What are the requirements for spousal sponsorship in Canada?
The first step in a successful spousal sponsorship, sometimes known as a spouse visa, is approval of the Canadian sponsor by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). There are a few main requirements to be eligible to sponsor a spouse to Canada. These include:
- Be a Canadian Permanent Resident (PR) or Citizen
- If you are a Permanent Resident, be living inside Canada
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Meet the financial requirements, by proving you can financially support your spouse
- Sign a financial "undertaking" where you promise to support your spouse for at least 3 years
If you do not yet have Permanent Residence, your husband or wife may be able join you in Canada by getting a Visitor Visa or Open Work Permit. You will be able to sponsor them for permanent residence once you obtain PR status yourself.
Why you may not be eligible to sponsor a husband or wife
There are several factors that could make you ineligible to sponsor your husband, wife for Permanent Residence (PR). These include if you:
- Are currently receiving social assistance (welfare) for reasons other than a disability
- Filed for bankruptcy, and have not been discharged
- Are currently in prison
- Did not pay court-ordered alimony of child support
- Have an unpaid immigration loan
- Didn't meet the terms of a past sponsorship agreement you made
- Have a documented history of violence against a family member
If any of these situations apply to you, you may need to wait until your situation changes before you sponsor your spouse.
Who is eligibile to be Sponsored to Canada?
To be eligible for spousal sponsorship, a sponsored person first needs to demonstrate that they have one of the approved types of relationships to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Approved relationships are broken down into three categories:
- Marriage: The sponsor and applicant are legally married. The marriage must be legal in the place it was performed, and both spouses have to be physically present at the ceremony.
- Common-Law relationship: The sponsor and applicant have been living together in a marriage-like relationship for at least one year.
- Conjugal relationship: The sponsor and applicant are in a committed relationship, but don't fall into categories 1 or 2 because of social, cultural, or political factors out of their control.
Like all applicants for Permanent Residence to Canada, the sponsored person must not be considered "inadmissible." The following factors can lead to a finding of inadmissibility in the sponsored person:
- A criminal record
- A charge for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
- A medical condition which could be considered a danger to public health or safety
Unlike with immigration routes like Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program, applicants for spousal sponsorship cannot be considered inadmissible due to having a health condition that could cause an excessive demand on health or social services. That means having a serious medical condition will not make you ineligible to be sponsored.
Do I need a Lawyer for Spousal Sponsorship?
You are not required to have a lawyer or immigration consultant to make a spousal sponsorship application. However, many applicants find it beneficial to hire an expert to guide them through the process.
In order to provide you with immigration advice for a fee, or to represent you on an application, your representative must be authorized by IRCC. Authorized representatives fall into one of three groups:
- Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (who are members of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants)
- Canadian lawyers and paralegals (who are members in good standing of a provincial or territorial law society)
- Notaries in Quebec (members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec)
New Rules for Spouse Visa and Spousal Sponsorship
The rules for immigration to Canada are updated frequently. Sponsors and applicants should be aware of the following changes to the rules for sponsorships and spouse visas:
- As of Fall 2021, applicants for a Spousal Open Work Permit may be required to provide documents that prove the genuininess of their relationship, just like they do for spousal sponsorships.
- As of April 2022, the government fees for spousal sponsorship, have increased.
- The Right of Permanent Residence Fee, which applies to each adult sponsored person, has increased from $500 to $515
- The Processing Fee for adult sponsored persons has increased from $475 to $490.
- As of October 2022, all spousal sponsorship applications must be submitted online. Paper applications are no longer accepted.