Family reunification is a core principle of Canada’s immigration policy. The Canadian government acknowledges the significance of keeping families together and allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their spouses or common-law partners for permanent residence. Spousal sponsorship is a pathway that enables couples to reunite in Canada, fostering stronger family bonds and contributing to the country’s social fabric.
Understanding Spousal Sponsorship
Spousal sponsorship is a process by which Canadian citizens or permanent residents (sponsors) can sponsor their foreign spouses or common-law partners to become permanent residents in Canada. This program reflects Canada’s commitment to facilitating family reunification. It acknowledges the importance of maintaining strong family ties, whether through marriage or a common-law relationship.
To initiate the spousal sponsorship process, sponsors and applicants must meet certain eligibility criteria:
- The sponsor must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.
- If the sponsor is a Canadian citizen living abroad, they must intend to return to Canada when the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident.
- The sponsor must be at least 18 years old.
- If the sponsor resides in Quebec, they must meet additional requirements, as Quebec has a separate immigration agreement with the federal government.
- The applicant must be the sponsor’s spouse or common-law partner.
- Common-law partners must have lived together continuously for at least one year, excluding short-term separations for work, family, or other legitimate reasons.
The spousal sponsorship process involves several steps:
Eligibility Assessment: Before starting the application, both the sponsor and applicant should ensure they meet the eligibility criteria. It’s essential to gather the required documents, including proof of identity, relationship, and status in Canada.
Application Submission: The sponsor initiates the process by submitting the sponsorship application to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Along with the sponsorship application, the applicant should also submit their permanent residence application.
Processing Times: Processing times for spousal sponsorship applications can vary based on the sponsor’s location and other factors. IRCC aims to process most applications within 12 months.
Inland vs. Outland Applications:
- Inland Sponsorship: Inland applicants are those who are already living in Canada with valid temporary status, such as a work or study permit. They may apply for an open work permit while waiting for their permanent residence application to be processed. Inland applicants must remain in Canada throughout the process.
- Outland Sponsorship: Outland applicants are those living outside Canada. While their application is processed, they can continue to reside in their home country or another country. Outland applicants are not eligible for open work permits.
Medical and Criminal Checks: Both sponsors and applicants must undergo medical examinations and provide police clearance certificates from their home countries or any country they have lived in for more than six months.
Interviews and Additional Information: IRCC may request interviews or additional information to assess the genuineness of the relationship.
Decision: Once IRCC approves the sponsorship application, the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident of Canada.
Conditional Permanent Residence
In cases where the relationship is less than two years old on the day the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident, they will receive conditional permanent residence. This condition is in place to deter marriage fraud and ensure that the relationship is genuine. The condition must be met for the sponsored person to maintain their permanent resident status.
To remove the condition, the sponsored person and their sponsor must jointly apply to IRCC. They must provide evidence that they continue to live together and share a genuine relationship. After successfully removing the condition, the sponsored person’s permanent resident status becomes unconditional.
Challenges and Considerations
While spousal sponsorship is a crucial avenue for family reunification in Canada, there can be challenges and considerations:
Processing Delays: The processing times for spousal sponsorship applications can sometimes be lengthy, causing separation between couples. This can be emotionally challenging.
Eligibility Issues: Meeting the eligibility criteria, especially for common-law relationships, can be complex. It’s essential to provide sufficient evidence of a genuine relationship.
Financial Obligations: Sponsors must commit to financially supporting the sponsored person for a specific period after their arrival in Canada. This commitment includes meeting the basic needs of the sponsored person, such as food, clothing, and shelter.
Relationship Breakdown: In cases where the relationship breaks down before the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident, the sponsor’s obligations may continue until the sponsored person obtains Canadian citizenship or leaves Canada.
Conditional Permanent Residence: The requirement of conditional permanent residence can pose challenges, particularly if the sponsored person’s relationship status changes.