Under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, family reunification is one of the most important elements. As a result, sponsorships by Canadian citizens of their foreign national spouses and dependents have priority over many other independent immigration applications. Spousal applications are some of the fastest applications processed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Not only can married spouses sponsor each other for immigration to Canada, but common-law partners, same-sex partners and conjugal partners are now considered members of the family class.
A sponsor who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and at least 18 years old and residing in Canada can file an application to sponsor an individual with whom he or she is married, has a common-law relationship or conjugal partner relationship.
The term conjugal does not mean "sexual relations" alone. It signifies that there is a significant degree of attachment between the two partners.
The following characteristics are what Immigration Officers look to in all relationships, whether married or unmarried:
- Mutual commitment to a shared life
- Exclusive relationship so that the individual is only in one relationship
- Intimate relationship so that there is sexual exclusivity
- Inter-dependency of physical, emotional, financial and social issues
- Permanent and a long term genuine and continuing relationship
- A presentation of the couple socially so that each considers the other a partner
- Joint caring of children
Because of the more liberal approach as to who is considered to be a family member, the documentation requirements increase if marriage is not legally possible or has not occurred. For a common-law relationship, whether same sex or not, there must be a period of one full year of cohabitation together with other extrinsic evidence which shows that the relationship is one in which the individuals are bound to each other.
In a conjugal relationship, the one year period of physical cohabitation is not necessary, but there must be a greater evidence of a relationship proven by extrinsic evidence such as joint membership in organizations or groups, joint participation in sporting or social activities, joint travel, along with testimonials by parents, family members, relatives or friends and other interested parties about the nature of the relationship and whether the couple present themselves to others as partners.
Once the basis for a family sponsorship is met, the sponsor and sponsored person must sign an agreement that confirms their understanding of their mutual obligations and responsibilities. The sponsor agrees to support the person and the family members during the period of the undertaking for basic requirements of food, shelter, clothing, fuel, utilities, household supplies and health care not provided by the public health system. In addition, the sponsor agrees that the family member will not need to apply for social assistance or benefits. In fact, the sponsor is bound separately by an undertaking with the Citizenship and Immigration that if any social assistance is paid to the sponsored person, that it becomes a debt owed by the sponsor to Her Majesty in the Right of Canada and the Province concerned. As a result the Minister and the Province concerned have a right to take enforcement action against the sponsor for all such benefits paid.
Can a foreign national spouse work in Canada while waiting?
No. If you are a foreign national spouse, you would not be able to work, have health insurance, or a social insurance number unless you qualify for a work permit under separate categories. In some circumstances, you may have been living in Canada without legal status. Under such a situation, you can still be sponsored by the Canadian citizen even though you have no status. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will recognize special humanitarian and compassionate considerations in processing such applications from within Canada.
If you are a Canadian citizen (or a permanent resident living in Canada) and have married or have been living with a foreign national for at least 12 full months, you may be eligible to sponsor the foreign national for permanent residence to Canada.
Please fill out both parts of the following form for a free assessment of whether you and your foreign national spouse qualify for this visa.