Spousal Sponsorship Guidelines

How You Can Help Your Spouse Immigrate to Canada

Family reunification is a priority in Canada’s immigration system. Families provide social and emotional support that helps ease the transition to residing in a new country. As a result, newcomers can improve their resettlement efforts and integration into Canadian society.

One part of family reunification is spousal sponsorship. If your spouse lives abroad, you can apply to sponsor them, so they can join you in Canada and become a permanent resident. For more information and help with the application process, contact an immigration lawyer in Ottawa.

The following are spousal sponsorship guidelines to help you understand the immigration process for a spouse who is from another country.

Who Can Sponsor a Spouse?

Both Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply to sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner.

Who Qualifies as a Spouse?

According to Canadian immigration law, a spouse is someone who you have married.  A common-law partner is someone you have an intimate relationship with and have lived together for at least one year. A conjugal partner is someone with whom are in a marital-like relationship, but you cannot live together for reasons beyond your control.  Spousal sponsorship also includes same-sex relationships.

You may also sponsor dependent children, and in some cases, close relatives.

Permanent Resident Card

In Canada, the equivalent to an American Green Card is a permanent resident card. With permanent resident status, your spouse can live and work anywhere in Canada. They must meet their residency obligations and other requirements to maintain this status.  Once they achieve permanent resident status, they are eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship after three years of being physically present in Canada within the last five years.  Or, in some cases, they can apply for citizenship after two years, if they were a temporary resident in Canada before they became a permanent resident.

Processing Times

The average spousal sponsorship application processing time is 12 months. However, this time could be shorter or longer, depending on various circumstances.

Sponsorship Overseas

You may apply to sponsor your spouse while they are residing in another country. First, you must submit a sponsorship application for your spouse to come to Canada with the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada office in Mississauga. Your spouse must also apply for permanent residence at this office.

Once your sponsorship application is approved, this file will go to the Canadian Consulate in your spouse’s country. Your spouse will have to pass several checks before being approved to enter Canada, such as medical tests, criminal records, and security screenings.

Sponsorship in Canada

You can file an application to sponsor your spouse from within Canada, known as internal processing, if you two have been living together in Canada—i.e., your spouse is working, studying or visiting on a visa. During this processing, your spouse must maintain legal status in Canada, such as through visa renewals. If your spouse lacks status, you may still be able to sponsor them in Canada, if you meet certain requirements.

If your spouse has temporary status, you can file the sponsorship application and a work permit application at the same time. The work permit processing time will take about four to six months, while the sponsorship processing will take about one year. A final interview with you and your spouse will take place at an immigration office in Canada before the applications are officially approved.

For more information on spousal sponsorship, special circumstances, and the Canadian immigration process, contact an immigration lawyer in Ottawa.