Genuine Relationships for Spousal Sponsorship

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    What is A Genuine Relationship for Spousal Sponsorship?

    It is imperative to prove that you have a genuine relationship when applying for spousal sponsorship in Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to protect the integrity of Canada's immigration system and to ensure that the sponsorship program serves its intended purpose of reuniting families. These requirements are in place to deter individuals from engaging in marriages of convenience or immigration fraud solely for the purpose of obtaining permanent residence.

    To fulfill this requirement, IRCC asks for a comprehensive set of documentation that proves the genuineness of your relationship. This may include marriage certificates, joint financial records, photographs, proof of divorce if either spouse were previously married, and statements from friends and family. The verification process may also involve interviews or investigations conducted by IRCC. If IRCC is not satisfied that a genuine relationship exists between the sponsor and the principal applicant, they may request further information, or schedule an interview. If the concerns are not adequately addressed then the spousal sponsorship application will be refused. 

    How Do I Prove My Relationship is Genuine?

    The genuineness of a relationship is a central requirement of spousal sponsorship in Canada. To prove that your relationship is genuine, you must  demonstrate that you are in a committed relationship and that it is not solely for immigration purposes. To do this, it's important to provide a comprehensive set of evidence that corresponds to your relationship type.

    There are three types of relationships recognized by IRCC: Spouses, Common-law partnerships, and Conjugal relationships. 

    Spouses are legally married couples who have entered into marriage, either in their country of residence or at the location of the marriage ceremony. For the marriage to be recognized and considered valid by IRCC, it must also be legally recognized in the jurisdiction where it took place. Furthermore, if the marriage occurred outside Canada, you may be required to provide proof of marriage registration with a relevant government authority, whether at the local, provincial, state, or national level.

    A common-law partnership refers to couples living together in a marriage-like relationship without being legally married. To qualify as common-law partners for spousal sponsorship, you must have cohabited for a minimum period of 12 months before applying. Additionally, you must complete the IMM5409 form, also known as the Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union

    A conjugal relationship is a committed partnership lasting at least 12 months between two individuals who do not qualify as spouses or common-law partners due to circumstances beyond their control. While it may resemble a common-law or even a married relationship, its uniqueness lies in reasons preventing the couple from marrying, often with legal, social, or cultural implications. Among the three relationships recognized by IRCC for spousal sponsorship, conjugal relationships are the most challenging to prove. For this reason, it is crucial to submit documents to prove that you and your partner are not able to get married or live together.

    Lastly, IRCC looks for certain red flags that may raise questions about the genuineness of your relationship, such as a significant age difference, religious distinctions, differences in social or economic status, and discrepancies in documentation. Therefore, it is important to provide a diverse range of documentation up front to address potential concerns about your relationship.

    What Documents are Needed to Prove a Genuine Relationship for Spousal Sponsorship?

    IRCC provides a list of documents that you should submit to demonstrate the genuineness of your relationship with your partner. The specific requirements may vary depending on the type or circumstances of your relationship.

    Regardless of whether the sponsor and the applicant are living together or apart, the following documents may be be required:

    • Proof of divorce or proof of separation if either or both spouses/partners were previously married 
    • If the spouses/partners have children in common, long-form birth certificates or adoption records listing the names of both parents
    • Relationship photos (wedding if applicable, trips, events with family and friends, gifts given or received)
    • Proof of financial support or documentary evidence of shared expenses
    • Support letters from family and friends (reference letters attesting to your relationship) 
    • Social media information showing a public relationship
    • Travel documents (itineraries, tickets, hotel reservations or bills, passport stamps showing you traveled together)
    • Insurance or employment benefits documentation that shows recognition as spouses

    If the sponsor and the applicant are living together, the following documents may be required:

    • Proof of joint ownership of residential property
    • Rental agreement showing the spouses as occupants
    • Joint utility accounts (gas, telephone, internet, water, or electricity)
    • Joint credit card or bank accounts
    • Vehicle insurance showing that both spouses have been declared as residents of the insured address
    • Government-issued documents showing the same address 
    • Other documents showing the same address whether the accounts are held jointly or not (cell phone bills, pay stubs, tax forms, bank or credit card statements, or insurance policies)

    If the sponsor and the applicant are living apart, the following documents may be required:

    • Proof of sponsor’s visits (airline tickets, boarding passes, passport stamps)
    • Proof of communication (letters, records of telephone calls, emails, texts, social media conversations)

    Tips for Proving a Genuine Relationship

    In addition to looking to establish the facts about cohabitation and communication together, immigration officers will determine if a real, marriage-like relationship exists. This includes assessing whether the sponsor and applicant have genuine feelings for each other, whether they have the commitment to live a shared life together, and whether or not the applicant is taking advantage of the sponsor.

    We recommend that both the sponsor and the applicant provide a detailed ‘relationship story’ which explains their perspective on the relationship and includes their thoughts and feelings. This is also an opportunity to explain any aspects of the relationship that are not typical, and address any red flags. Along with strong documentation, this is the best way to remove any doubts about the genuineness of the relationship.

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