Family Sponsorship

Spousal And Common-law Partner Sponsorship

The objective of the Family Class of immigration is to reunite close family members in Canada.

The Family Class allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their dependent children, parents and grandparents, and spouse or common-law/conjugal partner. Canada strongly supports keeping families together whenever possible. As such, the processing of Family Class applications is given the highest priority at Canadian Visa Offices.

Family sponsorship in Canada: A young couple smiling, with the woman resting her palm on the man's chest

The Spousal Sponsorship Category

The Spousal Sponsorship program is a subsection of the Family Class immigration category. Under this program, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may sponsor a spouse or common-law partner for Canadian permanent residence.

Both the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (also called the ‘sponsor’) and the foreign national (the ‘sponsored person’) must be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in order for the sponsored person to receive a visa.

In order to receive a visa through this immigration program, the sponsor and sponsored person must prove that their relationship qualifies under one of three categories:

  • Spouse
  • Common-law Partner
  • Conjugal Partner

NOTE: Canada recognizes same-sex marriage, and same-sex partners may be eligible to apply under any of the above three categories, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

To learn more about eligibility requirements for the sponsor and sponsored person, click here.

Outland Sponsorship

An Outland application is generally pursued when the sponsored partner is living outside of Canada. However, Outland applicants can still be in Canada and apply through the Outland program, and may be permitted to travel in and out of Canada throughout the application process. Outland applications are processed through the visa office that serves the applicant’s country of origin, or where they have resided legally for at least one year.

Inland Sponsorship

The other potential option for Spousal/Common-Law Sponsorship is the Inland route. Inland sponsorship is when the couple is together in Canada and the foreign spouse/common-law partner has temporary status in Canada, either as a worker, student, or visitor. The person being sponsored may be eligible for an Open Work Permit, allowing him or her to work for any employer in Canada while the sponsorship application is being processed.

After Sponsorship

Permanent residence granted under the Spousal Sponsorship program carries certain conditions that must be met:

  • The sponsor is financially responsible for the person sponsored for three years after the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident.
  • Individuals who come to Canada as spouses are themselves barred from sponsoring a spouse in turn for five years after receiving Canadian permanent residence.
  • A two-year “legitimate relationship” regulation applies to spouses/partners who have been in a relationship for two years or less and who have no children in common at the time of application submission. Once in Canada, the sponsored person must live with their spouse/partner in a “legitimate relationship” for two years or face the possibility of having their permanent residency revoked. Exceptions will be made for sponsored spouses or partners who are suffering from abuse or neglect.

Outland Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship

This sponsorship program allows a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to sponsor his or her spouse/common-law partner for permanent resident status, regardless of where the spouse is currently residing.

The Spousal Sponsorship program is a subsection of the Family Class immigration category. Under this program, a Canadian or permanent resident may sponsor his or her spouse/common-law partner for permanent resident status in Canada. Both the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (the sponsor) and the foreign national (the sponsored person) must be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) in order for the sponsored person to receive a visa.

There are two parts to the spousal sponsorship application:

  • The Canadian or permanent resident applies to sponsor his or her spouse or common-law partner; and
  • The spouse or common-law partner applies for permanent residence.

The Outland sponsorship route is generally chosen when the sponsored person is living outside Canada. However, it is possible for a spouse/common-law partner living in Canada to apply through the Outland program. This option may permit the sponsored person to travel in and out of Canada throughout the application process. In such an instance, however, it is at the discretion of Canadian immigration authorities as to whether the sponsored person may re-enter Canada during the process. Additionally, it is at their discretion as to whether the application may continue to be processed if the sponsored person leaves Canada at any point throughout the application process.

Outland applications are processed through the visa office that serves the applicant’s country of origin, or where they have resided legally for at least one year. Processing times are listed by individual countries where the application is being made, which allows couples to make better informed decisions on which sponsorship route, Inland or Outland, they should pursue. 

In cases of spousal and common-law partner sponsorships, IRCC is committed to issuing visas as quickly as possible in order to rapidly reunite families. IRCC aims to process applications submitted through this program within 12 months.

Regardless of the sponsorship path chosen, both the sponsor and the sponsored person must meet a number of specific requirements in order to be considered eligible.

Inland Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship

The Inland Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship program allows a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to sponsor his or her spouse/common-law partner for permanent resident status if the couple is already living together in Canada.

The Spousal Sponsorship program is a subsection of the Family Class immigration category, under which a Canadian or permanent resident may sponsor his or her spouse/common-law partner for Canadian permanent residence. Both the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (also called the ‘sponsor’) and the foreign national (the ‘sponsored person’) must be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) in order for the sponsored person to receive a visa.

There are two parts to the spousal sponsorship application:

  • The Canadian or permanent resident applies to sponsor his or her spouse or common-law partner; and
  • The spouse or common-law partner applies for permanent residence.

Under the Inland sponsorship category, the foreign spouse/common-law partner must have valid temporary status in Canada, either as a worker, student, or visitor. If the sponsored person already has a work or study permit, he or she may continue to work or study as long as the permit is valid, however it is important to note that working and studying in Canada without valid status are illegal and may result in serious consequences for the sponsored person.

In contrast to Outland applications (where the spouse is residing outside Canada), the person being sponsored through the Inland route may be eligible for an Open Work Permit while his or her application is being processed. This program can help to mitigate the consequences of a long application process by enabling the sponsored person to work for a Canadian employer, without first having a confirmed offer of employment. Applicants who would like to obtain an open work permit should apply for one at the same time that they apply for permanent residence. However, IRCC states that if a sponsored spouse or common-law partner has not submitted an application for an open work permit at the same time as their permanent residence application, he or she may still submit an application for an open work permit at a later time.

If IRCC requires an interview, the sponsored person will be notified, in writing, of the date, time and location of the interview, and of the documents he or she must bring.

In the event that a sponsored person’s application is refused, he or she is required to leave Canada immediately at the end of his or her period of temporary stay. Additionally, if the sponsored person leaves Canada at any point while the application is being processed, there is no guarantee that he or she will be allowed to re-enter Canada, especially if he or she requires a visitor visa. IRCC aims to process applications submitted through this program within 12 months.

Regardless of the sponsorship path chosen, both the sponsor and the sponsored person must meet a number of specific requirements in order to be considered eligible.

amily Class: Specific Requirements

Through the Family Class category of Canadian immigration, Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor close family members for Canadian immigration.

In order for a Family Class application to be successful, both the sponsor in Canada and their sponsored family member must meet immigration requirements. These requirements differ depending under which program the application is submitted.

Spouse or Common Law Partner Sponsorship

Requirements for the Sponsor:

  • The sponsor must be at least 18 years of age;
  • The sponsor must be a Canadian permanent resident living in Canada or a Canadian citizen;
  • The sponsor cannot be in prison, bankrupt, under a removal order (if a permanent resident) or charged with a serious offence; and
  • The sponsor cannot have been sponsored to Canada as a spouse within the last 5 years.

Requirements for the Sponsored Person:

  • The sponsored person must be at least 16 years of age and
  • The sponsored person must not be too closely related by blood to the sponsor.

Requirements for the nature of the relationship:

The applicant must prove that the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person qualifies under one of three categories:

  • Spouse: This means that the Sponsor and the Sponsored Person are legally married. For those married within Canada, a Certificate of Marriage from the province or territory where the marriage took place will show that the marriage is valid. Note that same-sex marriages performed within Canada are valid for spousal sponsorship. If the marriage took place outside of Canada, it must be valid under the law of the country where it took place as well as under Canadian federal law. Same-sex marriages that took place outside of Canada are not valid for spousal sponsorship, but an application can be made under either the common-law partner or conjugal partner categories if such a relationship can be proven.
  • Common-law partner: In order to establish a common-law relationship, the Sponsor and the Sponsored Person must cohabit continuously for at least one year, excluding brief absences for business or family reasons.
  • Conjugal partner: Conjugal partners can be of either opposite-sex or same-sex. A sponsored person is defined as conjugal partner if:
    • Exceptional circumstances beyond their control have prevented the applicants from qualifying as common-law partners or spouses, such as immigration barriers or legal restrictions limiting divorce or same-sex relationships; and
    • The applicants have had a mutually dependent relationship for at least one year with the same level of commitment as a marriage or a common-law union. This can require a demonstration of emotional ties and intimacy, financial closeness, such as joint ownership of assets or mutual financial support, and efforts to spend time together and reunite.

Parent and Grandparent Family Class Sponsorship

Requirements for the Sponsor:

  • The sponsor and their relative must sign a sponsorship agreement that commits the sponsor to provide financial support to their relative, if necessary. If sponsoring a person coming to the Province of Quebec, an “undertaking” with the Province must be signed.
  • The sponsor must promise to provide financial support for the relative and any other eligible relatives accompanying them for a period of 20 years. The time period begins the day the parent or grandparent becomes a permanent resident.
  • The sponsor must meet the minimum income threshold for this program.

Requirements for the Sponsored Person:

  • The sponsored person must be the parent(s) or grandparent(s) of the sponsor.

Parent and Grandparent Super Visa Sponsorship

Requirements for the Sponsor:

  • The sponsor must be the child or grandchild of the sponsored person;
  • The sponsor must provide a written commitment of financial support; and
  • The sponsor must meet the minimum income threshold for this program.

Requirements for the Sponsored Person:

  • The sponsored person must be the parent or grandparent of the sponsor;
  • The sponsored person must be admissible to Canada as a visitor;
  • The sponsored person must prove that he or she has bought Canadian medical insurance coverage for at least one year; and
  • The sponsored person must undergo an Immigration Medical Examination.

Dependent Child Sponsorship

Requirements for the Sponsor:

  • The sponsor must be 18 years of age;
  • The sponsor must be a Canadian permanent resident living in Canada or a Canadian citizen; and
  • The sponsor cannot be in prison, bankrupt, under a removal order (if a permanent resident) or charged with a serious offence.

Requirements for the Sponsored Person:

  • The sponsored person must be in one of the following situations of dependency:
    • Less than 19 years of age and not a spouse or common-law partner; or
    • Has been an ongoing full-time student since before the age of 19 and has depended substantially on the financial support of the parent since that time; or
    • Is 19 years of age or older and meets the following:
      • Became a spouse or partner before the age of 19;
      • Has been an ongoing full-time student since before the age of 19; and
      • Has depended substantially on the financial support of the parent since they became a spouse or partner; or
  • Is 19 years of age or older and has depended substantially on the financial support of the parent since before the age of 19 and is unable to be financially self-supporting due to a physical or mental condition.

Requirements for nature of the relationship:

  • The Sponsored Person must be either:
    • The biological child of the parent if the child has not been adopted by a person other than the spouse or common law partner; or
    • The adopted child of the parent.

Note: The government of Canada has outlined a plan to increase the maximum age of dependent children that may be sponsored to less than 22 years of age. It is expected that this change will enter into force on October 24, 2017.

Parent And Grandparent Sponsorship

Canadian citizens and permanent residents may bring their parents and grandparents to Canada through one of two popular programs: Family Class sponsorship and/or the Super Visa program.

NOTE: The application process for the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) has changed for the ۲۰۱۷ application cycle. Please see below for details.

Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) Changes for 2017

Canadian citizens and permanent residents who want to apply as sponsors were required to first complete an online form on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website, to indicate their interest in applying to sponsor their parent(s) or grandparent(s). The online form was available from January 3, 2017, at 12 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), to February 2, 2017, at 12 p.m. EST.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) randomly invited 10,000 individuals to complete and submit an application to the PGP. Candidates who were invited to apply have 90 days to submit a complete application and all supporting documents.

About the PGP

The Family Class sponsorship program includes a stream for parent(s) and grandparent(s) of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Successful parent(s) and grandparent(s) under this program will receive Canadian permanent residence and may be able to apply for Canadian Citizenship four years thereafter. To be eligible for Family Class sponsorship, the sponsor in Canada must meet the following requirements:

  • The sponsor must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • The sponsor must be 18 years of age or older;
  • The sponsor must exceed the minimum necessary income level for this program (if married or in a common-law relationship, the income of both can be included);
  • The sponsor must sign an undertaking to repay any provincial social assistance benefits paid to the sponsor and accompanying family member(s), if any, for a period of 20 years, if necessary; and
    • If the sponsor resides in Quebec, an additional “undertaking” must be signed.

Sponsors will have to prove that they meet the minimum income requirements by submitting notices of assessment issued by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) in support of their sponsorship and they must also demonstrate they have met the minimum necessary income level for three consecutive years.