Although this website provides a lot of details with regard to the sponsorship process, this blog post is aimed to give a high level overview of the process.
Every year, thousands of Canadians fall in love with citizens of other countries. The ease of internet dating and inexpensive travel options means that soul mates can be discovered in any part of the world.
However, after the honeymoon comes the reality of navigating Canada immigration rules and getting your spouse or partner into Canada to join you for (let us hope) a lifetime of happiness.
There are three main categories of immigration for loved ones who are citizens of other countries and resident outside Canada:
- Spousal Sponsorship;
- Common Law Sponsorship; and
- Conjugal Sponsorship.
I will deal with each category of sponsorship at a high level. Remember, this can be a complex area and each situation is unique. Seek legal advice before you begin, as this article only covers the very basic rules.
This is the appropriate category if a Canadian citizen (or permanent resident) married a foreign citizen. The marriage must be legal in the country in which it was performed and the couple must be the age of majority.
The Canadian sponsor is not required to show a certain level of income, but cannot be on social assistance and has to be able to provide the basics for the spouse when he or she enters Canada.
The foreign spouse will need to pass medical and criminal exams before being permitted to enter Canada.
The main test is this: “Is the marriage genuine, or was it entered into for immigration purposes?”
You’ll have to show evidence that the relationship and marriage are genuine. For example – shared assets, travels, communications, meeting each other’s family, a honeymoon – these and other factors help to show that your marriage is genuine.
You may have to attend an interview with a visa officer and answer personal questions to help show your relationship is genuine.
Common Law Sponsorship
This is the appropriate category for those who are not married, but have been living together continuously for at least one year.
Room-mates do not count here – you have to be a genuine couple, committed to each other and have an exclusive relationship.
Generally, you will have to show evidence of two things: one year of cohabitation, and a committed and exclusive relationship.
One year of cohabitation can be shown in a variety of ways. For example, a co-signed lease or property agreement is a good start. Utility bills in each other’s names at the same address are also helpful. Use whatever you have that is unique to your circumstances.
To show a committed and exclusive relationship depends entirely on your circumstances. Shared assets, travels together, meeting each other’s families, traveling to each other’s countries all help. Think about the things you can show that will help prove that your relationship is a genuine one.
You’ll also have to swear a statement that you are a common law couple, and you may have to attend an interview with a visa officer as well.
In my experience, this is the toughest category in which to succeed. This is the appropriate category for couples who do not fit in the other categories, but who nonetheless have a “marriage-like” committed and exclusive relationship.
This category is not appropriate for those who are dating, or considering getting married at a later date – you will not likely succeed with a conjugal application.
You must have a relationship that looks very much like a marriage. You should have a history together, shared assets, travels together, perhaps a public expression of your dedication to each other through a ceremony or other means, and so forth.
There is no one checklist you can use to determine if your conjugal application will be accepted. As with all applications, the assessment will be based on your individual circumstances. You can almost count on an interview with a visa officer in this category in my experience.
Your best bet with regard to a conjugal application is to ask yourself this question and give an honest answer: “If an outsider looked at our relationship, do we appear to be the same as a typical married couple would appear?” If not, then your application will be a challenge.
You should note that these rules apply equally to both opposite sex and same sex relationships.
There are of course endless complicating factors – a spouse is who still married to someone else, foreign children and various custody arrangements, minor or major criminal infractions, medical disabilities, the list goes on. The law can get complex quickly. Seek help before you begin any application.