Bringing Loved Ones to Canada: Sponsorship and Reunification

As a Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada you can sponsor your loved ones living abroad, allowing them to join and build a life with you here in Canada. A question that is often raised is, what family members can I sponsor?

Sponsoring a Family Member in Canada

When referring to ‘family member’ under the sponsorship class, the following are persons who qualify to be sponsored:

  • Spouse or common-law partner
  • Conjugal partner
  • Dependent child (single and below the age of 22)
  • Parents and Grandparents

There are two additional situations in which you may be able to sponsor relatives:

  • Orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece or grandchild
  • You the sponsor don’t have a living relative you could sponsor, and you do not have any relative who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered Indian under the Indian Act

Spousal Sponsorship

Being able to sponsor your spouse under this category requires that you be legally married, and your partner be at least 18 years old. 

Common law Sponsorship

To sponsor your partner under this category they must be at least 18 years old and have lived with you for at least 12 consecutive months.

Conjugal Sponsorship

This specific category of sponsorship is created to assist those who have been in a relationship for longer than a year, that is not marriage or a common-law relationship. This is a unique category to assist those who cannot live together or get married due to significant legal and immigration reasons. 

Are You Eligible to be a Sponsor?

Being able to sponsor your partner or dependent child requires you to be deemed eligible to sponsor. When your completed application is submitted, an assessment to see whether you are eligible to sponsor is performed. If you are found to be eligible, the processing of your sponsorship application will continue. If you are found ineligible to be a sponsor, the application is refused and no further processing will occur. 

You are able to (eligible) sponsor your spouse, partner or dependent child if:

  • You’re at least 18 years old
  • You’re a Canadian Citizen, a permanent resident of Canada, or a person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act
  • You’re able to prove that you’re not receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability.
  • You can provide for the basic needs of any persons you want to sponsor


Canadian Sponsorship Ineligibility

You may be found ineligible to sponsor your spouse, partner or dependent child if:

  • You were sponsored by a spouse or partner and you became a permanent resident less than 5 years ago
  • You are still financially responsible for a previous spouse or partner that you sponsored. This means you’re still bound by the 3 year undertaking to take care of this person.
  • are in jail, prison, or a penitentiary 
  • didn’t pay back: 
    • an immigration loan
    • a performance bond
    • court-ordered family support payments such as alimony or child support (not applicable if you live in Quebec)
  •  didn’t give the financial support you agreed to when you signed a sponsorship agreement to sponsor someone else in the past (not applicable if you live in Quebec
  •  declared bankruptcy and are not discharged (not applicable if you live in Quebec
  •  receive social assistance for a reason other than a disability 
  • you were convicted of attempting, threatening to commit or committing a violent criminal offence, any offence against a relative or any sexual offence inside or outside Canada 
  •  can’t legally stay in Canada and must leave the country because you received a Removal Order

Preparing, Compiling and Submitting a Sponsorship Application

After you have determined which category you are eligible to Sponsor under and whether you will qualify as a sponsor, the next crucial step is compiling a thorough application.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides application packages and a document checklist on their website. The instructions provided in the guides are clear, however, remain general. 

Irrelevant to the sponsorship category you are applying under, there remains a common and crucial element underlying each application, proving the legitimacy of the relationship. When looking to sponsor your spouse, partner or child, you must establish that you are indeed in a genuine relationship with them. The IRCC document checklist helps you collect and provide the basic documents and proof of a relationship, but it needs to be personalized and exhaustive.

Proving the Legitimacy of Your Relationship

Tailoring and personalizing a sponsorship application to your relationship is the most important factor in compiling a comprehensive and strong application. When completing applications relating to your spouse or partner, you want to be able to document the relationship story, and key moments/milestones, this can be done through timelines, pictures, letters, and other forms of evidence.  The clearer your relationship story is documented and presented, the easier it is to convey the genuineness of your relationship to an officer reviewing your application. Think of these applications being similar to creating a scrapbook of your relationship. 

Sponsoring a Dependant Child

When sponsoring a dependent child, you will be providing legal documentation establishing the relationship, but it is also helpful to provide evidence of your relationship with your child. This can also be achieved through pictures, letters, cards and evidence specific to your relationship. 

The IRCC instruction guides are a great place to start when creating the skeleton of your application. You must ensure that each document on the checklist is either provided, or a reasonable explanation for why it is not being submitted is provided. Once you have completed the checklist, you can build on the checklist to include further information and documentation that helps establish your relationship.

Sponsorship Obligation

When you agree to be a sponsor, you are signing an undertaking in the paperwork being submitted. The undertaking is found in an application form referred to as ‘Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking’ (IMM 1344). As a sponsor, signing and submitting this form in the application means you are promising to give financial support for the basic needs of your spouse or partner and their dependent children. 

This undertaking is binding, meaning that it is your responsibility to support the applicant(s) for the length of the undertaking period even if your situation changes. The undertaking will stay in effect for the length of the undertaking period, even if your situation changes. The undertaking won’t be cancelled, even if:

  • the person you sponsor becomes a Canadian citizen
  • you become divorced, or separated or your relationship with the sponsored person breaks down
  • you or the person you sponsor move to another province or country
  • you have financial problems

The Length of Sponsorship Undertakings

The length of the undertaking varies depending on the situation:

Sponsoring a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner

The length of the undertaking is 3 years from the day your spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner becomes a permanent resident.

Sponsoring a dependent child over 22 years of age

The length of the undertaking is 3 years from the day your dependent child (or the dependent child of your spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner) over 22 years of age becomes a permanent resident.

Sponsoring a dependent child under 22 years of age

Length of undertaking is 10 years from the day your dependent child (or the dependent child of your spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner) under 22 years of age becomes a permanent resident, or until the child becomes 25 years old, whichever comes first. The length of undertaking for residents of Quebec is slightly different.

Note: You’ll be in default if your relative gets social assistance from the government while the undertaking is in effect.

As a sponsor, it is very important to understand your obligations as a sponsor and to ensure you are aware that you are entering into a binding agreement, despite the outcome of the relationship, once your spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident. 

Canadian Sponsorship Application Tips

Here are some simple strategies to help you submit a complete application:

  • Submit certified true translations of any document NOT in English or French.
  • Ensure you check if the country the spouse, partner or dependent child being sponsored lives in, has any additional country-specific requirements or documents to be submitted in the application.
  • When completing application forms, ensure everything is consistent and accurate, there is some repetition of questions across forms, and you want to ensure the information you provide is consistent.
  • Ensure that all documents being submitted, and the information contained in them reflect the information entered in the application forms.
  • Always remember to review the entire application and provide a cover letter to explain any issues, challenges, or missing documents in the application.


Contact Jasmin Sandhu Law for Your Sponsorship

If you require further support in completing and submitting a sponsorship application, please contact us today!

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