What Does Canada Consider
a Common Law Partner?

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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 citizen of Canada can make an application to sponsor their partner into Canada through the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There are certain requirements that designate a partnership as common law.

Contents of this page:

WHAT DOES CANADA CONSIDER A COMMON LAW PARTNER

What Is the Proof?

There are actually quite a few documents that can be used as proof of a common law partnership.

Here’s what can be used:

  • Statutory declaration of a common law partnership.
  • Statements from a bank account shared by the two parties.
  • Statements of a shared credit card.
  • Proof of shared ownership of a residential property.
  • Proof of a shared residential lease.
  • Receipts of a shared rental.
  • Bills showing shared utility accounts, such as electricity, gas, or telephone.
  • Proof that the management responsibilities of household expenses are being shared.
  • Proof of shared purchases, particularly household items.
  • Mail addressed to both parties at the shared address.
  • Official documents that demonstrate both parties have the same address, including driver’s license, identification documents, or insurance policies.
  • Any other documentation that proves cohabitation.

Please note that all of these pieces of proof don’t need to be provided and IRCC may consider other types of proof at their discretion.

What Makes a Common Law Partner?

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

What Is the Procedure?

Typically, the partner who is the sponsor will remain in Canada while the person who is being sponsored waits in their home country for approval or for a visa to be issued. There is an exception to this rule.

The in-land sponsorship allows a citizen or permanent resident of Canada to sponsor their common law partner while both of them are living in Canada. The foreign partner would first have to be able to get into Canada prior to applying. This is possible through the acquisition of a temporary visa or coming from a visa-exempt country.

A common problem is obtaining the visa. The Canadian authorities are often resistant to issue a visa in this situation because the foreign partner isn’t a true visitor but has intentions to be in the country permanently. If a visitor visa application is denied, the best bet may be to apply for sponsorship under the outside-Canada process.

The process of gaining citizenship for your common law partner can be confusing and there is a lot involved. Finding a qualified immigration attorney to guide you through the process will make things go more smoothly.

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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.