A guide to Canada’s spousal sponsorship process.

If you are planning on getting married this summer, you can start your application to sponsor your spouse now.

How to sponsor your spouse or partner

Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their foreign national spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner to live with them in Canada and become a Canadian permanent resident.

In order to be eligible to sponsor your spouse or partner, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are 18 years or older,
  • You are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident living in Canada, or person registered under the Canadian Indian Act,
  • You are living in Canada or are a Canadian citizen planning on returning to Canada,
  • You are not receiving social assistance for reasons other than disability, and
  • You can provide for the basic needs of yourself and those of your spouse or partner (and if applicable, those of dependent children).

The sponsored person must be at least 18 years old and pass all background, security and medical checks.

In addition, you and your foreign spouse or partner must prove that you are in an authentic relationship. In the case of sponsoring a spouse, you must prove you are legally married. Alternatively, for common-law partners, you must prove you live or have lived with your partner for at least 12 consecutive months in a marriage-like relationship. Similarly, if you are conjugal partners, you must prove you have been in a committed relationship for at least 12 months but have had significant barriers that have prevented you from living with one another (such as cultural, religious or immigration obstacles).

There are two options to choose from when sponsoring a spouse or partner: outland or inland sponsorship. The outland sponsorship option is for couples who are not currently living in Canada together, but rather the sponsored person lives abroad while the Canadian sponsor resides in Canada. The inland sponsorship option is for couples who are living together in Canada and the foreign spouse or partner has temporary status in Canada as a workerstudent or visitor.

Can you go ahead with the application process before getting married?

If you are in a common-law or conjugal relationship, there is no need to be married to begin the application process, as illustrated by the 12-month living or relationship requirements. If you are not in a common-law or conjugal partnership and instead have a plan to get married soon, you can begin the spousal application process before your marriage. This speeds up the process so that once you are married, the application can be submitted to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) right away.

If you are planning on getting married this summer and would like to start your application now, it is best to speak with an experienced Canadian immigration lawyer who can help guide you through the process. A lawyer will be able to help you prove your relationship is genuine and avoid mistakes that could result in unnecessary application processing delays.

In addition, IRCC has announced that the average processing times for new spousal applications are back to its service standard of 12 months. IRCC has also introduced an online case tracker that allows sponsors to monitor the progress of the status of their applications.

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