Find out about common-Law and spousal sponsorship for immigration to Canada in this Moving2Canada guide. Includes contacts you can speak to for help.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor their spouse or common-law partner for immigration to Canada. If successful, the sponsored person obtains permanent resident status, allowing the couple (or family, if applicable) to build their lives in Canada.
- September, 2020 update: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has increased the number of decision makers on spousal applications in Canada by 66%, to process spousal applications more quickly and reduce couples’ wait times. Learn more here.
The common-law / spousal sponsorship Canada immigration program is a part of the Family Class category, through which Canada welcomes a substantial number of new permanent residents annually.
If you are interested in this pathway to permanent residence, either as the sponsor or sponsored person, there is much to consider. Important considerations include:
- What is your civil status?
- Are you living in the same location at the time of the application?
- Is the sponsor a Canadian citizen, or is the sponsor a permanent resident?
Both the sponsor and sponsored person must be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in order for the sponsored person to receive Canadian permanent residence.
Please note that if you reside in the province of Quebec, you must also satisfy Quebec’s additional requirements for sponsorship.
Who can sponsor their spouse in Canada?
You can sponsor your spouse or common-law partner for Canadian immigration if you are:
- at least 18 years old;
- a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident living in Canada, or a person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act;
- able to prove that you are not receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability; and
- have enough income to provide for basic needs of any grandchildren (dependent children of a dependent child) of the principal applicant.
If you are a Canadian citizen living outside Canada, you must show that you plan to live in Canada when your spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident. You can’t sponsor someone if you are a permanent resident living outside Canada.
Some other things to note:
- If you reside in the province of Quebec, you must also satisfy Quebec’s additional requirements.
- If you were sponsored by a spouse or partner, you may not be a sponsor yourself until five years have passed since you became a permanent resident.
- The sponsor is financially responsible for the person sponsored for three years after the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident.
- You can sponsor your spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner if he or she is at least 18 years old and your relationship is genuine (real) and wasn’t entered into for the purpose of obtaining immigrant status in Canada.
Who counts as a spouse for spousal sponsorship in Canada?
For spousal sponsorship in Canada, a spouse is a partner with whom you are legally married. This includes both opposite- and same-sex relationships.
Who counts as a common-law partner for common-law sponsorship in Canada?
For common-law sponsorship in Canada, a common-law partner isn’t legally married to you, but has been living with you for at least 12 consecutive months, meaning:
- you have been living together continuously for one year, without any long periods apart;
- if either of you left your home it was for family obligations or work or business travel; and
- any time spent away from each other must have been short and temporary.
The definition of common-law partner includes both opposite- and same-sex relationships.
Who counts as a conjugal partner for spousal sponsorship in Canada?
For spousal sponsorship in Canada, a conjugal partner is a person outside Canada who has had a binding relationship with you for at least one year, but could not, for some reason(s), live with you. Individuals living in Canada are not eligible to be sponsored as conjugal partners.
The definition of conjugal partner includes both opposite- and same-sex relationships.
Spousal Sponsorship Canada: Understanding Inland and Outland
Two terms are commonly used to describe the types of application that may be submitted: Outland sponsorship, and Inland sponsorship. Though these terms are rarely, if ever, used by IRCC, they are nonetheless terms that applicants, representatives, and other stakeholders often use.
If the sponsored person resides outside Canada, the application for permanent residence must be submitted to IRCC’s Case Processing Centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia. This is referred to as Outland sponsorship.
Inland sponsorship may be pursued when the couple is together in Canada and the foreign spouse/common-law partner has temporary status in Canada, either as a worker, student, or visitor. Inland applications must be submitted to IRCC’s Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.
Under Inland sponsorship, the sponsored person may be eligible for an open work permit, allowing him or her to work in Canada while the application is being processed. This open work permit initiative first began as a pilot program in 2014, and has then been extended every year since after it became clear that it helped families across Canada. In July, 2020 IRCC announced the extension of this open work permit program with a view to making it a permanent policy, meaning that Inland applicants can continue to benefit from this work permit.
- Find out more about work permits for sponsored spouses and partners, including how and where to apply for a work permit.
Applicants residing in Canada may choose to pursue Outland sponsorship, even though they reside in Canada (therefore also making Inland sponsorship an option). A potential advantage to the Outland pathway is that in some cases the processing time may be shorter. However, IRCC has taken steps to reduce processing times in the spousal/common-law sponsorship program, particularly Inland sponsorship applications, thereby making Inland sponsorship more attractive than before, particularly as this pathway includes the possibility of the sponsored person being allowed to work in Canada before processing of the sponsorship application has been completed.