Under the Family Class immigration category, citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their relatives, including foreign spouses, partners, dependent children, parents, or grandparents for immigration to Canada. The Canadian government makes family reunification an important goal, and over the next three years, the country will welcome over 260,000 people who will be reunited with their family in Canada.
Who Can Sponsor an Immigrant to Canada?
A person can become a sponsor if:
- They are at least 18 years old;
- They are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act,
- They can prove they are financially able to assist the sponsored person(s); and
- They have enough income to provide for basic needs of dependent children of the principal applicant.
Who Cannot Sponsor an Immigrant to Canada?
Certain people cannot sponsor immigrants to Canada:
- People who failed to pay an immigration loan, a performance bond, or family support payments;
- People who have not been able to provide for the basic needs of previously-sponsored relatives who received social assistance from the government;
- People who are under an immigration removal order;
- People who are incarcerated;
- Those who receive social assistance (unless they are disabled), or who are going through bankruptcy;
- People who were sponsored by a spouse or partner who became a permanent resident less than five years ago;
- People who have sponsored a previous spouse or partner and three years have not passed since the spouse or partner became a permanent resident; and
- People convicted of sexual offences, violent offences, or offences which caused bodily harm to a relative, and persons who attempted or threatened to commit this type of offence.
Sponsorship of Spouses, Common Law Partners and Dependent Children
A Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child as long as the applicant and spouse or dependents are not inadmissible. For sponsorship purposes, a spouse can be opposite or same-sex and must be married to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
If a couple was married in Canada, they must provide a marriage certificate from the territory or province where they were married. If the couple was married outside of Canada, the marriage must be legally valid in the country where the marriage was performed, as well as legally valid in Canada.
A couple does not need to be married to take advantage of the spousal or common law partner sponsorship provision. If a couple has lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 months, with no interruptions, they are eligible for family sponsorship. However, the CIC may require couples to prove their relationship with photographs and other evidence.
The government wants to ensure that sponsored family members have adequate support once they arrive in Canada. Spouses and common law partners must sign a formal agreement which confirms that both people understand their responsibilities. The sponsoring person must also sign an agreement pledging to provide for the basic needs of the spouse, partner, dependent child or other relative.
There are unique requirements to sponsor a close relative to Québec. If you live in Québec, it is important to review the law and consult with a lawyer about the Québec process.
Spousal Sponsorship Processing Time
Generally, it takes 18 months to complete the sponsorship process for people who live outside of Canada, and 24 months for applications by people living inside Canada. In December of 2016, the Canadian government announced its plans to process 80 percent of the spousal sponsorship applications within 12 months. New application forms and procedures are streamlining the process and reducing the waiting time. For example, medical examinations are no longer needed upfront and police certificates are only required for the countries where the spouse or partner most recently lived and where they spent most of their lives since age 18. Complicated or unusual applications may still take more than one year to process.