Spousal Sponsorship: Sponsor your Spouse or Partner for Canadian Immigration
Spousal sponsorship is a major part of Canada's immigration system. If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can sponsor your spouse, common-law, or conjugal partner to obtain Canadian permanent resident status.
The Canadian government aims to make decisions on spousal sponsorship applications within 12 months. This comprehensive CanadaVisa page providers everything you need to know on Canada's spousal sponsorship program.
Table of Contents
- What is Spousal Sponsorship?
- Am I Eligible to Sponsor?
- Who Can I Sponsor?
- How Can I Apply?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- About CanadaVisa and Cohen Immigration Law
The Canadian government allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are in a relationship with a foreign national to sponsor that person to join them and become a permanent resident of Canada. You can sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner. You have two main options to choose from when sponsoring: Outland and Inland sponsorship.
How is COVID-19 impacting spousal sponsorship?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to accept and process spousal sponsorship applications throughout the coronavirus pandemic. If you wish to sponsor your wife, husband, or partner, you are welcome to do so. While COVID-19 is causing disruptions to application processing, IRCC is stating that processing spousal sponsorship applications remains a priority and it is aiming to expedite spousal processing during the pandemic.
How many spouses and partners does Canada welcome each year?
Under its Immigration Levels Plan, Canada aims to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants per year. Some 60 per cent are targeted as economic class skilled workers, followed by family class immigrants, and refugees. Among family class immigrants, Canada seeks to welcome some 80,000 per year under its Spouses, Partners, and Children category.
You can be a sponsor if:
- You are 18 years of age or older;
- A Canadian citizen, permanent resident living in Canada, or person registered under the Canadian Indian Act;
- You live in Canada or are a Canadian citizen planning to return to the country;
- You are not receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability;
- You can provide for your basic needs, those of your spouse or partner and, if applicable, those of dependent children.
As a sponsor you must:
- Be able to support your partner financially;
- Make sure they will not require social assistance from the government.
What are the requirements to sponsor in Canada?
Sponsorship of a spouse in Canada involves a commitment to provide financial support to the sponsored person, including any dependent children. As a sponsor, you will be required to sign an undertaking that promises to provide for the basic needs of the sponsored person.
These basic needs include:
- Housing, including utility bills;
- Food and personal hygiene products;
- Clothing and other items necessary for daily living;
- Medical expenses not covered by public health insurance, such as dental and eye care.
Your obligations as a sponsor begin the moment the undertaking is in effect. The length of the undertaking is 3 years from the day your spouse, common-law or conjugal partner becomes a permanent resident.
You cannot cancel or withdraw an undertaking, even if your personal or financial situation changes, once the sponsorship application has been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
How much income do you need to sponsor your spouse or partner?
There is no specific income requirement to be able to sponsor your spouse or partner to Canada.
However, financial requirements for spousal sponsorship include the following:
- You must show that you have sufficient income or assets to support the spouse or partner once he or she arrives in Canada;
- You must not be receiving income support benefits from any province or be in bankruptcy proceedings.
If you are receiving Employment Insurance benefits or disability benefits, you may still sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner.
How much does it cost to sponsor your spouse or partner?
|Fees||In Canadian dollars|
Principal applicant processing fee
Right of Permanent Residence Fee
Biometrics (fingerprints and photo)
If you are sponsoring your spouse or partner and he or she has dependent children, an additional payment of $150 will be required for each child included in the application.
If the sponsor resides in Quebec or intends to reside in Quebec when permanent residence is issued, an additional fee of $289 CAD will also be required.
To receive a visa under this immigration program, you and your foreign spouse or partner will have to prove that you are in an authentic relationship that qualifies under one of the three categories:
- Spouse: you are legally married;
- Common-law partner: you live or have lived with your partner for at least 12 consecutive months in a marriage-like relationship;
- Conjugal partner: you must have been in a continuous and committed relationship for a period of at least 12 months but have had significant obstacles that prevent you from residing with one another (such as cultural, religious or immigration barriers).
The person you are sponsoring must:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Pass all background, security and medical checks.
Both the Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and the foreign national must be approved IRCC before the sponsored person can receive a visa.
Can I sponsor my same-sex spouse or partner?
Canada recognizes same-sex marriages and relationships, and your spouse or partner may be eligible to apply in one of the three categories above, provided both parties meet all the eligibility criteria. If you are married and the event took place outside of Canada, it must be legally recognized in the country where it took place.
How can I prove that my common-law relationship is genuine?
To prove the duration and nature of your relationship, you will need to submit documents such as:
- Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation Questionnaire;
- Birth certificates, marriage certificates or adoption records of any children you and your common-law partner have together;
- Photos of you and your common-law partner that show your relationship;
- Documents proving that you are recognized as common-law partners of each other, such as employment or insurance benefits;
- Proof of shared expenses between you and your partner;
- Proof of your relationship (letters, emails, social media).
If there is any indication that your relationship is not genuine, the sponsorship application will not be accepted.
How Can I Apply?
Before you begin the application process, make sure that you and your loved one meet all the eligibility criteria.
The application process will require you to submit the following two applications at the same time:
- Your application to sponsor your spouse or partner
- Your spouse or partner’s permanent residence application
Applying to sponsor a spouse is a four-step process:
Step 1. Obtain the application package found on the government website; it contains a guide with instructions and forms that will help you complete the process correctly.
Step 2. Pay the online application fee, which includes the following:
- Processing fees for all persons included in the application;
- Right of Permanent Residence Fee;
- Biometrics fees;
- Other third-party fees, if applicable.
Step 3. Submit your application by following the submission instructions provided in the guide you downloaded.
Step 4. Submit the required supporting documents when prompted.
Couples have two options to choose from when submitting their application:
In general, applications to sponsor a foreign spouse or partner are submitted when the sponsored person lives abroad and the Canadian sponsor resides in Canada.
The foreign spouse or partner may be allowed to enter and leave Canada throughout the application process, provided they are from a visa-free country or obtain the appropriate Canadian visa. For his or her part, the Canadian spouse or partner will have to remain in Canada while the application is being processed.
Applications from outside Canada are processed by the visa office serving the applicant's country of origin or in which the applicant has been legally residing for at least one year.
To submit a sponsorship application in this category, both spouses need to live together in Canada and the foreign spouse or partner must have temporary status in Canada as a worker, student or visitor.
The sponsor and the applicant spouse are required to live together in Canada for the duration of the processing of the application. This type of sponsorship application is filed in Canada.
Foreign spouses who are in Canada and have legal temporary status may apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP) while their Inland sponsorship application is being processed, allowing them to work for any Canadian employer. This measure is intended to alleviate potential financial hardship caused by potentially lengthy application processing times.
Where do I submit my spousal sponsorship application?
In general, applications to sponsor a spouse or partner can be submitted either outside Canada at a visa office abroad or in Canada at a local immigration office. Sponsorship applications for conjugal partners can only be submitted through an outside of Canada application process.
How long do sponsorship applications usually take?
The standard spousal application processing time is 12 months.
Is an interview required as part of my application?
Interviews are necessary only in cases where the information is considered not credible and are at the discretion of the visa officers assessing your application.
Why could my application be refused?
Here are some of the main reasons why your application could be refused:
- You did not provide enough proof of relationship to prove it is legitimate;
- There were errors in the Canadian spousal sponsorship forms;
- There was a misrepresentation of facts presented in your application;
- You are unable to meet basic requirements for spousal sponsorship;
- You or your partner are inadmissible due to a conviction or pose a risk to Canadian society.
Yes, foreign nationals may join their Canadian spouse or partner while their application is being processed. However, there is no visa or special status for spouses whose applications are undergoing processing.
In addition, having a pending application for permanent residence (PR) may complicate the process of obtaining a temporary or visitor visa because the officer may believe that your intention is to remain in Canada permanently before completing your immigration process. For this reason, it may be preferable to apply for a temporary visa first and then submit an Inland spousal sponsorship application once you are in Canada. By following this route, you will also be able to move from your temporary status in Canada to an open work permit that will allow you to work for any employer while your application is being processed.
Canada has a program that allows spouses and common-law partners of Canadians or permanent residents to obtain an Open Work Permit while their Inland sponsorship application for permanent residence (PR) is being processed. In order to be issued an open work permit, you must:
- Have submitted an application under the Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship Immigration Program;
- Reside at the same address as the sponsor (spouse/common-law partner);
- Have a valid temporary resident status (as a visitor, student, or worker); and
- Meet all eligibility requirements under spousal or common-law partner sponsorship, your spouse must meet all the eligibility requirements.
Yes, as long as they retain their legal status. Temporary resident status is valid for a specific period of time and you must ensure that your temporary resident status remains valid while you are in Canada. If you wish to stay in Canada longer, you must apply for a Visitor Record, which is a document that gives you visitor status and allows you to stay longer. You must apply for a Visitor Record before the expiration of your current status.
It is possible to leave Canada while your application is being processed by IRCC. However, if you wish to return to Canada, you will need to comply with eligibility rules and provide:
- A valid passport and travel documents;
- Valid work or study permit, if applicable;
- A valid visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA), if applicable.
Both options usually take about a year to process, but there are some important differences:
Outland: You can submit an Outland application even if your partner is in Canada. This option may be the best choice if your partner is able to travel to Canada but is unable to stay in the country during the processing of the application for work-related or personal reasons.
Inland: One of the advantages of filing an inland application is that your spouse can apply for an open work permit while the applications are still being processed. It takes about 4 months to obtain an open work permit. This permit allows him or her to work and be employed in almost any field in Canada during this waiting period.
The province of Quebec has its own criteria for spousal sponsorships and a separate undertaking application. If you are applying from Quebec, you will need to submit an application package to both Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Ministère de l'immigration, de la francisation et de l'intégration (MIFI).
MIFI will take into account the following:
- the financial criteria for sponsoring immigrants intending to live in Quebec;
- if sponsors are on social assistance;
- if the sponsors are in default of a previous Quebec undertaking or support payments;
- the duration of the commitment;
- an undischarged bankruptcy.
MIFI will then refuse or approve your undertaking application.
If your sponsorship application is approved in Quebec, the person you are sponsoring will receive a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ) and a decision will then be rendered by IRCC regarding the application for PR.
Here are some possible interview topics and questions you may be asked during the interview.
- Describe your relationship and how you met. (i.e., where you met, how long you have been together, etc.).
- Describe your husband or wife's occupation, education, professional qualifications and work experience.
- Describe your proposal, your engagement ring, where it was purchased.
- Describe your partner's financial situation (income, savings).
- What are your personal interests, your future plans, your daily activities?
- What are your partner's favourite foods?
- Does your partner have any medical problems?
- How will you share household chores?
Your spouse or partner has to be at least 18 years old in order to be eligible under spousal sponsorship.
Yes. You may add a request to add a dependent child to your application. However, this will result in your application taking longer.
There is a five-year sponsorship restriction for anyone who has been sponsored as a spouse/common-law partner himself or herself. This means that you cannot sponsor a new spouse or common-law partner within the first five years after you become a permanent resident, even if you have left your sponsor and you have now remarried.
In order for you to sponsor another spouse, after a separation or divorce for instance, you must wait until the end of your three-year commitment period. Once this period has elapsed, you will be able to sponsor a new spouse.
No. To obtain permanent residence (PR) or Canadian Citizenship you have to go through a formal immigration process and follow the same steps and meet the same eligibility requirement as everyone else.
If you are now a Canadian permanent resident through your spouse's or common-law partner's sponsorship and you are no longer with your sponsor, you will not necessarily have to leave Canada. Once you are granted permanent resident status, you cannot be deported or have your permanent resident status revoked on the grounds that your relationship did not last. However, your status may be subject to an investigation.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse separate or divorce before the three-year undertaking period is over, your spouse will still be required to honour the undertaking they have signed when they sponsored you. This includes having to reimburse the Canadian government for any social assistance benefits you may receive during the undertaking period.
Here are some of the documents that can be presented as proof of a common-law relationship:
- shared ownership of residential property;
- joint leases or rental agreements;
- bills for shared utility accounts (e.g., gas, electricity, telephone);
- insurance policies with both names;
- letters, emails etc.
Canada considers family reunification as a top priority, particularly applications under the spousal sponsorship program. The government of Canada continues to take steps to help reduce backlogs and processing times for spousal applications.
An immigration applicant who has been convicted in his or her home country of a crime that is also punishable in Canada will not be allowed to obtain legal immigration status. Inadmissibility to Canada can be the result of what can seem like minor offences, such as shoplifting or impaired driving. In Canada, however, it is possible for a convicted person to have the conviction overturned or be considered rehabilitated if the offence was committed a long time ago.
To change your application, whether it is from Inland to Outland or vice versa, you will need to withdraw the one you submitted and re-apply under a new one.
No. IRCC does not recognize marriages performed abroad by proxy, by telephone, on the Internet or other forms of marriage where both persons were not physically present at the ceremony.
Spousal sponsorship applications can be appealed to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD).
You have 30 days after receiving the refusal letter to appeal to the IAD.
You should be prepared to attend a hearing, during which you will be able to present new evidence to support you case, call witnesses to support your stance and have legal representation. The IAD will decide about whether or not the denial was made legally and if it should be overturned.
If the denial is overturned, your case will be sent back to be re-examined with the new decision referenced. If the refusal is maintained, you can appeal the IAD decision in federal court, which can take anywhere from six months to a year.
You may be able to withdraw your sponsorship application as long as the person you are sponsoring has not yet become a permanent resident of Canada. You may also be able to get a refund of your application fee if IRCC has not started processing your application.
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