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Family Sponsorship

Sponsorship and Common-Law Sponsorship

Established as a pivotal component of Canada’s immigration framework, the Family Class Sponsorship program represents the nation’s commitment to family reunification. This program facilitates Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents in sponsoring their spouses, common-law or conjugal partners, and dependent children, thereby strengthening family bonds and contributing to Canada’s multicultural mosaic.

Spousal Sponsorship?

Spousal sponsorship is a pathway for Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their legally married spouse for permanent residency in Canada. This process requires that the marriage be legally recognized both in the place it was performed and under Canadian law. It’s inclusive of all marriages, whether of opposite-sex or same-sex, as long as they meet legal standards.

Example: Sarah is a Canadian citizen living in Vancouver, and Chloe is from France. They met while Sarah was on vacation in France and, after long-distance dating, they decided to marry. They held their wedding ceremony in France, where same-sex marriage is legal. After the wedding, they obtained an official Marriage Certificate from the local French authorities. Once married, Sarah wishes to sponsor Chloe to come and live with her in Canada permanently. To do so, Sarah initiates the spousal sponsorship process. They submit their sponsorship application to the Canadian immigration authorities, including their French Marriage Certificate as proof of their marriage. Since France’s legal system recognizes their marriage and same-sex marriage is also legal and recognized in Canada, their marriage is considered valid for spousal sponsorship. With all other criteria met, Chloe can be sponsored by Sarah as her spouse for Canadian permanent residency.

Common-Law Partnership?

The common-law partnership requirement in sponsorship implies that the sponsor and the sponsored person must have lived together in a conjugal relationship continuously for at least one year. This period of cohabitation is crucial as it proves a genuine and stable relationship. However, the policy recognizes that life can involve necessary travel for reasons such as business trips or family emergency. Therefore, it allows for short-term separations, acknowledging that these do not necessarily compromise the relationship’s authenticity or continuity.

Example: Emma, a Canadian permanent resident, and Alex, a non-Canadian, have been in a relationship for two years. They decided to move in together to Emma’s apartment in Vancouver. They shared the same address, bills, bank accounts, and even adopted a pet together. Over the course of the year, Alex had to travel back to his home country for a month due to a family emergency, and Emma had a couple of short business trips. In this scenario, despite the temporary separations due to Alex’s family emergency and Emma’s business trips, they meet the common-law partnership requirement. They have cohabited continuously for over a year, and the brief absences were reasonable and explainable, not affecting the genuine and stable nature of their partnership. Therefore, Emma could be eligible to sponsor Alex under the common-law partner category, provided all other requirements of the sponsorship are met.

Conjugal Partner?

Conjugal partners can be opposite-sex or same-sex. In the case of exceptional circumstances beyond the applicants’ control that prevent them from qualifying as common-law partners or spouses, such as immigration barriers or legal restrictions limiting divorce or same-sex relationships, a sponsored person is defined as a conjugal partner; and the applicants have been mutually dependent for a year with the same level of commitment as a marriage or common-law union. It may require a demonstration of emotional ties and intimacy, financial closeness, such as joint ownership of assets or mutual financial support, and time spent together.

Example: John, a Canadian resident, and Sofia, residing in a country with severe legal and immigration constraints, have sustained a committed relationship for five years, resembling a marital partnership. Their journey was complicated by Sofia’s country’s strict exit laws, particularly for unmarried women, as well as Canada’s refusal of her visitor visa due to political tensions. Despite these obstacles, Sofia and John have demonstrated their commitment through frequent international meetings and daily communication. As evidence of their relationship, they have shared financial records, travel documents, and continuous communication. Their situation aligns with a conjugal partnership recognized for immigration, marked by a genuine, marriage-like relationship obstructed by significant, unforeseen barriers. John could sponsor Sofia as his conjugal partner in Canada. 

Program Requirements for Spouse & Common-Law Sponsorship Sponsor Requirements

  • Must be 18 years or older.
  • Must be a Canadian permanent resident residing in Canada or a Canadian citizen. Canadian citizens living outside Canada must show that they plan to move to Canada when their sponsored relative becomes a permanent resident. Permanent residents living outside of Canada cannot sponsor someone.
  • You must also show that you can meet the needs of yourself, your spouse or partner, and your dependent child(ren) (if applicable).
  • Generally, there is no minimum necessary income (MNI) requirement if you are sponsoring a spouse, partner, or dependent child. However, if the spouse or partner you are sponsoring has a dependent child, or if the dependent child you’re sponsoring has a dependent child, you must meet the minimum income requirement. Income requirement is based on LICO from Statistics Canada.
  • If you receive maternity, parental, or sickness benefits under the Employment Insurance Act, you can still sponsor. Income from these benefits also counts towards the MNI.
  • Those receiving regular Employment Insurance and federal training allowances can still sponsor. In general, these benefits do not count towards your MNI.


  • Must not be imprisoned, bankrupt, under a removal order (if a permanent resident) or charged with a serious offence.

Must not have been sponsored to Canada as a spouse within 5 years.

Sponsored Person (Applicant) Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • The relationship must be genuine and not primarily for the purpose of obtaining permanent resident status in Canada.

Who can you sponsor?

  • Spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner.
  • Dependent child: Sponsor and applicant’s (person being sponsored) child can be considered a dependent child if the child meets the following requirements:
  • They are under 22 years old, and
  • They do not have a spouse or common-law partner.
  • Children 22 years old or older qualify as dependents if they meet both requirements:
  • They have depended on their parents for financial support since before the age of 22, and
  • They are unable to financially support themselves because of a mental or physical condition.


You cannot be a sponsor if you

  • Have failed to pay an immigration loan, a performance bond or family support payments.
  • Have failed to provide for the basic needs of a previously sponsored relative who received social assistance.
  • Are in default of a previous undertaking.
  • Are under a removal order.
  • Are in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison.
  • Receive social assistance for a reason other than a disability.
  • Are still going through the process of bankruptcy (undischarged bankruptcy).
  • Were sponsored by a spouse or partner and you became a permanent resident less than five years ago.
  • Sponsored a previous spouse or partner and three years have not passed since this person became a permanent resident.
  • Have already applied to sponsor your current spouse, partner or child and a decision on your application has not been made yet.
  • Were convicted of a violent or sexual offence, or an offence that caused bodily harm to a relative or you attempted or threatened to commit any of these offences.

Out-Land Sponsorship

This falls under the broader umbrella of the Family Class immigration category. This pathway is typically used when the sponsored partner (the applicant) resides outside of Canada. However, applicants living within Canada can also opt for the Out-Land program. This flexibility is particularly advantageous as it allows applicants to travel freely in and out of Canada while their application is being processed. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that the final decision on re-entry into Canada during this period rests solely with the Canadian immigration authorities.

Applications under the Out-Land program is processed through the visa office that serves either the applicant’s country of origin or where they have legally resided for a minimum of one year. As of recent policy, applicants may apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (visitor visa) after receiving a file number. This recent change opens new avenues, making family reunification smoother and easier.

In-Land Sponsorship

In-land sponsorship, an integral part of the Family Class immigration category, is designed as a comprehensive route for couples living together in Canada. This program is notably inclusive, accommodating individuals in Canada with or without legal status, under specific conditions. It caters to foreign spouses or common-law partners present in Canada, whether they hold temporary status as a worker, student, or visitor, or even if their legal status has lapsed. If the sponsorship application is refused, the applicant must leave Canada immediately at the end of their temporary stay. Moreover, if the sponsored person leaves Canada at any point while the application is being processed, there is no guarantee that they will be allowed to re-enter Canada, especially if they require a visitor visa.

Policy for Applicants without Legal Status: Under subsection 25(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the Minister has instituted a public policy. This policy outlines the criteria for assessing permanent residence applications for spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Canada without legal immigration status. This policy aims to streamline family reunification and expedite application processing, especially for spouses and common-law partners cohabitating in Canada.

Eligibility for an Open Work Permit (OWP): Individuals sponsored under this program may qualify for an Open Work Permit (OWP), allowing them to work for any employer across Canada during the processing of their sponsorship application.

Important Key Points

  • Canada recognizes same-sex marriage, and same-sex partners may be eligible to apply under this category, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.
  • In most cases, there is no low-income-cut-off (LICO) for spouse, partner, or dependent child sponsorship. However, if either a spouse or partner you are sponsoring has as dependent child who has dependent children of their own, or a dependent child you are sponsoring has a dependent child of their own, you must meet a minimum LICO score, which is determined by the Canadian Government each year.
  • The province of Quebec has its own immigration rules. After your application is received, IRCC will send you an email or letter with instructions about how to apply to the Quebec government to become a sponsor.

How Can X Can Help?

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Expertise and Experience: Our team is equipped to handle any aspect of family sponsorship.

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Transparent Communication: We keep you informed and confident throughout the process.

Ready to start your family sponsorship journey? Contact us today and let Can X bring your loved ones closer to you

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Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs) about Spouse & Common-Law Sponsorship

The processing time for spousal sponsorship applications varies depending on several factors, including the country of origin, the completeness of the application, and the volume of applications received by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). It’s advisable to check the latest processing times on the IRCC website.

If the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person ends before the undertaking period, the sponsor is still financially responsible for the sponsored person for the entire duration of the undertaking.

Yes, if your spousal sponsorship application is refused, you may appeal the decision to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The deadline for filing an appeal and the specific grounds for an appeal should be carefully reviewed.

Common reasons for refusal include lack of evidence of a genuine relationship. In addition, inadmissibility of the sponsored person due to medical or criminal reasons, and failure to meet financial requirements.

You can prove your relationship’s genuineness by providing a variety of documents. These documents include communication logs, photographs together, joint bank accounts, insurance policies, and affidavits from friends and family attesting to your relationship.

If the person you sponsor receives social assistance for reasons other than disability during the undertaking, you may be required to repay that amount. You may not sponsor anyone else until you have paid the amount.

You must inform IRCC immediately if there are any changes to your situation. This includes a change in your address, the birth of a child, or a change in your marital status. These changes can affect your eligibility and processing.

A person who was sponsored to come to Canada as a spouse or partner cannot sponsor a new spouse or partner within 5 years of becoming a permanent resident, even if they acquire Canadian citizenship during that period.

Besides the application being refused, marriage fraud can have severe consequences. These include criminal charges, deportation for the sponsored person, and a ban from sponsoring anyone else in the future.

You must declare all family members in your application, even if they will not come to Canada with your spouse or partner. Failing to disclose all family members may result in your spouse’s or partner’s ineligibility to sponsor them in the future.

A common-law partnership requires you to have lived together continuously for at least one year, while a conjugal partnership is for couples who have been in a relationship for at least one year but have been unable to live together or marry due to significant legal or immigration barriers.

Yes, if the sponsor has a history of bankruptcy, unpaid alimony, or child support, or received government financial assistance for reasons other than disability, it might affect their eligibility to sponsor.

Even if the sponsored person leaves Canada, the sponsor’s financial obligations under the undertaking agreement continue until the end of the undertaking period.

No! Family class sponsorship program only allows to sponsor spouses or common-law partners, dependent children, parents, and grandparents. However, you may sponsor any non-immediate family member (e.g. brother, sister, aunt, or uncle etc.) in extremely specific situations. 

If your spouse or common-law partner is living in Canada on a valid work permit, they may continue to work until their permit expires. If they are living in Canada on a valid study or visitor visa, they may be eligible to apply for an open work permit (OWP) that allows them to work while their application is being processed. 

If your spouse or common-law partner is not living in Canada, they are not eligible to apply for a spousal open work permit. However, if they meet the eligibility criteria for a Canadian work permit, they may apply for a regular work permit while their sponsorship application is in process. 

In most cases, there is no low-income-cut-off (LICO) for spouse, partner, or dependent child sponsorship. However, if either a spouse or partner you are sponsoring has as dependent child who has dependent children of their own, or a dependent child you are sponsoring has a dependent child of their own, you must meet a minimum LICO score, which is determined by the Canadian Government each year.

No! You do not need to demonstrate a minimum amount of income/money, or a job offer to sponsor your spouse or common-law partner. However, you must sign an undertaking, in which you promise to provide financial support for the basic needs of your sponsored family member. The length of the undertaking depends on the category of sponsorship. For spousal sponsorship (including spouses and common-law or conjugal partners), the length of the undertaking is 3 years from the day the sponsored individual becomes a Canadian permanent resident.

No, you can begin sponsorship application if the adoption process is in the final stages.

A marriage of convenience (MOC) is a marriage where the sole purpose is to let the sponsored spouse immigrate to Canada. If the visa processing officer reviewing the application determines that your relationship is a marriage of convenience, your spousal sponsorship application will likely be refused. Marriages of convenience constitute marriage fraud and may result in criminal charges.

No, IRCC do not recognize these types of marriages. If one or both parties are not physically present at the ceremony, IRCC will not recognize the marriage. You may be exempt from this rule if:

  • Your application was received before June 10, 2015, or
  • You are a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. The marriage may be recognized if:
  • You could not be physically present at your marriage ceremony, because of travel restrictions related to your service,
  • the marriage took place outside of Canada, and
  • It was registered in a country where marriage by proxy is legal.

Your application may be more complex if:

  • the contact information on file (address, telephone, email) is outdated and IRCC is not able to contact you or a family member.
  • IRCC requested more documents, and they were not submitted on time, or at all.
  • Your dependant(s) turned 18 since you applied.
  • You added dependant(s) to your application since you applied. 
  • Your dependant(s) got married and/or had children of their own since you applied.
  • You provided legal documents to confirm a change to your marital status, or about child custody. 
  • You or your family member were asked to resubmit a medical exam because one expired (exams for every person must all be valid at the same time).
  • You or a family member were asked to appear for an interview.
  • You or a family member might not be eligible.
  • Background checks are still in progress for you or your family members.