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What You Need to Know About Spousal Sponsorship When You Live in Canada

If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you may sponsor your non-Canadian spouse or partner to become permanent residents of Canada, where they too can eventually become a citizen.

The process by which this occurs is called a spousal sponsorship. This can be done whether you are residing in Canada or not, though the process is a bit different depending on your location.

Here are the categories that a spousal sponsorship or partner sponsorship can fall under.

Types of spousal and partner sponsorships

The spouse or partner relationship can be defined in several different ways.

  • Marital relationship. The marriage can have been performed in any country to be recognized in Canada, as long as it was legal in the country in which it was performed and is consistent with Canadian law. A marriage certificate will be required to demonstrate the legality of the union.
  • Common-law partnership. Two consenting adults who have been living together in a marriage-like relationship consistently for one year are considered common-law partners. For the purposes of immigration, this relationship has the same legal effect as a marriage. It can make the sponsorship process slightly more complicated because evidence must be provided in the form of shared bills or a lease or rental agreement with the names of both parties.
  • Conjugal partner relationship. This describes two people who have been in a marriage-like relationship but whom circumstances have not allowed to live together continuously for one year. The difficulty in this type of relationship for immigration purposes is proving that the relationship is truly marriage-like and giving a valid enough reason as to why residing together has not been an option. This will only be considered an option if there are actual reasons the couple cannot live together and is not based on mere convenience.

A typical situation is for the spouse who is already a citizen of Canada to remain living there while they wait for the application for their spouse or partner to be approved. Their significant other would stay in their country of origin until their visa is issued.

Of course, there are exceptions.

In-land sponsorship

It is possible for a spousal sponsor and the applicant spouse or partner to be living together in Canada while they await the process.

The spouse or partner would need to have come from a visa-exempt country or already have a temporary visa of some sort. The two must live together in Canada throughout the process in order for this to be an option.

It’s often difficult for a foreign spouse or partner to obtain a temporary visa while the application for permanent residency is in process. The authorities don’t view these people as true visitors because their eventual intent is to be a permanent resident.

If the temporary visa is denied, it is best to not re-apply and to stick with the outside-Canada process.

Obtaining a work visa

Foreign spouses who are in Canada and have legal temporary status to be in Canada are able to apply for an open work permit while the in-Canada spousal sponsorship application is being processed.

If you’re having trouble deciphering what category you or your spouse or partner fall under, it may be a good idea to seek the advice of a knowledgeable immigration attorney to help.


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