If you are married or in a common-law partnership with a Canadian, here is an overview of the spousal sponsorship process.
Spousal sponsorship is a priority for Canada. Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024, the government aims to welcome some 80,000 new immigrants through its Spousal, Partner, and Children category per year. Most of these immigrants will arrive as the spouses and partners of Canadians.
The processing standard for spousal sponsorship applications is one year. After the pandemic caused delays, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser recently stated that IRCC is once again able to process new spousal applications in 12 months. Canada also launched a tracker for spousal sponsorship applicants to monitor their application’s status.
If your spouse, common-law, or conjugal partner is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, here is an overview on how they can sponsor you for Canadian immigration.
Canada’s spousal sponsorship process
Both you and your partner will have to meet eligibility criteria. You will have to demonstrate that you are in an ongoing genuine relationship with your partner, and you are not in a relationship with them for the sole purpose of getting Canadian permanent residency.
Spouses and common-law partners do not necessarily have to be in Canada to be sponsored. Canadian citizens can apply to sponsor from abroad as long as they demonstrate to IRCC that they will live in Canada once the application is processed. Permanent residents can only sponsor their spouses from Canada, even if their partner is living abroad.
Eligibility criteria for your Canadian partner
Canadian citizens and permanent residents may be eligible to sponsor if they:
- are at least 18 years old;
- are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or they are an Indigenous person registered under the Canadian Indian Act;
- demonstrate they are not receiving social assistance unless they have a disability; and
- can provide for the financial needs of the sponsored person.
Eligibility criteria for you as the person being sponsored
One of these three relationship categories must describe your relationship with your Canadian partner:
- Spouses: You and your Canadian citizen or permanent resident partner were legally married at an in-person ceremony.
- Common-law partners: If you are not legally married to your Canadian partner, you must have been living together for at least 12 consecutive months.
- Conjugal partner: If you are not legally married to your Canadian partner, but have been in a relationship with them for at least one year, reside outside of Canada, and are unable to marry them, IRCC may recognize the relationship as a conjugal partnership. Some of the reasons preventing marriage may include cultural, religious, or legal reasons.
You must be at least 18 years old to be sponsored under any of these categories.
Also, you must pass a health, security, and criminality screening and therefore be considered admissible to Canada.
How to apply for spousal sponsorship
Once you establish that you and your partner are eligible for sponsorship, you can then get IRCC’s application package on the government web page. After that you have to pay the necessary fees on IRCC’s website, which include a processing fee, a right of permanent residence fee, and a biometrics fee. You have to submit two applications together at the same time: a sponsorship application and a permanent residence application.
After IRCC approves the application
Once you get permanent residency, you and your partner still have to uphold some of the conditions of spousal sponsorship. Your Canadian partner is still financially responsible for you for three years. So if you ask the government for financial assistance in that time, your partner may be forced to repay the government.
You as the sponsored person may not sponsor another partner for five years after having been sponsored.