Spousal Sponsorship

Making ConnectionCanadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor spouses, parents, children and others for permanent residence.  This method to enter Canada is superior to many others as the foreign applicant does not have to meet stringent education, work experience or language qualifications as they would as a skilled worker, for example.

This section will address sponsorship of spouses through marriage, common law or conjugal relations.
Sponsorship is process that allows an individual who is partnered with a Canadian citizen (or permanent resident) to gain permanent residence in a relatively quick process (around 6 to 8 months or so) without having to meet language, education or work experience requirements of other categories.

Who can be a sponsor?

A Canadian citizen or permanent resident can be a sponsor to a partner if he or she is 18 years of age or older and meets all of the requirements.

Factors that will disqualify you from sponsoring a partner include:

  • Failed to provide financial support to past individual you sponsored
  • Defaulted on a court-ordered child or spousal support order
  • Receive government financial assistance (employment insurance and disability payments are usually acceptable)
  • Convicted of violent or sexual offense, or any offense against a relative
  • Defaulted on an immigration loan
  • Imprisoned
  • Unreleased bankrupt

Please note that anyone under the age of 16 years can not be sponsored.

Sponsor Living in Canada or Abroad

A Canadian citizen can sponsor a partner if he or she is living in Canada or living abroad.  However, if the sponsor is living abroad, he or she will have to show a reasonable plan to return to Canada immediately once the sponsorship application is approved.

How do you show an intent to return to Canada?  There are many ways to show an intent to return to Canada, here are a few ideas:

  • Visa expiring in your current country or residence
  • Spouse’s visa expiring in current country of residence
  • Job offer in Canada
  • Plan to raise family in Canada close to parents or relatives
  • Ownership of real estate in Canada and desire to return to it
  • Offer by relatives to allow you and your spouse to stay with them upon arrival (in writing)
  • Affidavit stating intention and plan to return to Canada upon sponsorship approval

You should – at minimum – include a separate written statement that provides details of your plan to return to Canada and why you want to return.  Other evidence should be in writing.

When should you consider sponsorship?

You should only consider sponsorship if you are legally married in the country in which you got married (you do not need to marry in Canada but the marriage must be legal in the country where you got married).

If you are not legally married, you should only consider sponsorship if are in a “marriage like” relationship.  You must be in an exclusive, life-long partnership with shared assets, time spent together, met and know each other’s family and friends and so forth (see the specific requirements for common law and conjugal relationships in the categories below).

If you are still in the dating phase of your relationship and trying to determine if you want to spend your lives together, you are likely not ready for sponsorship and your application has a risk of failing for this reason.

There is nothing stopping you from trying an application, however, it will cost you application fees.

As with all things immigration, never misrepresent your facts which can exclude the non-Canadian from Canada for years.

Consequences of sponsorship

Before you begin the sponsorship process, you, as a sponsor, should consider the consequences of a successful application.

As a sponsor, you must provide financial support for your partner for 3 years from the time they become a permanent resident, and financial support for a sponsored child for 10 years, or until the child turns 25, whichever is first.

What does financial support mean?  It means that if the sponsored partner or child receive social assistance from the government (an example being welfare), then you – as a sponsor – must reimburse the government for the payments made to the partner or child.

A divorce or breakdown in the relationship does not put an end to this obligation of the sponsor – the sponsor is financially responsible regardless of the relationship with the sponsored partner.

Income requirements

Although there are minimum income requirements for sponsoring other relatives, there are no minimum income requirements for sponsoring a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent children (so long as those children don’t have dependent children of their own).

A sponsor must still agree to support the sponsored person, and receiving social assistance can prevent a sponsor from sponsoring a partner.

 

Marriage Sponsorship

This following section will cover sponsorships when two individuals are legally married.  For common law and other couples who are not legally married, please see the appropriate sections of this page.

Definition of marriage

A marriage is one recognized by the province, state or country in which you were married.  You do not have to get married in Canada.

If you did get married in Canada, you must have a marriage certificate from the province or territory in which you were married (only send a copy of this certificate as part of your application, not the original!).

In some provinces, you can pay extra for an express service to get your marriage certificate much faster.  I have found it is worth paying for this service as the certificate is often delivered within one week as opposed to four or six weeks or longer.

If you were married outside of Canada, your marriage must be legally recognized by that country and you must have a marriage certificate as well.

Some jurisdictions (such as Texas, for example) where the marriage license is on side of a page, and once married, the “certificate” is the stamped portion on the other side.  If you were married in one of these jurisdiction, be sure to use a large sticky note on the front side of the copy directing the CIC visa officer to turn over the page to see the certificate on the other side.

I had one case where CIC initially rejected the certificate as they only reviewed the front half of the document (which was the marriage license).  I had to write back and politely inform the visa officer to turn the page over to view the license stamp.  The application was approved soon after that.

Remember that you must meet the requirements of a marriage at the time of the application, when the visa is issued, and when you enter Canada.

Same sex marriages

Same sex marriages are recognized as legal marriages only in certain provinces or countries, and only during certain time periods.

If you were married in Canada and issued a marriage certificate by a Canadian province or territory on or after the following dates, you can apply as a same sex married couple:

  • British Columbia (on or after July 8, 2003)
  • Manitoba (on or after September 16, 2004)
  • New Brunswick (on or after July 4, 2005)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador (on or after December 21, 2004)
  • Nova Scotia (on or after September 24, 2004)
  • Ontario (on or after June 10, 2003)
  • Quebec (on or after March 19, 2004)
  • Saskatchewan (on or after November 5, 2004)
  • Yukon (on or after July 14, 2004)
  • all other provinces or territories (on or after July 20, 2005).

If you were married outside Canada, you may apply to sponsor your same-sex partner so long as the marriage is legally recognized according to both the law of the place where the marriage occurred and under Canadian law. This applies to same-sex marriages performed in the following places:

  • Belgium
  • the Netherlands
  • Norway
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • the State of California (June 16, 2008 – November 5, 2008)
  • the State of Massachusetts
  • the State of New Hampshire
  • the State of Connecticut
  • the State of Iowa
  • the State of Vermont (effective September 1, 2009)

This list does change as countries and states begin to recognize same sex marriages.  You should double-check to ensure your same sex marriage is legally recognized and not considered only a “symbolic” marriage.

If you were not married in a country or state where same sex marriages are recognized, then your only option is a common law or conjugal partner application as discussed below.

One important point with regard to sex changes – CIC considers only your sex at birth, not your sex after a legal sex-change.  As such, if you are married to someone who is now your opposite sex but was your same sex at birth, you will be considered a same sex couple for immigration purposes.

Where should we get married?

It does not matter where you get married so long as your marriage is legally recognized in that country (and in Canada!).  In terms of the marriage being recognized in Canada, it is not so much the location, but age and consent of the parties getting married that must comply with Canadian law as well.

For example, polygamous marriages, forced marriages and/or under-age marriages – even if legal in another country – won’t be considered legal in Canada.

How much dating history do we need?

There is no formula that CIC uses to determine the answer to this question.  The key question (that you will see throughout this section) is this: “Has the marriage been entered into for immigration purposes?”

CIC will evaluate all the evidence of the marriage to determine if the marriage is legitimate or if it was entered into simply to allow one person to immigrate.

If you look at this question from the visa officer’s point of view (the person evaluating your file) they are trying to determine if the marriage is a legitimate one.

If you have met over the Internet, never met in person, travel to see each other and immediately get married, you will have a challenge in convincing the visa officer the marriage is legitimate.

You should have evidence of correspondence and communications (print samples of emails and phone records to include with your application), travels together even if the travels are local (include some sample pictures of yourselves in different locations and at different times).  You should also have met each other’s families and record those dates and times before you marry if at all possible.

What supporting evidence do we need?

You will find a link to the official government supporting documentation list in the forms section of this ebook.

However, I often find those lists to be inadequate for a speedy and trouble-free application.  You should consider including the following additional information:

  • Pictures of travels together at different times and different places;
  • Phone and email records (samples);
  • Affidavits attesting to the relationship;
  • Pictures of the wedding;
  • Pictures of the honeymoon;
  • Travel receipts (e.g., airline tickets);
  • Passport stamps from travel (copies);

Keys to a successful application

The key to a successful application as a legal spouse is to ensure that the visa officer does not believe that the marriage was entered into so one person could immigrate to Canada.

There is no stated limit on the amount of supporting material you can include in your application.  You should include documents from the basic list from the government, but also copies of all documents listed above (affidavits must be original).

In addition your forms must be completed perfectly with no missing information.  Any errors will significantly delay your application, or even result in a denial.

You can submit the application with supporting documentation but without the criminal record checks in order to get into the queue for processing.  Criminal record checks can sometimes take months to arrive and there is no reason to delay submitting the application if you just waiting for the criminal record checks to arrive.

If you submit your application without the criminal record checks, it is often a good idea to wait for CIC to request them rather than sending them in separately, otherwise there is a risk of them getting lost at the visa processing office.

Common Law Sponsorship

This section will discuss common law sponsorship – sponsoring a partner that you are not legally married to.

What is a common law relationship?

A common law relationship – for immigration purposes – is an exclusive, life-long committed relationship akin to marriage.

It is determined based on the facts of each case.

At minimum the relationship must be conjugal (that is, an intimate marriage-like relationship) and you must have lived together (cohabited) continuously for at least one year before you submit the application.

You can not add-up periods of cohabitation so that it results in a total of one year – it must be continuous for one year.  A short separation for business travel, family obligations or equivalent is acceptable and should not cause the application to fail.

An important feature of the common law category is that you need not be living together at the time of the application.  So long as you have had at least one continuous year living together, CIC may still consider you a common law couple if you live apart for good reason.  For example, one spouse’s visa may have expired, there may have been illness in the family, or for education or employment reasons.

However, the longer the separation, the harder it will be to convince CIC that the relationship has not ended.

A good tactic is to apply for sponsorship as soon as possible after you begin living apart, and include a detailed written explanation (on a separate piece of paper) why you are no longer living together, but stating that the common law relationship continues.  You should also include samples of continued communication after separation such as emails and phone bills.

Same sex relationships

Same sex common law relationships are treated the same way as opposite sex common law relationships.

A same sex couple must show that their relationship is exclusive and a life-long commitment, conjugal and at least a one year cohabitation period, as above.

Previous marriages

If the sponsored common law spouse is currently married, a common law sponsorship application is still possible.

It must be clear that the marriage has broken down and that they have lived separate and apart for long enough that the common law relationship can be established (one year minimum).  Cohabitation with the common law spouse will only be counted after the married spouse has physically separated from his or her partner.  There can be no common law relationship if a marital relationship continues.

How can you show separation from a married spouse?  These are some suggestions that CIC will consider:

  • Affidavit from both parties that the relationship is over and separation occurred as of a specific date;
  • Separation agreement;
  • Court order with respect to separation or provision for children;
  • Documents removing the married spouse from insurance or wills.

If you have no evidence of separation, it will be a real challenge to convince the visa officer that you are in a common law relationship and that the sponsored spouse’s marriage is over.

If your common law spouse has divorced, a copy of the divorce decree (with custody arrangements if applicable) must be included in the application.

What supporting evidence do we need?

Supporting evidence is particularly important in a common law sponsorship application.

Links to the documents required by CIC are found in the application forms links in this ebook.

In addition to those supporting documents, you must have clear evidence of continuous cohabitation (examples of evidence given above) for one year.

The CIC visa officer is looking for a relationship that is identical to a legal marriage.  He or she will examine a number of factors.  Here are the specific indicators that CIC will look for in a common law relationship:

Joint bank accounts and/or credit cards;

• Joint ownership of residential property;

• Joint residential leases;

• Joint rental receipts;

• Joint utilities accounts (electricity, gas, telephone);

• Joint management of household expenditures;

• Evidence of joint purchases, especially for household items;

• Correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address;

• Important documents of both parties show the same address, e.g., identification documents, driver’s licenses, insurance polices, etc.;

• Shared responsibility for household management, household chores, etc.;

• Evidence of children of one or both partners residing with the couple;

• Telephone calls.

Certainly, not all of the above are required for a successful application.  However, the more of the above bullets you can show, the better chance your application has of succeeding.

The list above is not an exhaustive one – if you have other evidence of cohabitation and a shared exclusive life together, be sure to include it in the application.

A very important piece of evidence that is acceptable to CIC as evidence but not found in any government checklists is the affidavit, discussed below.


Using affidavits

Many people do not realize that a sworn affidavit is considered evidence in an immigration application.

I believe that using affidavits in a common law sponsorship application is a critical component of success.  Why?  Because each case is assessed on its facts and affidavits are powerful evidence of a common law relationship.

Affidavits can be completed by family and friends attesting to certain facts, for example:

That they know the couple and have known them for a specified period of time;

That they have personal knowledge that the couple has continuously cohabited for a period of time (at least one year);

That they believe the couple is in a conjugal, exclusive and life-long committed relationship.

Keys to a successful common-law application

The key to a successful common law sponsorship application is providing supporting evidence above and beyond that which is asked for in the government document checklists (which you must provide).

First, focus on the one year continuous cohabitation requirement.  Provide copies of joint lease agreements, joint utility bills – anything with both of your names at the same address over time.  You can supplement these with affidavits from friends and family attesting to your cohabitation.

Next, focus on the exclusive and committed relationship requirement.  Provide pictures of travels, copies of joint assets, a written statement, copies of emails and travels – anything you can to show that you are committed couple and not just roommates.  Again use affidavits to support your application from friends and family.

Remember – an application can be filed without criminal record checks if necessary.  You can get in the queue and add criminal record checks later once they arrive, as opposed to waiting to file until they arrive.

Conjugal Sponsorship

This section will cover a conjugal sponsorship.  You should be aware that this is the most difficult application to make (but certainly not impossible).

What is a conjugal relationship?

Although CIC uses the term “conjugal” there is no definition of it in the law.  In essence, it is a “marriage-like” relationship very similar to a common law relationship but without the one year continuous living together.

A conjugal relationship requires a significant degree of attachment, interdependent and permanent.  The courts have expressed that these list of factors are important in assessing a conjugal relationship:

  • shared shelter (e.g., sleeping arrangements);
  • sexual and personal behaviour (e.g., fidelity, commitment, feelings towards each other);
  • services (e.g., conduct and habit with respect to the sharing of household chores)
  • social activities (e.g., their attitude and conduct as a couple in the community and with their families);
  • economic support (e.g., financial arrangements, ownership of property);
  • children (e.g., attitude and conduct concerning children);
  • the societal perception of the two as a couple.
    • CIC also looks for an element of all of these factors when assessing a conjugal application:
  • mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • exclusive – cannot be in more than one conjugal relationship at a time;
  • intimate – commitment to sexual exclusivity;
  • interdependent – physically, emotionally, financially, socially;
  • permanent – long-term, genuine and continuing relationship;
  • present themselves as a couple;
  • regarded by others as a couple;
  • caring for children (if there are children).

People who are “trying out” a relationship to decide if they want to marry will not qualify as a conjugal couple.

What supporting evidence do we need?

Supporting evidence for a conjugal application is critical; without strong evidence the application will fail.

The table below describes the sorts of evidence CIC is looking for.  You don’t need to supply all of the evidence in the table (there are few people that could I suspect), but the more you have the better chances of success you have.  If you have very little of the evidence in the table, you know your chances of success are not great:

Financial   aspects of the relationship

Joint loan   agreements for real estate, cars, major household appliances;Joint ownership   of property, other durable goods;Operation of   joint bank accounts, joint credit cards evidence that any such accounts have   existed for a reasonable period of time;The extent of   any pooling of financial resources, especially in relation to major financial   commitments;Whether one   party owes any legal obligation in respect of the other.
Social aspects   of the relationship Evidence that   the relationship has been declared to government bodies and commercial or   public institutions or authorities and acceptance of such declarations by any   such bodies;Joint membership   in organisations or groups, joint participation in sporting, cultural, social   or other activities;Joint travel;Shared values   with respect to how a household should be managed;Shared   responsibility for children; shared values with respect to child-rearing;   willingness to care for the partner’s children;Testimonials by   parents, family members, relatives or friends and other interested parties   about the nature of the relationship and whether the couple present themselves   to others as partners;Statements in   the form of statutory declarations are preferred.
Physical and   emotional aspects of the relationship -the degree of commitment as evidenced   by: Knowledge of   each other’s personal circumstances, background and family situation;Shared values   and interests;Expressed   intention that the relationship will be long term;The extent to   which the parties have combined their affairs, for example, are they   beneficiaries of one another’s insurance plans, pensions, etc.?Joint   decision-making with consequences for one partner affecting the other;Support for each   other when ill and on special occasions letters, cards, gifts, time off work   to care for other;The terms of the   parties’ wills made out in each other’s favour provide some evidence of an   intention that the relationship is long term and permanent;Time spent   together;
Time spent with   one another’s families;Regular and   continuous communication when apart

Further examples of supporting documents that CIC will look for (again, not all but as many as possible:

  • Family memberships, medical plans, documentation from institutions that provides recognition as a couple;
  • Marriage certificate (not just a solemnization record), wedding invitations, commitment ceremony (certificate, invitations), domestic partnership certificate;
  • Joint ownership of possessions, joint utility bills, lease/rental agreement, joint mortgage/loan, property title, joint bank statements; money transfers;
  • Documents showing travel together, long distance phone bills; other proof of continuous communication (emails, internet chat site printouts, letters);
  • Insurance policies (documents naming the partner as a beneficiary), wills, powers of attorney;
  • Significant photographs;
  • Statements of support from families, bank manager, employers, financial professionals, religious leaders, community leaders, professors, teachers or medical professionals.

As you are making your own application, it is up to you to be creative in terms of supporting evidence that address the factors discussed.  There are no stated limits on the amount of material you can send – so be sure to be thorough in the evidence you send.

Previous marriages and relationships

As with common law spouses, if the sponsored conjugal spouse is currently married, a conjugal sponsorship application is still possible.

It must be clear that the marriage has broken down and that they have lived separate and apart for long enough that a conjugal relationship can be established (one year minimum).  There can be no conjugal law relationship if a marital relationship continues.

How can you show separation from a married spouse?  These are some suggestions that CIC will consider:

  • Affidavit from both parties that the relationship is over and separation occurred as of a specific date;
  • Separation agreement;
  • Court order with respect to separation or provision for children;
  • Documents removing the married spouse from insurance or wills.

If you have no evidence of separation, it will be a real challenge to convince the visa officer that you are in a conjugal law relationship and that the sponsored spouse’s marriage is over.

Also, many of the same rules of marriage apply – you can not have a conjugal relationship with more than one person at the same time which is seen as polygamous.

If your conjugal law spouse has divorced, a copy of the divorce decree (with custody arrangements if applicable) must be included in the application.

Use of affidavits

As seen from the list of evidence CIC looks for in a conjugal application, statements from friends, relatives, and so forth are important in establishing the relationship is truly conjugal or “marriage-like”.

If you have friends and family willing to attest to your relationship and complete an affidavit.

Note that an affidavit must be completed by a notary or a lawyer depending on the country in which it is completed.

 

Complicating Factors

This section will deal with a number of complicating factors that should be addressed in any sponsorship application of a partner.

If these factors are not addressed, there is a risk the application will fail, even if the couple has shown all the appropriate elements of a relationship above.

Children

Children can complicate an application as CIC will likely require further documentation beyond what is requested on the government checklists or discussed above.

A “child” is a natural born or adopted child of an individual under 22 years of age (that is, 21 years or younger). So long as your application is received by CIC before the child turns 22 years of age, his or her age will be “locked-in” for purposes of immigration.  Even if he or she turns 22 after the application is filed, he or she will still be considered a child for the application and included.

However, a child can not have a spouse or common law spouse, either before or after he or she turns 22 years of age.  In other words, this aspect of the child’s status is not locked-in at the time of the application.  If he or she enters into a common law or married relationship, he or she will no longer be a child for purposes of immigration and will not be able to immigrate with you.

If one partner is a Canadian and has a child, that child is Canadian by birth.  That child does form part of the sponsorship application.

If you are a Canadian with a child born to you and have lived overseas, ensure you apply for a citizenship card (and passport) for your child to ease entry back into Canada.  Click here for the citizenship certificate application information.

If your partner has a child, that child must be sponsored as well and included in the sponsorship application.

If your partner has a child it stands to reason that child has a biological parent that is not part of the sponsorship application.

CIC is very cautious to allow children to immigrate without full knowledge and consent of the other biological parent.

If your partner has a child, you will need – at minimum – the following:

  • Copy of court order regarding custody arrangements;
  • Notarized release from the other biological parent authorizing the child to immigrate.

If your partner has a poor (or non-existent) relationship with the biological parent of the child, it may be difficult to get a notarized release from that person.  CIC is very reluctant to allow a child to immigrate without a release, even if your partner has full custody of the child.

If you are in such a situation, I would advise seeking legal advice and representation, otherwise your chances of a successful application are slim indeed.

There are also exceptions for children substantially dependent for financial support on their parents and enrolled full-time at a secondary institution since before age 22 and after age 22 at the time of application and at the time a visa is issued.

Children with a mental or physical condition that makes them unable to financially support themselves and substantially dependent on their parents when the application is received and when the visa is issued can qualify.  The child must have had the condition since before the age of 22 (but the application can be filed after age 22).

How about grandchildren? They can also be included in the application if they are a dependent child of your dependent child, and they all remain dependent when the application is received and when the visa is issued.

Criminal inadmissibility

If your partner has a criminal conviction or outstanding criminal charge, he or she may be inadmissible to Canada and the sponsorship application could fail.

If you decide that you must submit an Application for Criminal Rehabilitation for your partner to overcome a criminal conviction, be sure to include that application along with your sponsorship application (2 applications in one envelope).

This will save a lot of time as both applications will be processed together.  Sending them separately will add at least one year to the application process.

Medical inadmissibility

A serious medical condition can make your partner inadmissible to Canada and the sponsorship application may fail.

Fortunately, there are only rare circumstances where a partner or dependent child will be deemed medically inadmissible.

Ordinarily, an individual would be medically inadmissible if he or she posed a danger to public health or public safety or if they would cause “excessive” demands on the health care or social service systems.

However, for partners and dependent children, the only test of medical inadmissibility is whether they pose a danger to public health or public safety, and not whether they would cause excessive demands on the health system.

What is considered a danger to public health or public safety?  CIC provides little guidance here, and relies a great deal on medical opinions.

Generally, in order to be considered a danger, a person must first have a disease or medical condition which is contagious.  Without the possibility of transmitting a disease to other people, there is no danger.

In addition, the condition must pose a danger.  The disease most mentioned by the courts in this regard is tuberculosis.  There are conflicting court cases on whether a tuberculosis is possibly active still poses a danger.  It may, and the application may be denied.

Disease such as tuberculosis are contagious and pose a danger to the public and would make a partner or dependent child inadmissible to Canada, and the sponsorship application would fail.

All applicants for permanent residence must undergo a medical exam.  Click here for approved doctors in your area.
Overstay in Canada

If your partner was in Canada in the past, and overstayed his or her visa, is he or she excluded from returning with a sponsorship application?

If your partner was deported, he or she should have been given a timeframe when he or she could not return.  If you are still within that timeframe your sponsorship application may fail.

If your partner left voluntarily and an exclusionary period was not imposed on him or her, it should not likely be an issue.

If you are pursuing the “in Canada” sponsorship application process (see below), then your spouse or partner can remain in Canada until after his or her status expires and until you receive a decision on the application.

However, although your partner may remain in Canada during this period (after a visa expires), he or she has not right to re-enter.

As such, if you have an “in Canada” application underway and your partner has lost status in Canada, he or she should not leave the country until a decision on the application is reached.

Your finances and job status

Unlike other sponsorship categories, there is no minimum income test or employment requirement to sponsor a partner or dependent child.  As noted however, you can not be receiving social assistance (such as welfare) or you will be disqualified as a sponsor.

There are exceptions for employment insurance and disability payments.

There is still a general obligation to provide the basic necessities of sponsored persons.  So even though there are no minimum financial requirements, if you don’t show any ability to support your partner or sponsored children, you may still be rejected.

A good strategy is to include additional information regarding income, assets and investments (including housing) to show you can provide for the basic necessities of the sponsored people joining you in Canada.

 

The Application Process

This section will provide guidance on the application process and what you can expect during the different phases of the application.

Overview of CIC procedure

In general, CIC will briefly evaluate your application to see if all the required materials are included, and the forms are completed correctly.

Even the smallest error in the forms will cause the file to remain with CIC for weeks (or even months) before being returned to you so you can start the process again.  You will be removed from the queue and your application will start from the beginning.

Ensure your forms are correctly completed, signed and dated.

The documents from the government checklists should be provided, along with other supporting documents discussed above.

You must also include the medical receipt given to you by your doctor once you take the medical exam (only the person or persons applying for permanent residence need to complete a medical).

Most people are not aware that you can send criminal record checks later in the process if you wish.

If your application is ready to submit and you find out it will take weeks (or months) for your criminal record checks to arrive, submit your application to get into the queue and submit your criminal record checks later, ideally when CIC requests them so they do not get lost.

In-Canada process

There is a separate and distinct process for applications filed while both the sponsor and the sponsored person are in Canada.

If you and the person you are sponsoring physically present in Canada, the in-Canada process is an option you can consider.

The main advantage of this process is that a sponsored person who is in Canada and who had an application filed can remain in Canada even after his or her status in Canada expires (after a visitor visa expires for example).

So a sponsored person who is in Canada and has an in-Canada sponsorship application in Canada can overstay until a decision is reached on the application according to CIC policy.

However, there are downsides to this type of application as well.

Although a sponsored applicant can remain in Canada after his or her status expires, he or she does not have the right to re-enter Canada after his or her status expires.  As such, a sponsored person would be wise to remain in Canada until a decision is reached on the application, or risk being denied re-entry.

Another downside is length of processing.  An in-Canada application process takes at least twice as long as an out of Canada process.  You can expect at least 12 months before permanent residence is issued under this category.

Don’t underestimate the boredom of your spouse being unable to work or study (volunteering is typically fine if it is not volunteering for a position that is usually a paid position).

I’ve seen it many times when couples regretted the in-Canada process given the length of time the spouse remains in Canada with nothing to do.

If you do decide on this process, remember that the application is sent to Vegreville, Alberta (and not Mississauga, Ontario).

It is a good idea to include an application for an open work permit (with the appropriate work permit fee).

Why?

Because in many cases, you will preliminary approval around the 8 month mark (give or take) and at that point, if the application has no serious issues, your sponsored spouse can be issued an open work permit before permanent residence is issued in another 4 months or so (timelines are always difficult to predict).

Your application will be processed in Vegreville.  If there is an issue with your application (an example being an old criminal charge in your history), then your file will likely be transferred to the Calgary CIC office.

You can expect even longer processing if this happens, as that office is quite understaffed at the moment.

I’ve found that acknowledgement letters from Vegreville are very slow to arrive, and in fact, in some cases I’ve received the work permit for the spouse at about the same time as the acknowledgement letter!

If your application is approved, you’ll receive a request for passports (or more likely be asked to come into the office if you close to a local CIC office) and receive your visa.

After that, you’ll have to leave Canada within the time limit of your visa and re-enter for your visa to be confirmed.  The time period will likely be within 2 years of the date you took your medical exam.

You can go to the border, leave, and re-enter immediately to fulfil this requirement.

Out of Canada process

If your sponsored spouse is physically residing outside of Canada, you must use the Out of Canada process.

The out of Canada process is much faster than the in-Canada process.  It usually takes about 6 months to complete once the application is filed with CIC.

Unlike the in-Canada process, there is no need to submit a work permit application with this sponsorship application as no work permit will be issued.  Also, this application is sent to Mississauga, Ontario and not to Vegreville, Alberta.

The out of Canada process is basically two phases.

The first phase is approval of the sponsor.  This happens within about 4 months or so.  In most cases, the first thing you’ll hear from Mississauga is approval (or not) of the sponsor.  I rarely get an acknowledgement letter before a decision is made on the sponsor.  At this point you will get a file and client ID number.

The second phase is approval of the sponsored spouse.  Your file will be transferred to the CIC office responsible for where your spouse lives (or where your spouse is a citizen, depending on your choices in the forms).

During the second phase, if you need to communicate with CIC you must do so through the second office where the file was transferred to (do not communicate with Mississauga after the sponsor has been approved).

If you are approved, there will be a request for passport.  It is a good idea to send the passport with a prepaid courier envelope to ensure it gets back to you as quickly as possible.

You need to enter Canada within the time limit of your visa (typically within 2 years of the date of your medical exam).  Be sure to bring copies of other documents such as your marriage and birth certificate in case they are requested by a border officer.

At the border, you should be given an application for a permanent residence card.  Be sure to complete this as soon as possible, as you need it to travel outside of Canada and return (there is another document you can get but it is more cumbersome).
Where to apply and out of status spouses

When you complete the application forms, you will note that CIC asks where you want the application processed (this is the office it will be sent to after Mississauga, Ontario).

A person can choose the CIC office responsible for their country of birth, or the CIC office responsible for their country of residence, only if they have been legally admitted to that country for 12 months and currently have status in that country.

A common situation is that a spouse in the USA and is out of status.

Will an out of status spouse in another country affect a sponsorship application?  No, that spouse’s status will not prevent a sponsorship application.

However, an out of status spouse must choose the CIC office responsible for the country in which that spouse has citizenship in the application forms.

A link to the list of offices responsible for various countries can be found by clicking here.

Tracking your file progress online

You can track your file progress online with CIC by clicking here.

You can only begin tracking your file progress once you receive an acknowledgment from CIC that they received your file.  CIC will also issue a file number or client ID number.

Use your client ID number (or other assigned number) in the “Client Application Status” window.

You will then need to enter your last name (as it exactly appeared in your submitted application), your date of birth and place of birth.

Once you enter this information you will see your file “in progress” which means that is being assessed.  It may also say “decision made” which means you should expect a decision letter shortly.

It is a good idea to check your progress at least once per month, in case a decision was made and you have not received a decision letter.  If this is the case, immediately fax and email your consulate stating that a decision has been made but you have not been notified.

This may happen if you move and did not update CIC, or if (rarely) a letter is lost or postponed in the mail.

How long do we have to enter Canada after the visa is issued?

Typically you will have 1 year from the time your medical was completed to enter Canada.
Extending the time limit to enter Canada

There may be circumstances where you can not enter Canada within the time limit of your visa.  For example, I had clients in the US during the recession who simply could not sell their home within the time they needed to enter Canada.

If you have a very compelling reason to extend the time needed to enter Canada (typically the reason must be out of your control) you can ask the CIC office if you can take the medical again.  I’ve been successful with this strategy on a number of occasions.

Depending on what the CIC office decides, this can give you from 6 months to another year to enter Canada.

Timelines

Timelines for applications are always tough to predict.  However, spousal sponsorship application do take priority.

Generally speaking, you can expect 6 months from the time the application is filed for out of Canada applications, and 12 months for in-Canada applications.

Your experience may vary however.

Interviews with CIC

In many cases, CIC will waive interview requirements.  However, in some cases CIC wishes to interview the sponsored spouse in order to confirm information in the application.

The key to a successful interview is to be yourself and be absolutely honest about all questions asked.  A misrepresentation is a serious offense and will have you excluded from Canada for at least 2 years.

The CIC officer will ask some personal questions about your relationship, details about travels, and so forth, to confirm the relationship is genuine and the details in the application are true.

Often you will be notified of your approval (or rejection) immediately after the interview.

Co-signers

Co-signers are not generally required for spousal sponsorships, including sponsorships where dependent children are involved.

Co-signers are useful in circumstances when minimum financial requirements are to be met (i.e., the Low Income Cut-Off).  In most cases, there are no minimum financial requirements for spousal sponsorships (as opposed to sponsorship a parent, for example).

However, the requirements set-out in “Who Can Be a Sponsor?” above must still be met.

Appeals

You should seek legal advice if you are interested in appealing a rejected sponsorship application.

However, in order to preserve your appeal rights, you MUST check “continue with processing” on the Application to Sponsor form.  If you check “withdraw and refund” you will not have automatic appeal rights in the case of a rejection.

I’ll say it again because many people have been caught here – be very careful that you check “continue with processing” if you want to preserve your appeal rights!