Take Me to Canada! Which Dependents Can Accompany You?
Family is important in all aspects of life, and immigration is no different.
Once you decide to immigrate to Canada, you may wonder who is considered part of your application and whether kids, parents, grandparents, or siblings may immigrate at the same time. First, you must determine the principal applicant and the dependent(s), and who must be forced to wave goodbye when you board your flight to Canada for good.
A principal applicant is an individual representing a family’s application, such as a mother applying for permanent residence with her three children. When parents are applying, dependent children cannot be principal applicants. A dependent is a spouse, common-law partner, or child included in the principal applicant or permanent resident’s file.
When arriving in Canada, the principal applicant may come first or at the same time as their dependent(s), but it is prohibited that a dependent land in Canada before the principal applicant.
Exceptional Cases for Dependent Applicants
Canada accepts common-law partnerships as long as they are proven legitimate by the immigration officers who conduct document checks, home visitations, and interviews with both sponsors and applicants to confirm the validity of the relationship.
The verification process can be difficult when there are cultural considerations and cohabitation requirements involved. In exceptional cases, such as when partners cannot prove cohabitation but have children together, a notarized statement of a common-law relationship lasting at least one year must be signed.
It is worth noting that applicants who wish to simplify their sponsorship process must refrain from getting married for the sole purpose of facilitating immigration. This is classified as a “marriage of convenience” and can result in criminal charges.
Another type of dependent is a child under twenty-two years old who is reliant on a parent for financial and other support and does not have a spouse or common-law partner. Dependents over the age of twenty-two can be considered if they have been reliant on their parents before they turned twenty-two and if they are unable to financially support themselves due to mental or physical conditions.
Principal applicants are not permitted to list parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, or ex-spouses as dependents.
Children from a previous marriage can be listed as dependents provided the other parent gives notarized permission to let them live in Canada permanently or a court order stating sole custody is signed.
Dependents not immigrating to Canada are called “non-accompanying family members” and can include spouses, common-law partners, dependent children, and the children of a dependent child. These members must be listed on the principal applicant’s permanent residence applications and must have updated medical information to remain eligible for sponsorship at a later date.
Family Bonds in the Application Process
We always recommend a healthy and strong family dynamic so that you can overcome an often difficult immigration process together — and get excited about the new life that awaits as a family.
The following is a real-life story: A family consisting of a husband, who satisfied all the requirements, his wife, who initiated the application process, and their dependent child sought immigration services from my business. Their application was submitted with the husband as the principal applicant and his wife and child as dependents. In twelve months, they completed an exploratory visit, a provincial nomination, a submission for permanent residency, and medical requests to finalize the process.
Following this, however, the husband came to me and said: “Something has happened in our family, and I want to exclude my wife and child from my immigration application. I would also like to add my soon-to-be spouse and her child instead…”
As a mother, it was a challenge to compromise my personal morals for this case, but Canadian immigration law does not prohibit such a situation because it is only the principal applicant who matters. A request was sent stating that the applicant had gotten divorced, married another person, and now had two new dependents. The person who had initiated the process (i.e. the man’s wife), the one who had dreamed of coming to Canada with her child, was no longer part of the application. The applicant soon received immigration visas for his new family, and they enjoyed a happy life in Canada shortly afterwards.
Due to the precariousness of the immigration process, we recommend keeping your family relationship secure and healthy because, at any stage in the immigration process, the principal applicant can exclude or add any dependent without their knowledge; the government only communicates with the principal applicant.
Retaining Relationships after Landing
If your relationship survives the bureaucracy of the immigration process, congratulations! However, there are still a few road bumps ahead before you can settle comfortably in Canada. Not all families are able to overcome the emotional stress and hardship that immigration brings, and many newcomers file for divorce after the immigration process. Yet even if the principal applicant and their dependent spouse divorce while in Canada, their resident status cannot be revoked under any circumstances provided that they have successfully received permanent residency.
The bottom line is to be prepared for the challenges that come with the immigration process, from satisfying immigration program requirements to dealing with hardship, to stabilizing relationships and keeping the family together — no matter how hard it gets.