Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their spouses for permanent residence in Canada. A “spouse” is someone that you are married to, i.e., a husband or a wife. To be accepted by the immigration authorities the marriage must be legal under the laws of the country it was performed in. The marriage can be done in any country and does not need to be done in Canada. Note that if you are not yet married, there is no “fiancé visa” in Canada, but a common-law or conjugal partner can also be sponsored in the same way as a spouse.
The following are some things that you need to know in order to sponsor your spouse for Canadian residency.
To begin the sponsorship application process, you want to first make sure that you qualify to sponsor your spouse. You need to be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. You need to be at least 18 years old and resident in Canada.
A sponsor must sign an agreement with the government to be financially responsible to their foreign spouse for a period of three years from the time they obtain permanent residence. In practice this means that if the foreign spouse collects social services (welfare) within the three-year period, then the sponsor has to pay the government back the amount collected.
There is no minimum amount of income required to sponsor a spouse. However, the immigration authorities will want to ensure that the sponsor has the financial capacity to meet their obligations to support their spouse.
Certain things disqualify a Canadian citizen or permanent resident from being able to sponsor their spouse. This includes being bankrupt, collecting social services, or being in default of another sponsorship agreement. Certain criminal convictions may impede the ability to sponsor, as will being in jail or being subject to a removal order. There is also a restriction on sponsors who were themselves sponsored as spouses or partners; these individuals must wait until five years have passed from the time they arrived in Canada before they may sponsor another spouse or partner.
Spouse Currently Living in Canada
If your spouse already lives with you in Canada, you can apply to sponsor them through the in-Canada spousal sponsorship category. If your spouse has worker, student, or visitor status, he or she can apply for an extension of their status while the application processes. The in-Canada category usually takes longer to complete than an overseas sponsorship (approximately 18 months), but has the advantage that the sponsor and spouse are already living together in Canada as husband and wife.
Spouse Currently Living Outside of Canada
If your spouse is living outside of the country, then their application for permanent residence will generally be processed through the visa office that services their country of nationality or residence. The processing time for such applications varies from visa office to visa office and depends on the workload of that office. Expect somewhere around one year on average.
The documentary requirements for sponsoring a spouse include completing various forms and providing supporting documentation to show that the sponsor qualifies as a sponsor under the rules described above, and that the spouse qualifies as a permanent resident including that they do not have a criminal record or serious illnesses. The immigration authorities will also expect to see documentation proving that the relationship is genuine and not simply to facilitate the immigration of the spouse to Canada.
In sum, sponsoring your spouse to Canada requires that you meet the basic requirements and provide all necessary application forms and documentary submissions. If you prepare in advance, you’ll help to ensure that your application is processed without any delays. Of course, obtaining the advice and assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer will make the process of sponsoring a spouse much smoother and easier.