Who is eligible?
Permanent residents living in Canada and Canadian citizens living in or out of Canada may sponsor their spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and the dependent children of those persons to enter Canada as permanent residents.
A spouse is a partner whom you married in a jurisdiction in which the marriage was valid at the time.
In Canada the definition of spouse includes a same-sex spouse, provided the marriage took place in a jurisdiction in which same-sex marriage was legal at the time. Civil unions are recognized as marriages in Canada.
A common-law partner is a person of either sex with whom you have been living in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 months with no breaks in cohabitation.
A conjugal partner is a person of either sex to whom you have the same commitment as you would have to a spouse or common-law partner, but with whom you have been unable to live for reasons beyond your control (usually for political reasons).
Some notes on the conjugal class:
- It is almost guaranteed for any couple from a first-world country to be rejected if they apply as conjugal partners as there is nothing to stop you from visiting one or the other's country and getting married.
- The only exception would be actual legal reasons as to why a couple from a first-world country would qualify as conjugal partners... for example, one partner is in jail, so they can't live together, and they can't get married... or one country closes their borders, so the non-citizen can't actually enter the partner's country to live together or get married.
CIC does NOT consider the following as legitimate or valid reasons for applying as conjugal partners:
- Not having a work visa in one or the other's country as a reason for not living together, since one can visit the other and you can get married in that country (or in a third country)
- Not having the funds to live in one or the other's country for a year to qualify as common-law, since you can still get married and live in separate countries
- Choosing not to get married for personal reasons
- Not having a parent's blessing to get married or live together
Here are some examples of what CIC considers actual conjugal relationships:
- The couple is a same-sex couple living in a country where homosexuality is illegal, so obviously there is no gay marriage, and living together would be breaking the law in that country
- One half of the couple is from a country that does not recognize divorce (like The Philippines), and said country does not allow unmarried couples to live together, so the couple cannot legally get married nor can they live together. In this case, the non-Canadian would also need to show evidence that they have applied to try to come to Canada as a visitor, as they could in theory still live together in Canada for a year in order to qualify as common-law, but if a visitors visa was denied, then they can apply as conjugal
- The couple has tried but has not been successful in applying for whatever visas or permits required in order to legally marry in a number of countries
- One example of this was a Canadian and an Iraqi couple. The Canadian's parents would not give their blessing for her to marry her boyfriend, and in Iraq, the parents' permission is required for a female to marry. The Iraqi boyfriend could not get a visa to visit Canada in order to get married in Canada. They applied as conjugal partners and were rejected because there was nothing to stop them from travelling to Turkey and getting married there. A few months after the rejection, they travelled to Turkey, got married, and reapplied as a married couple.
There are next to no circumstances where a Brit and a Canadian would be successful in applying as conjugal partners. Think about your case exceptionally carefully. If you ask yourselves the question "can we go to a courthouse and obtain a marriage license" and answer "yes", then you will NOT qualify as conjugal partners.
A Conjugal relationship approval example
In 2016, there was one case of someone who was approved under the Conjugal class. Their story follows. All names have been changed.
John is Canadian and is in a relationship with Jane, who is French and living in London. They have been together for two years.
John is separated from his wife, but not yet legally divorced. Jane does not qualify for a work permit (not qualified under Express Entry or FSW, and too old for IEC) - she had tried to obtain a work permit but was rejected. John has children with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, but shares custody of the children and thus cannot live outside of Canada.
- John and Jane cannot legally get married because John is still legally married. ("Can we go to a courthouse and obtain a marriage license? NO.")
- Jane cannot move to Canada as she does not qualify for a work permit. She can demonstrate that she tried and was unsuccessful.
- There is no guarantee that Jane would be approved for a second 6-month visitor visa (if she did manage to obtain a first one in the first place - she may have found herself refused dual intent since she would be landing in Canada with no sponsorship application yet lodged and minimal ties to home)
- John cannot move to London to be with Jane as John has shared custody of his children in Canada
Since John and Jane cannot qualify as married spouses (legally cannot get married) and cannot qualify as common-law (Jane has tried to go to Canada and has been refused; John cannot go to Canada because of his custody arrangement with his children), they were able to qualify as conjugal partners. They applied in August 2015 and were approved in July 2016.
A child is considered to be dependent if he/she:
- is under the age of 19 at the time the application is received by CIC and does not have a spouse or common-law partner
- OR is a full-time student and has been substantially dependent on a parent for financial support since before the age of 19, or since becoming a spouse or common-law partner (if this happened before age 19)
- OR has been financially dependent on a parent since before the age of 19 because of a disability.
- This is changing on 27th October 2017. See: http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2017/2017-05-03/html/sor-dors60-eng.php
"For applicants who submit a permanent resident application on or after October 24, 2017, the new definition of dependent child will apply. For applicants who submitted a permanent residence application on or after August 1, 2014, and before October 24, 2017, the current definition of dependent child will continue to apply."
The Wiki article for frequently asked questions on spousal sponsorship can be found here: http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Spousal_Sponsorship-Canada/FAQ_-_New_Application_Forms
Whether you are legally married or living together in a common-law or conjugal relationship, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will scrutinize your case to determine that it is a genuine, committed, long-term relationship.
If the sponsored spouse or partner is from a First World country, CIC will be more inclined to take a legal marriage at face value, all the more so if the couple have children in common.
If the sponsored spouse or partner is from a Third World country, and if the marriage appears to have been hastily arranged, CIC will want to satisfy itself that it is not a marriage of convenience (MOC). An MOC is one that has been entered into solely for the purposes of bypassing Canada's usual immigration procedures.
If you are living together in a common-law relationship, CIC will want to see proof of shared financial and domestic arrangements. This documentation should demonstrate that you are living together as though you are a married couple, not just as roommates. Documentation that assists in establishing this includes, but is not limited to:
- joint bank accounts and/or credit cards
- joint home ownership
- a joint residential lease
- joint rental payments
- joint utility bills (electricity, heat, water, telephone, etc)
- sharing of household expenses
- joint purchases of household items
- correspondence addressed to either partner or both partners at a single address
- an affidavit from familiy members attesting to the fact that your relationship is genuine
- insurance policies listing the other as a dependent and/or beneficiary
- joint ownership of pets
- joint car ownership
- car insurance listing both people as insured
And so on.
If you are engaged when you apply, include details of the proposal and photocopies of any wedding plans you have in the works (registrar booking, hotel booking, etc); don't forget to email CIC if you get married while your application is still in process
If you are applying as common-law, you must provide declarations of your common-law relationship by friends and family members, and a minimum of two must be notarized. While some BE members have been successful in their applications without having these declarations notarized, it is strongly recommended that you do have a minimum of two notarized when you send in your application to avoid your application being returned for being incomplete. Notaries in the UK can only charge £5 per copy, so it is not a big expense. Notaries in Canada more commonly charge $50 or $60 for a copy. However, this is a smaller cost than having the application returned and/or rejected, so it is strongly recommended you ensure at least two declarations are notarized. There is no specific template that must be used, but an example of a declaration that has been used by a BE member can be found here: http://britishexpats.com/forum/immigration-citizenship-canada-33/spousal-west-europe-information-guides-737129/#post9705980
Advantages of spousal sponsorship
Applying for permanent residence as a spouse or partner is much quicker than most other PR applications. It usually takes months rather than years. This spreadsheet tracks processing times via London: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kYJ0Xo_jHLeArkCVeicZyqIE8YLpnZqVJlFrnpmKMx0/edit#gid=396125530
A spouse who has attained PR status may live in another country with his/her Canadian citizen spouse. Any time he/she spends living with his/her Canadian spouse outside of Canada counts as if he/she was living in Canada for the purposes of meeting residency obligations. This applies both to sponsored spouses and to PRs who entered Canada by some other route but who are now married to a Canadian citizen.
Disadvantages of spousal sponsorship
- There are several instances in which members of the BE forum have sponsored their spouses and partners or have been sponsored by their Canadian spouses and partners and are living happily in Canada.
- It is worth noting, however, that sponsoring a spouse or partner and that person's dependent children is not without financial risk to the sponsor.
- Even if the couple divorce or split up, the sponsor is obliged to support the sponsored spouse or partner, if necessary, for three years following his/her becoming a PR.
- The sponsor also is obliged to sponsor the spouse or partner's dependent children, if necessary, for up to ten years.
Inland vs Outland Applications
In December 2016, CIC introduced new forms for the spousal sponsorship class. There is now no difference between the inland and outland forms, and processing time for both is quoted as as aiming to process within 12 months, however for outland applications, processing time does still vary depending on which office ends up with your application.
An outland application is one that will have the PR component of your application processed by the Canadian visa office that handles immigration applications for people of your citizenship.
For most British citizens, the PR part of their outland application will be processed by the Canadian High Commission in London.
- Note as of October 2014: The London office is currently picking up applications filed via Islamabad, to aid with the backlog of applications there. As a result, some applicants who would normally be processed through London (from the UK, Denmark, Ireland, etc) are seeing their applications held in Ottawa for processing, instead of being forwarded to London. The office that is processing your application will be listed on your Sponsor Approval letter/email. Be sure to take note of which office has your application, in case you need to contact them. The spreadsheet (linked below) tracks approval time across both Ottawa and London. (For a time in 2014 and 2015, applications were also being processed by Mississauga, but since summer 2015, no applications have been held in Mississauga.)
All outland applications are initially submitted to CPC-Mississauga where the sponsor's eligibility to sponsor is determined.
Outland applications are generally processed much more quickly than inland applications.
- As of February 2017, outland applications are being processed on average in 8 months (from the time the application is first filed via CPC-M to the time a decision is made on the file). A spreadsheet is maintained that shows processing times: Timeline for Canadian Spousal Sponsorship via London Spreadsheet. Applications held in Ottawa are processed more quickly, an average of about 4-5 months. More information can be found here: http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Spousal_Sponsorship-Canada/FAQ_-_New_Application_Forms#Which_office_will_process_my_outland_application.3F
One disadvantage of an outland application, if you're already living in Canada, is that, if you're asked to attend an interview, the interview may take place at the visa post to which you submitted your application. Exceptionally few "straight-forward" applicants have been called for an interview, though. There have been some isolated cases where an outland application has been filed, and the interview has been able to be held at an immigration office in Canada. No guarantees, though, so it's your risk to take. As stated, exceptionally few applicants have been called for interviews.
Note, applicants who are currently in Canada ARE allowed to apply as outland applicants. When you fill out your application, choose the set of forms for if you are living outside of Canada, and specify London as your processing office. You can give them a Canadian address. Many BE members have done this successfully. See http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Spousal_Sponsorship-Canada/FAQ_-_New_Application_Forms#I_am_the_applicant.2C_and_I_am_living_in_Canada._Can_I_still_apply_outland.3F
If you are living with your Canadian spouse or partner in Canada, you have the option of submitting an inland application. If you are living outside of Canada, you are not able to apply as an inland applicant. The person to be sponsored must have legal status in Canada at the time the application is filed.
Inland applications are submitted to the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Mississauga, Ontario.
Inland applications aim to be processed in about 12 months.
In December 2014, CIC introduced a pilot program where applications who are applying inland can apply for a work permit at the same time as they submit their application. As of February 2019, that pilot program is still in effect and the pilot has been extended to 31 July 2020. The work permit is processed within about 4 months of the original application. This allows inland applications to work while their application is being processed. CIC's bulletin on the program can be found here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/updates/2014/2014-12-22.asp The confirmation of the extension from 31 January 2019 to 31 July 2020 can be found here: Work Permit Pilot Extended
- Applicants who apply inland are strongly advised NOT to leave Canada while their application is in process, or at least until they have their OWP in hand. If the applicant is refused re-entry to Canada, their application may be considered abandoned. A thread on CanadaVisa offering some perspective on whether or not an inland applicant can leave Canada can be found here: http://www.canadavisa.com/canada-immigration-discussion-board/hands-down-the-most-often-asked-question-from-inland-applicants-t266896.0.html . However, travelling outside of Canada is far less of an issue once the applicant has an OWP in hand as the OWP gives them temporary residency in Canada, and many inland applicants have successfully re-entered Canada with their OWP. You do need to have a valid eTA (unless you are American).
If your inland application is refused, you have no right to file an appeal.
The vast majority of applicants who would apply via London choose to apply as outland as opposed to inland.
What happens after you apply?
Can I wait in Canada while my application is being processed: Dual Intent
One of the most commonly-asked questions is "Can I wait in Canada while my application is in process". The answer is, probably, yes.
If you wish to move to Canada while your application is in process, this is extremely likely to be possible. There exists an immigration category called 'dual intent'. This means you are entering Canada with two intentions:
- One, to enter as a visitor, and abide by all the restrictions and rules placed on visitors, the most notable being that you are unable to work
- Two, to stay permanently, but only once PR is granted, giving you legal course to do so
The recommended game plan for applying under dual intent is for the Principal Applicant to move to Canada only after Sponsor Approval has been granted. Once SA has been granted, then the PA has a better paper trail of their application being in process.
The PA should book a RETURN ticket to the UK. S/he does not have to use the return ticket, but booking a return ticket is better for two reasons: One, it shows CBSA of an intention to return to the UK if required, and two, airlines are highly unlikely to allow boarding of a passenger with only a one-way ticket without legal status to remain permanently in Canada.
The PA should bring the following to the Canadian border, in addition to the standard things:
- A copy of the receipt showing the fees paid for the sponsorship application
- A copy of the sponsor approval letter or email
- A screenshot of ECAS showing the application is in process
- Copies of any further correspondence received from CIC (requests for extra information, etc)
- Proof of funds to support yourself without working
- If the PA is entering Canada without their Canadian spouse, then a letter from the spouse confirming they will be helping to support you during your stay
CBSA is likely to allow you access to Canada for 6 months, though you can request up to 12 months. It is entirely up to the CBSA officer how long you are given. If you do request 12 months then ask if it's possible to get a Visitor Record rather than just a stamp in your passport. As long as you have all your evidence, you should be just fine.
You can read CIC's article about dual intent here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/visa/dual.asp
A note for people who want to apply inland after entering Canada using Dual Intent
A February 2017 judgement, 'Mata vs Canada', outlines the case of an American who was issued an exclusion order after trying to enter Canada under dual intent with the intention of applying for Inland sponsorship but was turned away due to a lack of ties to the home country: http://britishexpats.com/forum/immigration-citizenship-canada-33/visiting-canada-under-dual-intent-intending-inland-sponsorship-please-read-893909/
Outland applicants generally don't run into this issue because they have already applied for permanent residency and can prove it, which is why this article recommends only entering Canada after Sponsor Approval, or at minimum an acknowledgement of receipt has been received. However since, by definition, inland applicants cannot apply from outside of Canada, they have an extra challenge to overcome when they enter, in that they must convince the officer that they are genuine dual intent applicants without having applied for PR at all. As in the Mata case, this is a massive risk and the potential consequence is an exclusion order.
So think very carefully about this when applying inland vs outland.
Threads where BE members have entered under dual intent
Extending your stay
If you need to stay in Canada longer than the expiry of your original visitor record, you can apply online or by post to extend your visitor status here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/extend-stay.asp Apply for an extension once you are within 30 days of your visitor status expiring. You will have implied status as a visitor in Canada while you wait to hear back from CIC with a firm decision. Be sure to include details of your sponsorship application, including all points listed above for dual intent. It is extremely rare that applications for visitor extensions of Canadian spouses with sponsorship applications in process are refused.
Many couples lodge the sponsorship/permanent residence application package while they're still living abroad and before they move to Canada. Some reasons for this:
- The non-Canadian spouse can continue working while the application is in process
- It is often easier to obtain things like police checks while you are still in your country of origin
- It is far easier to apply for jobs once you have full right to live and work in Canada
- You will likely not be eligible for provincial health care and you may not be able to obtain a Canadian driver's licence until you have been granted PR. If you wish to obtain a drivers licence prior to obtaining PR you must request a visitors record when you enter Canada.
- The procedure for sponsoring a spouse or partner is laid out in the Spousal sponsorship section of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's website.
- For information on sponsoring relatives other than spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and their dependent children, please see the BE Wiki article entitled Family Class Immigration-Canada.