Sponsoring Common-Law Partner to Canada

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What Does Canada Consider a Common Law Partner?

The laws of common law partnerships vary from country to country. The rules governing such a relationship in Canada have an important effect on citizenship or permanent residency status.

A Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor their common-law partner for permanent residence in Canada. The Canada common law sponsorship process is nearly identical to the spousal sponsorship category, except that the sponsor and applicant must demonstrate a common-law relationship, which is more complex than a marriage.

Contents of this page:

Proving a Common-Law Relationship

Common Law Sponsorship Canada

What is a Common-law Relationship?

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations at section 1 (1) define a common-law partner as meaning an individual who is cohabiting with another person in a conjugal relationship, having so cohabited for a period of at least one year.

Cohabiting means living together, so in other words to qualify as common-law partners the two individuals should have lived together continuously for at least a one-year period.

The couple must also show a conjugal relationship, which is not defined by the Regulations. A conjugal relationship can be described as a marriage-like relationship where the couple is in an intimate and exclusive relationship, with a high degree of personal and financial interdependence.


Seven Factors in Establishing a Conjugal Relationship

In M. v H., [1999] 2 S.C.R. 3, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that there are seven factors to be considered in establishing a conjugal relationship. These factors are:

  1. Shared shelter
  2. Sexual and personal behaviour
  3. Services
  4. Social activities
  5. Economic Support
  6. Children
  7. Societal perception of the couple.

The Supreme Court also recognized that these elements may be present in varying degrees, that the definition is flexible, and that it is not necessary for all factors to be found to establish a conjugal relationship [M v. H, supra, at para 59].

Thus, a common-law relationship is much the same as a marital relationship except that the couple are not married. It should be distinguished from a purely casual or non-committal boyfriend-girlfriend or similar relationship.

How to Prove a Common-Law Relationship

When assessing a common-law relationship the immigration authorities are primarily concerned to see that the couple has been living together for at least one year. The immigration authorities will expect proof of a common-law relationship and will not accept at face value that two people are living together just because they say so.

The most common evidence used to establish a common-law relationship are:

  1. Lease or rental agreements in both partners names and demonstrating that the couple have been at the same address for at least one year,
  2. Utility bills in both partners names going to the same address,
  3. Joint bank accounts with both names and addresses listed,
  4. Income tax returns showing the partners listed as being spouse/partner.

This list is not exhaustive and there may be other documents that can be provided to establish a common-law relationship depending on the circumstances of each case.

Proving Your Relationship is Genuine

In addition to showing that they have been living together for at least one year in a conjugal relationship, those applying under the common-law partner category must also show that their relationship is genuine, meaning that they are in a real relationship and that the application is not simply for immigration purposes. 

The immigration authorities will also expect evidence of how the relationship developed and demonstrating that the couple have family and community support, among other evidence.

See if you are qualified to sponsor your partner

Fill out our FREE Family Sponsorship Assessment form to see if you are qualified to sponsor your spouse or partner to Canada.

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How does a Common-Law Partner Sponsorship Application Proceed?

A common-law partner application is a two-part application whereby the Canadian sponsor applies to sponsor and the foreign partner applies for permanent residence. These two aspects will be assessed by the immigration authorities consecutively.

The application can be made as an outside-Canada application where the foreign partner remains abroad during the application, or it could be made as an in-Canada application, where the Canadian and foreign partner live together in Canada while the application processes. If done an as in-Canada application, the foreign partner can also obtain a work permit while the sponsorship application processes.

The Law Office of Matthew Jeffery has over 20 years of experience successfully assisting Common-law Partners of Canadians to apply for permanent residence. Please fill out the Family Sponsorship Free Assessment form to see if we can help you sponsor your partner.

Family Sponsorship Form

See If You Qualify For Spousal or Partner Sponsorship

Fill out our FREE Family Sponsorship Assessment form to see if you qualify to sponsor your spouse or partner to Canada.

What is the Common-Law Sponsorship Eligibility?

Eligibility involves being in a relationship for at least one year, living together in a conjugal relationship, having evidence to support the authenticity of the relationship, and meeting other criteria set by the immigration authorities.

What does the Canada Common-Law Partner Application Process involve?

The process includes preparing the necessary documentation, filing the application, and awaiting an approval decision. The Immigration Law Firm of Matthew Jeffery can help navigate this process professionally and efficiently.

Can my spouse or common-law partner work in Canada during the application process?

This is a common concern. Generally, if your spouse or partner applies for an open work permit alongside their sponsorship application, they can work while waiting for a decision.

How can I start my immigration application with the Immigration Law Firm of Matthew Jeffery?

To see if you qualify for family sponsorship, you can fill out our FREE Sponsorship Assessment form on our website.

Understanding Common-Law Partner Sponsorship in Canada

Definition of a Common-Law Relationship in Canada:

A common-law relationship is defined in Canada as two individuals who have lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. This relationship stands even if they are not legally married and can be of the same or opposite sex.

Differences between Marriage and Common-Law Relationship:

While marriage is a legal institution recognized by a legal certificate, a common-law relationship is proven through evidence of cohabitation and shared life. Both offer rights and responsibilities but might be treated differently in legal contexts.

Benefits of sponsoring a common-law partner to Canada:

Sponsoring a common-law partner provides an opportunity for couples to reunite and build their life together in Canada. The sponsored partner can also gain access to Canadian benefits, work rights, and eventually, a pathway to Canadian citizenship.

Spousal and Partner Sponsorship FAQ

Your obligations as a sponsor

Sponsors must sign an undertaking which is a binding promise to offer financial support to cater for the basic needs of the sponsored spouse or partner and their dependent children. As a sponsor you must offer your support for the length of the undertaking period even if your situation changes. This undertaking shall not be canceled even if the sponsor becomes a Canadian citizen, is divorced, separated or the relationship breaks down, or if you have financial problems.

Basic needs include:

  • Food, clothing, shelter and other necessities of daily living
  • Health needs that are not covered by public health services such as dental care and eye care

Take note that if a person you sponsor receives social assistance during the period in which you are legally responsible for them, you will be required to pay for what they received during that period. Additionally, you will be barred from ever sponsoring someone else until you pay this amount.

May I cancel my undertaking after it’s been approved?

Once you submit your spousal or common law partner sponsorship application, you may have second thoughts and change your mind before a decision is made. If this happens, you must write a letter to the IRCC by submitting a web form online requesting a withdrawal of the undertaking. An undertaking can only be canceled if the request is approved by the immigration authorities.

Length of undertaking

The sponsor’s obligations start as soon as the undertaking is in effect. If you are sponsoring a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, the length of undertaking is 3 years from the day the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident.

Suspension of processing

If you are involved in any of the situations listed below, IRCC will not process your sponsorship application until a final decision related to the situation is made. These situations include:

  • If your citizenship is in the process of being revoked
  • If you have a removal order
  • If you have not met residency requirements
  • If you have been declared inadmissible to Canada due to security, human or international rights violation or serious criminality
  • If you’ve been charged with an offence that’s punishable by a maximum prison term of ten years

If you don’t meet the sponsorship requirements

If you choose to withdraw your sponsorship application, you will get a refund for the permanent resident visa processing fees as well as any right of permanent resident fees that you may have paid. The sponsored person’s permanent residence application will also be withdrawn so no decision will be made and you will not have a right of appeal.

However, you can still reapply at a later date once you fix the issue that may have made you ineligible to be a sponsor. Keep in mind that if you don’t qualify as a sponsor but still go ahead with the application, it is likely to be refused but you will have a right to appeal.

Eligibility Requirements for Common-Law Sponsorship?

To be considered a common law partner in order to be granted Canadian permanent residency, a person must meet these eligibility requirements:

  • They may not be married to the person who is being sponsored.
  • They can be of the opposite sex or the same sex as the sponsoring partner.
  • Both partners must be 18 years or older.
  • The sponsor and the partner being sponsored must have been living together for a period of at least 12 consecutive months.
  • The sponsor and partner must have been living in a conjugal, or marriage-like, relationship.

The Canada Common-Law Partner Application Process


  • Step-by-step guide on how to apply:
  • Gather all necessary documentation proving the relationship.
  • Complete the sponsorship application package available on the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
  • Pay the application fees.
  • Submit the application and wait for a decision.
  • Duration of the application process:

The processing time varies but averages around 12 months. This might be subject to change based on application volume or individual case complexities.

Family Sponsorship Form

See If You Qualify For Spousal or Partner Sponsorship

Fill out our FREE Family Sponsorship Assessment form to see if you qualify to sponsor your spouse or partner to Canada.

Proving Your Common-Law Relationship: What You Need

Documents required to validate a common-law relationship:

Evidence can include joint bank account statements, shared property or lease agreements, bills with both names, photographs, correspondence, and affidavits from friends and family affirming the relationship.

Typical challenges and misconceptions:

Many believe living together for one year is the sole requirement. However, it’s crucial to demonstrate the genuine and ongoing nature of the relationship.

Importance of authenticity in provided documents:

Submitting fraudulent or misleading documents can lead to application denial and potential bans from future immigration applications.

Eligibility Criteria for Common-Law Sponsorship

Requirements for the sponsor:

The sponsor must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, not be imprisoned or bankrupt, and must not have been sponsored to Canada as a spouse within the last 5 years.

Requirements for the sponsored partner:

The sponsored partner must prove they’ve been in a common-law relationship for at least one year and intend to live with the sponsor in Canada once the application is approved.

Common reasons for ineligibility:

Criminal records, misrepresentation in the application, or inability of the sponsor to provide financial support can lead to ineligibility.

Common Questions About Common Law Spouse

Canadian citizens or permanent residents can sponsor certain close family members from other countries to immigrate to Canada. This can include a spouse, partner, parent, or child.

Common-Law Partner Sponsorship in Canada falls under the Family Class Sponsorship category. It’s intended for Canadian citizens or permanent residents wanting to sponsor their common-law partner for permanent residence.

Applications to sponsor a family member can be processed through Canadian visa offices abroad when the foreign family member is residing in another country or through an immigration office in Canada if the foreign family member is inside the country.

Proving Your Common-Law Relationship typically requires a combination of shared residence proof, joint financial statements, evidence of shared responsibilities, and other documentation that confirms a genuine relationship.

Immigration Appeals Overview

Welcome to our FAQ section about common law spouses! If you’re navigating the complexities of common law relationships and immigration, we’re here to provide you with some answers. Read on to find clarity on the most common questions we encounter: