Canada has a longstanding commitment to family values. This commitment is reflected in the government’s ongoing efforts to keep immigrant families together whenever possible.
One of the main avenues that Canadians use to bring their loved ones to Canada is the Family Class Sponsorship program. Thousands of family members have received Canadian Permanent Residency through this program. However, at times people have attempted to use the program as a way to sidestep standard Canadian immigration requirements. To encourage legitimate applications, new legislation has recently been implemented to ensure that the Family Class program continues to be a safe and effective way of bringing loved ones to Canada.
What is the Family Class Sponsorship Program?
The Family Class Sponsorship program allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their close family members for Canadian Permanent Residency. For Canadian immigration purposes, close family members are defined as the following:
- Spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner;
- Dependent child;
- Parent or Grandparent*;
- Brother, sister, nephew, niece, or grandchild
- Must be orphaned, under 18 years of age, and not married or in a common-law partnership
- Intended adopted child under 18 years of age;
- Other relative, if the Canadian sponsor has no relative listed above and no relatives who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents
*At this time, no new applications for parent or grandparent sponsorship are being accepted. However, interested parties may apply for a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa.
Sponsors in Canada must agree to support their family member socially and financially upon their arrival in Canada. Both sponsors and their family members must be approved to apply through the Family Class program.
New Rules for Spousal Sponsorship
Two new rules have been added for cases of spouse/common-law partner sponsorship. They are the following:
1. 5-Year Restriction on Sponsorship (March 2nd, 2012)
- Canadian Permanent Residents who were sponsored as a spouse/common-law partner cannot become a sponsor themselves until they have been a Permanent Resident for 5 years.
- In this way, fraudulent applicants will not be able to manipulate the program and sponsor a partner living abroad.
2. Two-Year “Legitimate Relationship” Regulation (October 26th, 2012)
- This rule applies to spouses/partners who have been in a relationship for two years or less and who have no children in common with their sponsor at the time of application submission.
- Once in Canada, the sponsored individual will receive conditional Permanent Residency. They 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.
The Logic Behind the New Rules
Fraud is always a concern in spousal sponsorship applications because of the somewhat subjective nature of the relationship. Marriage fraud can take a number of forms. Sometimes, a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident is duped by a foreigner who feigns romantic interest and convinces them to become a sponsor. Other times, intricate marriages of convenience will be undertaken, often with a cash incentive for the involved parties. Fraud disadvantages those who have applied in good faith and waited patiently to bring their loved ones to Canada.
“There are countless cases of marriage fraud across the country,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “I have consulted widely with Canadians, and especially with victims of marriage fraud, who have told me clearly that we must take action to stop this abuse of our immigration system.”
By placing restrictions on spousal sponsorship, it is hoped that incentives for committing fraud will be greatly reduced without discouraging genuine applicants. Other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, have imposed similar restrictions with success. It is hoped that Canada will follow in their footsteps, and no longer be seen as a ‘soft target’ for fraudsters.
If you would like to learn more about Family Sponsorship, please fill out our free online assessment.