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Reuniting Families in Canada: Spousal and Common Law Partner Sponsorships

Spousal and common law partner sponsorships are one avenue that your spouse, common-law partner, dependent child, or other eligible relative can take to become a permanent resident of Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada created this class of sponsorship as part of its commitment to keeping families together as much as possible. Spousal and common law sponsorships are often quicker than regular permanent resident applications, but they have unique eligibility requirements and application processing, and the help of an experienced immigration lawyer can go a long way towards ensuring that you are reunited with family members in Canada.

Spousal or common law partner sponsorships can sometimes be submitted in Canada or alternatively, outside of Canada.

What Does “Sponsoring” Mean?

If you are seeking to sponsor a family member, you must demonstrate the ability and commitment to provide financial support for the sponsored spouse’s or relative’s basic requirements. These requirements include basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, as well as health care not provided by public health. This undertaking is designed in part to ensure that the sponsored individuals do not have to apply for social assistance. Additionally, the undertaking remains in effect even in the event of divorce, if the relationship disintegrates, if financial circumstances change, or Canadian citizenship is obtained.

How Do I Qualify for Spousal and Common Law Sponsorship?

You are able to sponsor your spouse if your marriage is a valid civil marriage, meaning a marriage to someone of the opposite sex, or a same-sex marriage legally performed in Canada or legally recognized in the country where it was performed.

You are also able to sponsor your common-law partner if you have been living together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. The government will look at facts such as whether the couple shares the same home, their level of support to one another (emotionally and financially), whether the couple has children together, and whether they present themselves in public as a couple.

Additionally, you may sponsor a conjugal partner if the following apply:

  • A significant degree of attachment exists between the two; and
  • You have been in a genuine relationship for at least one year where marriage or cohabitation was not possible due to sexual orientation, religious faith, or other outside circumstances.

Finally, you may sponsor your own dependent children, or the children of your spouse or common-law partner. In order to qualify for sponsorship, the children:

  • Must be under the age of 22 and may not have a spouse or common-law partner, or;
  • Must depend substantially on their parents for financial support and be enrolled as a full time student prior to the age of 22, or;
  • Must depend on the parents for financial support before the age of 22 due to a medical condition which renders them unable to provide for themselves.
  • Additionally, you may sponsor the dependent children of your dependent child.

NOTE: Effective January 2014, Citizenship and Immigration is instituting new rules to define “dependents”.

Changing the maximum age of dependents: The maximum age of dependents will be set at 18 years of age and under for all immigration programs, including the Parent and Grandparent program. This is in line with the standard age of majority in Canada. Those over the age of 18 can apply to visit or immigrate to Canada independently. There will be an exception for individuals, regardless of age, who are financially dependent on their parents due to a mental or physical disability.

How Does the Sponsorship Process Work?

The spousal sponsorship application process begins with the filing of an application (for overseas sponsorships, in the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, and for in Canada applications, in Vegreville, Alberta) The first step takes place when officers evaluate the sponsor’s eligibility. Once this is completed, the application is transferred to a local office in Canada or to a Canadian visa office which is responsible for applications in the spouse or family member’s country of citizenship. At this point, officers assess the relationship and admissibility of the applicant and the spouse or family member. Processing times for these applications varies from one visa office to another.

To determine if you and your spouse, partner, or family member meet the qualifications for family sponsorship, and to ensure that your application is prepared and processed correctly, you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who can guide you through the process of bringing your family together in Canada.

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