What You Need to Know About Spousal Sponsorship in Canada
Canada’s immigration policy makers have long upheld the goal of helping family members reunite with each other in Canada, which is why Canadian citizens and permanent residents have the right to sponsor their spouse (or common law partner) for immigration through spousal sponsorship. This family sponsorship mechanism can provide a pathway for your spouse or common law partner to become a permanent resident of Canada or Canadian citizen.
Provided that all parties (the principal applicant and their spouses, common law partners, children or other family members) fill out the appropriate immigration applications and meet the necessary requirements for spousal sponsorship, the Canadian government seeks to keep families together whenever possible. In keeping with this principle, family sponsorship can also help your parents, grandparents and other close family members become permanent residents or citizens.
For spousal and family sponsorship, both the sponsor and the sponsored person must be approved by the government department responsible for the Family Sponsorship program, which is the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Processing times vary depending on a number of factors, but this approach has worked for countless families, and it could help yours lay the foundation for a new life in Canada.
Qualifying for Spousal Sponsorship in Canada
For spousal or family sponsorship, the IRCC requires that the sponsored person be either a spouse, common-law partner or dependent child.
Definition of Spouse, Common-Law Partner and Conjugal Partner
A spouse is someone to whom you are legally married.
A common-law partner is someone to whom you are not legally married but have lived together continuously for at least one year (12 consecutive months). Brief separations during the year are acceptable for family or business reasons.
A conjugal partner is someone with whom you have a mutually dependent relationship for at least one year, and you have the same level of commitment as a marriage or common-law union.
NOTE: Canada recognizes same-sex marriage. For this reason, same-sex partners may apply for the Spousal Sponsorship program under the three categories listed above, as long as they meet the necessary spouse or common-law partner eligibility requirements.
You can learn more about eligibility requirements here, or you can contact us to find out more about sponsoring a spouse into Canada.
Definition of a Dependent Child
There are two categories of what a dependent child is:
- The child is under 22 years old and has no spouse or common-law partner.
- The child is over 22 years old, has depended on their parents for support since before the age of 22, and are unable to financially support themselves because of a mental or physical condition.
If you need more clarity on whether or not your children qualify, you can use this online tool to check.
Qualification Requirements for Family and Spousal Sponsorship
With family or spousal sponsorship, the IRCC requires that all sponsors be:
- At least 18 years old
- Either a Canadian citizen, permanent resident living in Canada, or person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act
- Able to provide for the basic needs of any person you want to sponsor for a period of time.
Basic needs are defined as:
- Food, clothing, shelter, and other needs for everyday living
- Dental care, eye care, and other health needs that are not covered by Canada’s public health services
Qualifying for sponsorship requires that you promise to take financial responsibility for the persons you are sponsoring and provide for their basic needs, through an agreement known as an undertaking.
The length of the undertaking starts on the day the person you sponsor becomes a permanent resident, and it varies depending on the category of person you are sponsoring. For a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner this period is 3 years, for dependent children under the age of 22 this period is 10 years (or until they reach the age of 25, whichever comes first), and 3 years for dependent children 22 years of age and older.
Note that the length of undertaking is different in Quebec than other Canadian provinces and territories, consult Quebec’s undertaking requirements here.
Are There Restrictions on Who can become a Sponsor?
Yes, there are a variety of conditions and restrictions regarding who can become a sponsor for family or spousal sponsorship. You cannot become a sponsor if:
- You are under 18 years old.
- You won’t be living in Canada when the person you are sponsoring becomes a permanent resident.
- You are a temporary resident or your permanent residence application is pending.
- You were sponsored by a spouse or partner, and you became a permanent resident less than five years ago.
- You are still financially responsible for a previous spouse or partner you sponsored.
- You have already applied to sponsor someone and the decision is still pending.
- You signed a sponsorship undertaking for a previous spouse/common-law partner and it has been under three years since they became a permanent resident.
- You are in jail, prison, or a penitentiary.
- You didn’t pay back an immigration loan, a performance bond, or court-ordered family support payments, such as alimony or child support.
- You declared bankruptcy and are not discharged.
- You receive social assistance for reasons other than a disability.
- You have received a Removal Order.
- You have been convicted of attempting to commit, threatening to commit, or committed a violent offence, an offence against a relative, or any sexual offence inside or outside Canada.
You can read more about the eligibility requirements to immigrate to Canada here, on the Government of Canada’s official website.
Are There any Eligibility Requirements for Sponsored People?
Yes. To show that your spouse, partner, or dependent children are eligible to immigrate to Canada, they must be able to provide all of the required forms and documentation, as well as any additional information. This may include medical exams and biometrics.
What Agreements Must the Sponsor Enter into?
It is mandatory for the sponsor to enter into a sponsorship agreement with the sponsored person. In signing, the sponsor agrees to provide financial support for the sponsored person’s basic needs, including food and shelter. The sponsored person, in turn, agrees to find the means to become self-supporting.
How Long Does it Take to Sponsor a Spouse in Canada?
It usually takes approximately one year to complete the process. However, the application process varies depending on a few factors, including the workload of the visa office where you apply, and how complete your application is when you submit it. Any mistakes or missing information can cause delays, so it is always best to check the processing times on the Government of Canada’s website to get a more complete picture.
Can My Spouse Come to Canada While Waiting For a Spouse Visa?
Yes. However, they must enter the country legally and maintain legal status as a visitor, student, or worker in Canada. They must also wait for their work permit application to be approved before starting work.
The work permit they require is called an open work permit, which usually takes approximately four or five months to process.
I Live in Quebec. Are There Different Rules That Apply?
Yes. You can learn more about sponsoring your spouse, partner, or dependent children here, or simply give us a call, so we can explain all the details about spousal sponsorship in Quebec.
How Do I Apply for Family Sponsorship in Canada?
If you want to help your family immigrate to Canada, there are two applications:
- You must apply to become a sponsor.
- Your spouse, partner, or child must apply for permanent residence.
You should send both applications together at the same time.