applicable), and other related forms.

Spousal Open Work Permit - SOWP

The Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) is a type of work permit that is not job-specific. It is issued under the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) work permit program. The SOWP is designed for spouses and common-law partners of temporary foreign workers and foreign students who are living in Canada.

The SOWP allows the spouse or common-law partner of the foreign worker or student to work in Canada. The permit is "open," meaning that it is not tied to a specific employer, location, or position. This gives the holder of the SOWP the freedom to work for any employer in Canada.

To be eligible for the SOWP, the spouse or common-law partner must be living in Canada and their partner must be a student or worker. The foreign worker or student must have a valid permit and must be living in Canada.

The application process for the SOWP involves filling out the necessary forms and providing the required documents. These documents typically include proof of relationship to the foreign worker or student, proof of the worker or student's valid permit, and proof of the applicant's current status in Canada.

On what grounds can my Spousal 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 you marriage is purely a marriage of convenience, your application will be denied.

Here are some of the main reasons why your 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 spousal sponsorship 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.

 

What Happens if the Spousal Sponsorship Application is Refused?

 

If your spousal sponsorship application is refused, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. You must file your appeal within 30 days of receiving the refusal decision.

The IAD will review your case and make a decision. The IAD can either uphold the refusal decision, overturn it, or send your case back to IRCC for re-assessment.

If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can apply for judicial review of the IAD's decision in Federal Court. However, judicial review is not an appeal on the merits of your case. The court will only review whether the IAD made a legal or procedural error in its decision.

Sponsoring a Spouse with a Criminal Record to Canada

Canada's immigration framework is designed to uphold the safety and well-being of its residents. Consequently, individuals with a criminal record may encounter obstacles when seeking immigration to Canada, including through the pathway of spousal sponsorship. However, these hurdles are not insurmountable.

Deciphering Inadmissibility

 

The cornerstone of understanding this process is the concept of 'inadmissibility.' Canada may classify individuals as inadmissible if they pose a security threat, have committed human or international rights violations, have a history of criminal activity, or have severe health or financial problems. A criminal record can lead to a determination of criminal inadmissibility.

Types of Crimes

 

Crimes that can lead to inadmissibility range from minor offenses, such as shoplifting or DUI, to more serious crimes like assault, drug trafficking, or murder. The nature and severity of the crime, as well as whether it's considered a hybrid, summary, or indictable offence under Canadian law, can impact the immigration process.

Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility through Rehabilitation

 

There are avenues to overcome criminal inadmissibility, with 'rehabilitation' being a common method. Rehabilitation refers to a situation where sufficient time has elapsed since the sentence was completed, and the individual can demonstrate that they no longer pose a risk. The required period varies depending on the crime but is typically between five to ten years.

'Rehabilitation' can be 'deemed,' meaning enough time has passed since the sentence was completed (usually ten years), and the individual has not reoffended. Alternatively, 'individual rehabilitation' involves an application process where the person must show they have been rehabilitated and are unlikely to commit further crimes.

Another method is through a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which can allow an individual to enter Canada for a specific reason, despite their inadmissibility. However, obtaining a TRP can be a complex process and does not guarantee future admittance.

Spousal Sponsorship Amid Criminal History

 

In the realm of spousal sponsorship, the sponsor – a Canadian citizen or permanent resident – must advocate for their spouse's entry into Canada despite their criminal record. This involves providing detailed information about the spouse's criminal history, the circumstances of the crime, evidence of rehabilitation, and reasons why the individual is unlikely to reoffend.

The Importance of Legal Guidance

 

Given the intricacy of these cases, it's often beneficial to seek legal advice. Immigration lawyers or accredited immigration consultants can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. They can help you understand the potential challenges and how to increase your chances of a successful application.

Implications of Divorce After Spousal Sponsorship

 

Divorce after spousal sponsorship can have significant implications for both the sponsor and the sponsored spouse. The sponsor is legally obligated to support the sponsored spouse for three years after the spouse becomes a permanent resident, even if the couple divorces.

 

Key Implications:

  • For the Sponsor: The sponsor is still financially responsible for the sponsored spouse for three years after the spouse becomes a permanent resident. This obligation remains even if the couple divorces.

  • For the Sponsored Spouse: The sponsored spouse can keep their permanent resident status even if they get divorced. However, if it's proven that the marriage was not genuine and was entered into primarily for immigration purposes, the sponsored spouse could lose their permanent resident status.

Legal Obligations After Divorce

 

Even after divorce, the sponsor has certain legal obligations towards the sponsored spouse. These obligations are designed to ensure that the sponsored spouse does not need to seek social assistance.

 

Key Legal Obligations:

  • Financial Support: The sponsor must provide financial support for the sponsored spouse for three years after they become a permanent resident.

  • Repayment of Social Assistance: If the sponsored spouse receives social assistance during the three-year period, the sponsor is required to repay the amount to the government.

Sponsor your Dependent Children

You can sponsor your dependent children, whether natural or adopted, to live with you as permanent residents in Canada.

 

Children must meet the following definition of a dependent child to be eligible for sponsorship:

  • A child is considered a dependent if he or she is not married or in a common-law relationship and is under 22 years of age.

  • If a child is over 22 years of age, they may be considered a dependent if they have a physical or mental condition that prevents them from being able to support themselves.

 

To be eligible under this program, you:

  • and your child abroad must be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to receive a visa,

  • must prove your relationship with the child you are sponsoring, either by a birth or adoption certificate.

 

If my partner and I share a child, can we skip the 12 month cohabitation requirement for common-law spousal sponsorship in Canada?

Having a child with your partner does not exempt you from the requirement of living together for 12 months if you are applying for spousal sponsorship as common-law partners. The requirement to live together for at least one year is a fundamental part of the definition of a common-law relationship under Canadian immigration law.

However, having a child together can provide strong evidence of a genuine and continuing relationship, which is a key aspect of any spousal sponsorship application.

If you are legally married or if you can prove that you are in a conjugal relationship (a marriage-like relationship) but have been unable to live together or get married due to reasons beyond your control, you do not need to demonstrate the 12 months of cohabitation for a spousal sponsorship application.

Remember, each case is unique, and the specific circumstances of your relationship and family situation will be considered during the evaluation of your application. It is always a good idea to consult with an immigration professional to understand your best options.

Co-signer for Spousal Sponsorship applications

In certain circumstances, you may need a co-signer for your spousal sponsorship application in Canada. A co-signer is typically required when the spouse being sponsored has dependent children who have their own dependent children. In this case, the co-signer must also be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who is at least 18 years old.

The co-signer shares the same responsibilities as the primary sponsor. This means that both the sponsor and the co-signer are financially responsible for the spouse and any dependent children for a period of three to twenty years, depending on the age of the dependent and the nature of the relationship. This period begins once the spouse or dependent children become permanent residents.

The co-signer must meet the same eligibility requirements as the primary sponsor. They must not be receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability, must not have been convicted of certain types of crimes, must not be bankrupt, and must not have defaulted on an immigration loan or previous sponsorship undertaking.

It's important to note that having a co-signer can add complexity to the sponsorship application process. Both the sponsor and the co-signer must complete and sign the sponsorship agreement and undertaking. If the co-signer is also a spouse or common-law partner of the sponsor, they must meet the definition of a spouse or common-law partner under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Leave Canada While Permanent Residence Application is Pending

You can leave Canada for short durations while your Permanent Residence (PR) application is pending, but there are a few important considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Status in Canada: If you are in Canada on a temporary status (like a work permit or study permit), you need to maintain your status and ensure it doesn't expire while you are outside Canada. If your status expires while you are outside Canada, you may face difficulties re-entering.

  2. Travel Documents: Ensure that your passport or travel documents are valid and will not expire while you are outside Canada.

  3. Re-Entry into Canada: Leaving Canada could pose risks if circumstances change while you're abroad. For instance, changes in health, additional criminal charges, or changes in immigration status in the country you visit could affect your admissibility to Canada.

  4. Application Updates: If you change your address or contact information while you are outside Canada, you need to inform Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) so they can communicate with you regarding your application.

 

Remember, while you are allowed to leave Canada, your PR application does not guarantee re-entry. You must meet all standard admissibility criteria when you return. It's always a good idea to consult with an immigration professional before making travel plans while your PR application is pending.

Spousal Sponsorship - FAQ's​

Q: How long does it take to sponsor a spouse in Canada?

A: The processing time for spousal sponsorship applications can vary depending on the specifics of the case and where the person being sponsored is living. The general processing time is approximately 12 months, but it can be shorter or longer. It's best to check the official IRCC website for the most current processing times.

 

Q: Who is eligible for spousal sponsorship Canada?

A: In order to sponsor a spouse to Canada, the sponsor must be a Canadian citizen, a person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act, or a permanent resident living in Canada. They must be at least 18 years old and have financial means to provide for the basic needs of the person being sponsored.

Q: Is there a 5-year ban on spousal sponsorship in Canada?

A: There is a 5-year ban on spousal sponsorship if you were sponsored as a spouse or partner and became a permanent resident less than 5 years ago.

Q: Is spousal sponsorship difficult?

A: The spousal sponsorship process can be complex due to the detailed documentation and proof required to demonstrate the genuineness of the relationship. The sponsor also must demonstrate they have sufficient financial resources to provide for the person they are sponsoring.

 

Q: How many times can you sponsor a spouse in Canada?

A: There is no set limit on the number of times you can sponsor a spouse in Canada. However, if you have previously sponsored a spouse or partner and have not fulfilled your sponsorship obligations, you may not be allowed to sponsor another person.

Q: What is the success rate of spousal sponsorship in Canada?

A: The success rate varies from year to year and depends on the specifics of each case. As such, the IRCC does not release specific approval rates for spousal sponsorship applications.

Q: How long after getting PR can I sponsor my spouse?

A: As soon as you become a permanent resident (PR), you can apply to sponsor your spouse, provided you meet all the eligibility criteria.

 

Q: What happens if I get divorced from my spouse and they are my PR sponsor?

A: If you divorce your sponsor, they are still legally responsible for financially supporting you for three years after you become a permanent resident.

 

Q: Can my spouse cancel my PR?

A: Once you are a permanent resident, your spouse cannot cancel your PR status. However, if it's found that your application was based on fraudulent information, you could potentially lose your PR status.

Q: Can a PR be deported from Canada?

A: Yes, a permanent resident can be deported from Canada for serious reasons such as committing a serious crime or for misrepresentation in their PR application.

Q: Do I lose my PR if I divorce?

A: Divorcing your sponsor does not directly affect your PR status. However, if the divorce leads to the discovery of immigration fraud (such as a marriage of convenience), then you could potentially lose your PR status.

Q: Do I lose my PR if I leave Canada?

A: You can lose your PR status if you stay outside Canada for too long. As a permanent resident, you are expected to live in Canada and could lose your status if you stay outside Canada for more than three years in a five-year period.

Q: Can I sponsor my spouse if I live outside Canada?

A: If you're a Canadian citizen living outside Canada, you can sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner. However, you must prove that you will live in Canada when the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident.

Q: Can I work in Canada while my spousal sponsorship application is being processed?

A: If you're applying through the Inland Spousal Sponsorship route, you can apply for an open work permit while your application for permanent residence is being processed. If you're applying through the Outland route, you can only work in Canada if you have a valid work permit or visa that allows you to do so.

Q: Is it mandatory to live together for 12 months before applying for spousal sponsorship Canada?

No, it is not mandatory for all applicants to live together for 12 months before applying for spousal sponsorship in Canada. However, this requirement is applicable for those who are applying under the "Common-Law Partner" category. To qualify as common-law partners, you must have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least one year.

If you are legally married, you do not need to demonstrate that you have lived together for any specific length of time. However, you would still need to prove that your marriage is genuine and not primarily for the purpose of gaining immigration status in Canada.

Similarly, for those applying as conjugal partners, the 12-month cohabitation is not required. A conjugal partner is someone with whom you've had a binding relationship for at least one year, but you've been unable to live together or marry due to significant reasons beyond your control.

So, the requirement to live together for 12 months depends on the specific category under which you are applying for spousal sponsorship in Canada.

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Need help in applying for Spousal 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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