How To Use Spousal Sponsorship to Immigrate into Canada?
Canada offers many ways for people who want to immigrate into Canada and one of the most popular methods used by a lot of people who want to get a permanent residency is by having their partners or spouses sponsor them. Similar to its immigration policy in general, Canada’s spousal sponsorship program is also very flexible when it comes to giving people the chance of living in Canada. However, just because you have a partner or spouse who is living in Canada will not give you the right to receive permanent residency or citizenship by default. There are many more factors that affect whether your spousal sponsorship application will be approved or denied. In this article, we will briefly touch on how spousal sponsorship works, what are important points to consider before you submit your application, and finally how we can help you to make this process smoother and less time-consuming.
What Exactly is “Spousal Sponsorship”? Who Are Eligible to Sponsor?
Canada allows you to sponsor your spouse or partner who wants to legally immigrate into Canada. If your sponsorship application is approved, your spouse will receive permanent resident status. Their status will not be revoked if your partnership ends with that person. You will also be financially responsible for that person’s basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, medical care, etc. for 3 years. Just as before, this financial responsibility (aptly called an “undertaking”) will not end if your partnership ends with that person. The Canadian government needs you to undertake the person you are sponsoring so that they will not ask the government for financial help.
To be able to become a sponsor for your spouse or partner, you must be:
- Canadian citizen or permanent resident,
- currently living in Canada OR planning to live in Canada after your sponsor receives the permanent resident status,
- able to sponsor yourself and the people that you want to sponsor. This can also include the children of your spouse who are under 22 years old.
- NOT convicted of a sexual or a violent crime
An important point here is that you can still sponsor someone even if you are not currently living in Canada. So if you are a Canadian expatriot currently living outside Canada with a partner, you could return to Canada with your partner and their dependent children. However, you will still sign an undertaking agreement so you must make sure you have enough money to support your sponsors.
Who Can You Sponsor?
As expected, with the spousal sponsorship program you can sponsor your husband or wife with whom you have a legally valid civil marriage. You do not need to have this marriage in Canada necessarily; however, we must point out that IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – Canadian governments department of immigration) does not deem marriages where both people are not physically present as valid. So if you were planning on getting married over the phone, Internet or other various mediums they won’t be enough.
Can I Sponsor Someone to Canada Without Getting Married?
Yes, you can. As we’ve mentioned before, Canadian immigration is flexible when it comes to accommodating different needs and the same thing applies here as well. If you’re unable to get married for any reason with your partner (maybe you’re in a same-sex relationship in a country that does recognize them) you can still sponsor their immigration and their path to permanent residency in Canada. To sponsor your partner, you have to be in a common-law or conjugal relationship. IRCC defines common-law relationship as a relationship where:
- there is a significant degree of attachment between the two people,
- the relationship has been ongoing for at least one year,
- and perhaps most importantly, proof that the couple is living together for at least one year
Now you might be wondering how you can prove that you are sharing the same home with your partner. This is actually one of the most frequently asked questions regarding spousal sponsorship and while this topic deserves an entire article on its own; it is not as complicated as you might think. You can present documents like:
- utility bills,
- government documents (such as driver’s licenses if they include your and your partner’s address),
- bills from your telecommunications provider, Internet service provider, etc.
- bank statements,
Well, the list goes on. Basically, any kind of document that shows your and your partner’s address can be used to prove cohabitation. In our own experience, we have even seen IRCC accept reference letters from the couples’ friends and landlords as proof that you are indeed living together with your partner in the same place. We must also point out that, this relationship does not have to take place in Canada. Although depending on if both you and your partner are currently in Canada or not, you would have to apply as a different class.
If circumstances did not allow you and your partner to live together, you can still sponsor their immigration. IRCC also recognizes conjugal relationships, in which co-habitation has not been possible due to a variety of reasons, be it religious, cultural, or immigration-related. For example, say you met your significant other during a short stay abroad, but you had to return to Canada and your partner wasn’t able to follow you to Canada because of barriers in immigration (maybe they weren’t able to obtain a tourist visa). That would constitute a perfect example for a conjugal relationship scenario. Again, you would have to present proof of why cohabitation with your partner hasn’t been possible in your relationship and whether you are really in a genuine relationship with your partner.
Conjugal relationships are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, so it is more difficult to say what kind of documents or proofs will be necessary for IRCC. However, in our experience, if genuine obstacles are preventing you from getting married or living together with your partner, almost all of the time your application will be approved.
Can I Sponsor Our Children As Well?
You can also sponsor children as part of spousal sponsorship. However, they must be considered as “dependent children” by the IRCC. They are:
- under 22 years old. Children who are older than 22 years old can still be dependent if they have a mental or physical condition.
- not married.
- can be your children or children of a previous relationship with your partner.
One important thing to note here is that when sponsoring children you will commit to an undertaking of 10 years (or until the dependent child turns 22, whichever comes first), as opposed to 3 years with your spouse.
How Much Money Do I Need For Each Sponsor?
One of the most frequent misconceptions about spousal sponsorships is that there is a certain limit of income you have to earn in order to be eligible. This is simply not true, unlike parental sponsorships or Express Entry (where you have to bring a certain level of money to Canada as a guarantee that you can support yourself until you find a job), there are no specific income requirements to apply for spousal sponsorship. Of course, there are pre-determined fees that you have to pay such as:
- sponsorship fee ($75)
- principal applicant processing fee ($475)
- right of permanent residence fee ($500)
However, other than the fees that you pay to IRCC (or to the province of Quebec, which deserves an article of its own), there are no specific income requirements mandated by the IRCC. When you sign an undertaking, you are simply promising to give financial support for the basic needs of your partner and children. Even if you are receiving unemployment or disability benefits. Financial requirements for spousal sponsorships are purposefully set as more flexible, compared to parental sponsorships where there are pre-defined levels of income.
How Can We Help You With Your Spousal Sponsorship Application?
You don’t have to work with a 3rd party representative or immigration lawyer to submit a spousal sponsorship application, as opposed to what you might have read elsewhere on the Internet. However, working with a professional immigration consulting service could offer up many benefits. As we have mentioned before, Canada works very systematically with its immigration programs. As opposed to other countries such as the U.S or Western European countries, its admission criteria are more flexible. This flexibility does bring more nuances and paperwork though. It’s very easy to miss or fill the forms in the wrong way. One of the most frequent problems faced by applicants is that they are overwhelmed by the documents they have to get translated, notarized, and apostilled. Not submitting these documents correctly could result in your application taking a longer time than it has to, or even worse your application being denied. Spousal sponsorship applications could take as long as a year, so this application process taking even longer is not something anyone wants. Especially conjugal relationship applications could get complicated really fast. That’s why before you start your application don’t forget to reach out to our licensed immigration consultants for a free 15-minute consultation by filling out the evaluation form here.