Welcome to my new series, “How to immigrate to Canada“!
I recently received quite a lot of emails, asking me questions about the immigration process. So I decided to explain the whole process in 10 posts, which will be published every Saturday.
I also encourage you to ask any question you may have. I’m not an immigration consultant, but from experience, I may be able to point you to the right direction!
In the series, we will see the different options you have to come to Canada, as well as your rights and duties as a Permanent Resident, what happens after you arrive etc.
Canada is committed to reunite families. However, as I wrote in Two Immigration Myths, being married to or being in a relationship with a Canadian citizen does not give you the right to live and work in Canada. However, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Canada thought the sponsorship category. Today, we will focus on spouse or partner’s sponsorship, but other relatives may also be eligible.
Who is eligible to sponsor?
- The sponsor must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident in Canada, and be at least 18 years old.
- The sponsor must agree to provide financial support for the applicant. As a result, you may not be eligible to you receive government financial assistance for reasons other than a disability, declared bankruptcy and have not been released from it yet etc.
Who can be sponsored?
There are three categories:
- Spouse: you are legally married to your sponsor. Note that same-sex couple are recognized as long as the marriage is legal according to both the law of the place where the marriage occurred and under Canadian law.
- Common-law partner: you have been living together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year in a continuous 12-month period that was not interrupted.
- Conjugal partner: for partners (of the opposite sex or same sex) who, in exceptional circumstances, cannot live together nor can get legally married. For example, you are in a same-sex relationship and same-sex marriage is not permitted where you live. Or if you were refused long-term stays in each other’s country.
How does it work?
Unlike with the skilled worker category, you do not have to go through a point system. All you have to go is to convince Citizenship & Immigration that your relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is genuine.
Sounds easy? Not so fast!
Imagine that, by default, immigration officers suspect you to be in a relationship with a Canadian only to be able to immigrate to Canada. Now, you have to prove them wrong. Which means displaying your private life… at length.
First, you have to decide in which category to apply: spouse, common-law partners, or conjugal partners. In each category, you will have to prove the relationship is genuine. But let’s be realistic: immigration officials tend to trust spouses or common-law partners over conjugal partners, unless you have a really good reason to not be married or live together.
Then, you have to decide whether you are applying from within Canada, or from outside Canada. If you are already in Canada (on a tourist, a student, a work visa, or even if you lost your legal status), you may apply from within Canada or from outside Canada, it’s up to you. Both have good sides are bad sides:
- Applying from within Canada: you will remain in Canada for the length of the process and may be eligible for a work or study visa. On the other side, if you leave Canada during the immigration process, you may not be able to enter the country again. Besides, the process can be longer since most of the applications are processed in Buffalo (NY), a very busy office. Finally, if your application is turned down, you cannot appeal the decision.
- Applying from outside Canada: you may visit Canada while your application is being processed (usually in your country’s Canadian embassy), as long as you are accepted, but you will not be able to work. If your application is turned down, you may appeal the decision. It’s supposed to be faster.
How to apply
The first thing you need to do is to download the application from Citizenship & Immigration.
Fill in the paperwork. Don’t forget to add as many proofs that your relationship is genuine as you can. This could include:
- Providing marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Proofs that you are living together (joint bank accounts, joint lease receipts, bills and mails received at the same address, joint purchases…)
- Pictures (marriage pictures, pictures in a relaxed setting or for special occasions, pictures taken months apart…)
- Letters of family and friends acknowledging the relationship
- Travel documentation (boarding passes, hotel bookings, passport stamps…) showing travel together
The application provides relatively little space for explanations. Don’t hesitate to type on a separate sheet of paper for more details.
Once your application is complete, you must undergo a medical check-up. The appointment must be made with a Designated Medical Practitioner (list here). You won’t get the results of the medical exam as they will be forwarded directly to the visa office. However, you will get a call if there is a problem (nice, I know).
Then, you must pay the fees and join the receipt to your application. For one person, the total is $1040. The sponsor fee is $75, the applicant fee is $475 and the right of permanent residence fee is $490.
And that’s it! You may mail your application.
What happens next
- First, the case processing center will assess the sponsor eligibility. This is usually pretty quick and straightforward.
- Then, the spouse or partner’s application will be assessed. This is usually the longest step, because that’s when the genuineness of the relationship is studied.
- Is there is any doubt, the applicant will need to go for an interview with a CIC agent. Questions will be about the relationship with the sponsor, reasons for emigrating etc.
- Finally, there is a security check, and the medical results will be reviewed.
- Permanent resident is granted.
The most common reason to refuse a sponsorship application is the belief the relationship is not genuine. So be prepared and provide as many proofs of your relationship as you can.
Sponsoring someone is a serious responsibility and the process is quite draining, for both the applicant and the sponsor. My own advice: if your relationship is new, or if you don’t really know each other, think about it twice. Marriage fraud does exist, and CIC does not like to assess applications where both parts met on the web three months ago and have never seen each other!