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New, Tighter Spousal Sponsorship Regulations Imposed as Part of Efforts to Stop Forced Marriages

The Conservative government of late has been ramping up efforts to fight “forced marriages” and other practices which put women and girls at risk of abuse and mistreatment. For example, Bill S-7, the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act,” which prohibits forced marriage, polygamy, and other acts, is now set to become law.

Part of these efforts include amending the regulations and standards that apply to spousal sponsorship. As I discuss in detail here, spousal sponsorship allows a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner for Canadian Permanent Residency.

Generally, 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.

Minimum Age Raised, No More Proxy Marriages Allowed

The new regulations raise the minimum age for an eligible spouse from 16 to 18 years-of-age, and make telephone, fax, internet or similar forms of marriage where one or both parties are not physically present an excluded relationship, in all temporary and permanent immigration programs, including the spousal sponsorship program. All sponsorship applications received on or after June 11, 2015, will be subject to the new regulations.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada defines proxy marriage as a marriage in which one or both of the participants are not physically present and are represented by another person at the solemnization of the marriage. A telephone, fax, or internet marriage is defined by CIC as a marriage in which one or both of the participants are not physically present at the same location, but participate at the solemnization of the marriage by telephone, fax, Internet or other means (e.g. Skype or FaceTime). It is possible that someone other than those getting married participates on their behalf as well as over the telephone, by fax, Internet or other means.

The new regulations include exemptions for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and if a marriage would now be excluded under the new rules but the couple would otherwise qualify as common-law partners for purposes of sponsorship, the application will be processed on that basis.


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. Toronto immigration lawyer Larry Butkowsky can help. His legal practice focuses solely on immigration law and he can assist you with all of your immigration questions, concerns, and issues. Call (416) 979-2127 to discuss your matter.

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