Canadian Spousal/Common Law Sponsorships
If you are married or have lived for one year in a common law relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible for sponsorship.
Are you married to a Canadian citizen (CC) or permanent resident (PR), or are you in a one-year common law relationship with either? Are you thinking you might like to start the sponsorship and application process? This article is intended to give some broad perspective and some tips as you get ready for that next stage of your life. We encourage you to consider using an authorized representative to assist in you in your Canadian permanent residency quest and ensure that the representative is authorized to provide immigration advice as per Section 91 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
If you are indeed married or have lived for one year in a common law relationship with a CC or PR, you may be eligible for sponsorship. There are requirements for both the sponsor and the applicant and, perhaps most importantly, the marriage/relationship must be deemed as genuine and not for the purposes of gaining admission to Canada or acquiring immigration status under Canada’s immigration laws.
The marriage must be valid in the jurisdiction where it took place and must be valid under Canadian law. If a person was married before, a divorce that is valid under Canadian law must have taken place for the current marriage to be valid (unless of course the person was a widow or had their marriage annulled). Be sure to check with a Canadian family legal expert if you are unsure about the validity of your marriage, since “Persons below a certain age cannot marry in Canada without parental consent. To be recognized for immigration purposes, foreign national’s spouses must be 16 years of age” (OP 2, section 5.28, page 23).
For Canadian immigration purposes, a common law relationship exists when two persons have resided in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. The two individuals in the relationship must be able to prove that they have lived together in a relationship as described – that is, they must show that it exists based on “facts.” Two room-mates sharing an apartment together would not count as a common law relationship. Couples who are in a common law relationship need not be divorced from previous spouses if they have been separate and apart from their previous spouses for at least one year (and that make sense because they must have lived in their new common law relationship for at least one year!).
*There is another type of relationship called “conjugal”and more information can be found on that in OP 2
**Same-sex relationships must meet the same parameters under marriage and common law relationships.
Spousal sponsorship can be pursued in two ways – from either inside or outside Canada. For the former, this sponsorship process is called the “Inland Spousal/Common-law Sponsorship Class” and the sponsor and applicant must be residing together inside Canada. The outside Canada sponsorship usually occurs when the sponsor is in Canada and the applicant is living outside of the country. The exception to this rule is for Canadian citizens who can sponsor their spouse while living outside of Canada. The CC spouse must prove they will return to Canada, together with their sponsored spouse, once the immigrant visa has been issued.
- be at least 18 years of age
- be a PR or CC living in Canada
- not be in prison, bankrupt, under a removal order, or charged with a serious offence
- cannot have sponsored another spouse within the last 5 years
- demonstrate an ability to support the applicant and sign a contract with the Canadian government that the applicant will not be a burden on the Canadian taxpayer. There is no financial test to be met, but the sponsor must demonstrate an ability and willingness to “keep” their end of the contract
The Applicant or Sponsored Person Must:
- be at least 16 years of age
- not be too closely related (consanguinity). In Canada, applicants may not marry their grandparents, parents, siblings, half siblings, children, or grandchildren (OP 2, section 5.29, page 23)
- not be criminally inadmissible
As noted earlier, part of the sponsorship process is proving that the marriage /common law relationship is genuine. The couple must submit documentation to verify the relationship. For the common law element, they must show that the one-year co-habitation has been met. The list below is not exhaustive and couples should be sure to compile a thorough list. While a marriage certificate substantiates the legality of a marriage, it is not enough to prove the “genuine and ongoing nature” of the relationship
List of Documentation (as per OP 2, pages 26 and 27)
- marriage certificate
- previous divorce certificates (if applicable)
- birth certificates of children they may have had together
- joint ownership of property, bank accounts, or credit cards
- joint apartment leases, rental receipts, utilities, or management of household expenses
- evidence of joint purchases
- correspondence back and forth or to both parties at the same address, including important documentation addressed to both parties at same address (i.e.: driver’s license, ID documents, etc.)
- evidence of trips together or to visit each other (boarding passes, passport stamps, airline tickets)
- evidence of communication to each other (telephone bills, letters, emails, social media)
- copies of bills related to marriage, wedding invitations, or wedding photos
- other photos together and with each other’s family and friends
- affidavits or letters from friends attesting to the validity of the relationship
If you don’t have a lot items, think outside the box. You’d be surprised at what items you can come up with to show the genuine nature of the relationship. It is critical that you and your spouse remember that anything presented before or submitted to Canadian immigration authorities must be truthful and verifiable. If you or your partner misrepresent yourself, you could be barred for several years from immigrating to Canada.
This is just a snapshot view of “sponsorship” and in no way covers the entire process. You are encouraged to do your own research and of course use one of the authorized representatives on my.consultant.ca. You should be aware that the information provided on the Canadian government website at www.cic.gc.ca consists of guidelines only, and is not the law. Information provided in this article also does not constitute legal immigration advice.
Stay tuned to this channel and watch for upcoming articles on “Preparing for your Family Class Spousal Interview” and “Conjugal Relationships."
- By Monica O'Brien(R416671)