Immigration: The Sponsorship Category (3/10)

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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!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

122 Comments

  1. Hi.
    Today I got the first response from immigration office after 11 month.they sent me all pictures and letters that my wife provided with the spouse sponsorship form. They did not included any letter and website shows in-process. What does that mean?

  2. Shayne Emond on

    Hi Zhu,
    Your blog was extremely helpful, and I sincerely appreciate the hard work you put in to describing this difficult and draining process. I am a Canadian citizen that lives abroad. I am marrying my Nigerian fiancee in December. I had hoped to return to Canada with her by August next year before I found out how incredibly difficult this process is. Half a year ago she applied for a temporary visitors visa to come spend some time with my family during the summer. It was denied because of lack of travel experience and reason to return which was incredibly unfortunate as my family was so excited and won’t be able to make our wedding. After we are married, we will apply immediately for permanent residence for her so we can return and start a family (I’m not too keen of having children born in Africa because of horror medical stories). I have a specific question regarding one sentence that I am not sure if I am interpreting correctly. It read as:

    “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.”

    Does this mean that while the permanent resident application is underway she can travel to and stay in Canada until it is accepted?

    Thanks,
    Shayne

    • Hi Shayne,

      Well, yes and no. To the best of my knowledge, it means that she can apply for a tourist visa but that it can still be denied, to the officer’s discretion.

  3. I have spent the past 3 hours reading your articles. Lots of useful information and very well explained.

    My husband and I are in the process of gathering the documents for a family class visa, and I must say it’s given me a lot of head ache. We’ve been married for 4 years and have been living in Germany since 2009. Recently, my husband has gotten home sick so we decided to move to Canada. We never thought that the process would be so tedious and complicated.

    In the beginning, I had so many questions, but slowly, after spending lots of time on forums, websites, etc., I’ve gathered enough information to feel more confident about all this.
    Everyday I find something new, though. Like for example in this post I found out that I must pay the right of permanent residence fee also before I send out the application. For some reason I thought this is payed last after the application has been approved. I was wrong and thank you so much for putting it out there.
    In the future, if I will even need answers I will definitely ask you!

    Again, thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Hi Valentina,

      Everybody find the process confusing at first, you are not the only one! It is a lot of information to deal with and it can be a headache. The good part is, if you’ve been married for four years and have been living together, I expect your application will go very smoothly.

      So, will you move to Canada? Are you happy about it?

      If you have any question, feel free to contact me!

      Best of luck 🙂

      • Hi Zhu!

        Thank you for your reply.

        I’m very excited to move to Canada. We’re both very “international” if I may say so. I was born in Romania and since the age of 19 I’ve lived in two different countries (Italy and Germany). My husband is born and raised in Canada, but his mother is Malaysian and his father is German, so he spent a lot of time in those countries as well.

        I’ve never been to Canada before (anywhere outside Europe for that matter) but I feel like I already have a connection there. My husband finds himself comparing everything to Canada. “This wouldn’t have happened if we were in Canada” or “In Canada, it would’ve been so much simpler”.
        We have no family in Germany, just my husband’s grandmother who is 91 years old.
        I have a very special relationship with my mother-in-law also, and I’m looking forward to being closer to her.

        I can say by now, that I’m in love with the idea of living in Canada. We both believe it would be the best place for us the start a family there. My husbands wants that our children have the same privileges he had while growing up.

        I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂 We’re almost ready to send the application in, just waiting on the police clearances.

        Have a great day!

        • Wow, you two have an international background indeed, that’s pretty cool! You’ll fit right in in Canada, everybody is a mix of something her 😉

          It really helps that you both have travel experience and your English is very good. These are two other good points!

          Where will you settle in Canada?

          Canada is an interesting place. Like every other country it has good sides and bad sides but overall, I find life is pretty easy. Easier than in Europe these days (I speak as a former French!).

          Keep me posted! 🙂

          • We will be staying in Vancouver when we first arrive. My husband has a lot of family and friends there or in the surrounding areas. It is important for us to have them around especially in the beginning until we get jobs and we’ll be able to rent a condo.
            But we’re not excluding the possibility of living somewhere else, like Calgary, Alberta, Toronto, etc.

            My French isn’t that good though, I can understand about 80% but can’t speak at all. So for this reason, we’ll try to stick with the West side.

            I’m a bit worried about finding a job, but I know for the first while I will have to settle with almost anything that helps us pay our bills. I’ve worked as a Language Teacher for the past 4 years (TEFL classes) and I am also a TELC Oral Examiner for the English language. In a country like Germany, where English is a foreign language, my expertise has ensured me a lot of great job offers and positions.
            But in Canada, I am sure that it won’t be easy to teach English. I’m willing to do some extra courses at the community college maybe, and I’m also willing to change carriers.

            We’re still young and our motto is: “the sky is the limit”.

          • I was a French as a second language teacher for four years in Ottawa, and there is definitely a market for language classes in Canada. We have a lot of foreign students and yes, French-speaking Canadians, who learn English. I don’t know Vancouver but there seems to be a lot of students from Asia attending language classes.

            Just my two cents 😉

  4. Hi Zhu! Thank you so much for your blog! The information here is very helpful. This sponsoring thing is so complicated. I have a lot more to learn, but reading your blog was definitely a great start. Thank you!

    • Thank you for taking the time to… thank me! I know, everything is very confusing at first. But it gets better, just take the time to review your options!

  5. Hi I’m a nanny here in canada and got my PR..I want to sponsor my parents but my mum cannot speak English you think she can pass? My only brother is over 18 he’s currently a seaman in africa how can I sponsor him is there any way?hope to hear from u

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  7. Hello!
    Thanks for this blog! I wish I’d found it months ago. We just applied for my PR and are anxiously waiting to hear back. It’s only been just over a month, so the patience needs to continue, it appears. Were you contacted when steps were completed? For example, when your sponsor was approved, did they send you a letter? Thanks, I appreciate it! 🙂
    -Kayla

    • When the sponsor is approved, which is fairly quick (may have changed… but it used to be the first and quickest part of the process), you will receive a letter stating just that, the sponsor is approved, blahblah, now go sit down and wait. Okay, I made up the last part but that’s what they mean 😆

      Good luck!

  8. I have a question. I am. British chap and am married to the worlds best Canadain for the last 13 years. We’ve lived in the UK since our marriage and have two kids. Demonstrating we are a husband and wife won’t be an issue but does my wife need to be living in Canada to sponsor me or can she do it whilst living here.

    Also – I’m and experienced banker and also will turn up in Toronto with about a $1 million but it’s mostly mine as my wife is a homemaker. Will this be okay?

    Many thanks and good luck to everyone applying!

    • Can I have a share of your savings? 😉

      You can start the sponsorship process from the UK (I think it’s still the case… please double check) but your wife will have to prove that she intends to come back and live in Canada.

      As for the money question, your wife doesn’t need to meet minimum income requirements (neither do you, as a matter of fact). She will have to sign a paper saying that she is responsible to pay back the government if you apply for social assistance, that’s all.

  9. Hello Zhu
    Thanks for your posts. They`re very helpful.
    I`ve applied for Permanent Resident as a sponsored spouse last September and CIC sent me a letter stating they had received my application.This is my case: My husband is Portuguese and I am Brazilian. We have a 15-month-old baby, who is Canadian. And I have another daughter, who is Brazilian (lives there) and she is included in my application. Do you think it will take longer to process it, because I have a family member outside Canada? And what about the processing times in the CIC website? Every time I consult that page I get depressed, because in my counts it will take more than two years to process my application and it has been very tough being apart my child .

    Thank you so much for your help

    Be safe

    • Who is sponsoring you? Your husband who has Canadian citizenship/PR status? Are you applying from outside Canada or from within?

      I have no idea if including your daughter will slow down the process, but there is no other way anyway :-/ I’m surprise to hear the average processing time is two years for sponsorship application in the spouse category. Would it be faster if you applied from outside Canada? What is your visa office?

      • My husband who is Permanent Resident is sponsoring me. And I applied from within Canada. My visa office is Mississauga and the processing times for the first assessment for sponsor and sponsored are 16 months+ 8 months for processing the application. I don`t know how that works but anyway, as you you said there is no other way. I have to wait to see.

        Thanks Zhu
        Have a great day.

        • First of all – great job Zhu. When I land in Toronto I’ll certainly shout you a beer for your guidance.

          Madalena – I’m in the process of applying by being sponsored by my spouse. The London office officially say it’ll be nine months but in reality as my spouse is a Canadian citizen it’ll be prioritised. It is often quicker t if you are outside canada as the idea is to reunite families – if you are already in Canada then you are already united I guess.

          My wife and I have clearly been married and have lived together for 14 years in the UK and have two babies. Also me and the kids are all British so maybe that makes it a more simple case and makes it quicker (although j could be rejected as nothing is ever certain). In short I think the two year thing is a worst case scenario.

          Good luck!!

          Dil

          • I agree with you, it is much faster if you apply from outside Canada. And again, it’s true that spouses/common-law partner applications are given priority over other family members (i.e. parents, etc.).

            I really don’t see how your application could be denied (unless one of the babies write to CIC and says “this is no my dad” :lol:). It’s good to have the “don’t take anything for granted” attitude, but realistically speaking, you should get your PR status easily. I’m not sure how busy London is, it will come down to this. Ten years ago, for my straightforward application in Paris (also fairly busy), it took four months, so I should get that beer fast 😆

          • Yes, Dil
            The two year thing is too bad, but they say that`s because of the major number of applications in the office. As for you, I am sure you`re going to get it soon, as you applied from outside. Well, the good thing is that your family is together, and in my case I am struggling to reunite mine. I hope I get it soon, as well, and when I do, I`ll share with you guys for sure.
            Thanks
            Good luck!

        • Yes, unfortunately processing times when you apply from within Canada are very long. I hope it will work out and that your application will be process as fast as it can be!

          • As I`ve been living in Toronto for the past two years, I decided applying from within. Now I`ll have to wait and see what happens next. Maybe I don`t have to wait too long. Who knows? Well, once I get it, I`ll share with you.

            Thanks, Zhu

  10. Hello there,

    I don’t know how I found this blog but it is very informative. Thank you very much for your wonderful work. I am an Indian citizen. I came to USA in 2002 on work visa. Unfortunately I lost my legal status in USA in 2007. My wife is a citizen of Canada. We also have a 5 months old daughter who was born in US.

    My wife had to return to Canada because of the visa issue in USA. She wants to sponsor me so that we can live together again. Can she sponsor me while I am in USA or do I have to leave USA and go back to India? Please note that I entered US legally for more than 12 months.

    My other question is I am planning to get her back to US if I would be in the US or to India if I would be there. How long can she live outside of Canada during the processing time?

    I understand that she can be outside of Canada but she will have to convince immigration authority that she intends to live in Canada once the file is processed. How hard is that ? Would I be complicating the process by making her live outside of Canada with me?

    Thank you,
    Andy.

    • Hi Andy,

      This is an excellent forum isn’t it. I certainly thank everyone for the guidance and encouragement I have received in putting my application in.

      Yours is a tough one there buddy. In practice your wife can sponsor you whilst she is in or out of Canada however from your question it seems like you have been in the US illegally for over 10 years so you may need to consider;

      A) that may be frowned upon by the Canadian authorities.

      B) you will need police checks and in the US I believe you also require FBI checks – can you obtain these?

      As a Canadian citizen, your wife has every right to sponsor you – but do actually intend to move to Canada or obtain PR and move to theUS?

      Best

      • Hi DIL,

        I lost my status in 2007 so I have been out of status for 7 years now. I have already applied to get police clearance from FBI and state. As far as I know there shouldn’t be any problem getting those. For now me and my wife don’t have any plans to come back and live in USA . We just want to settle down in Canada.

        As far as convincing Canadian authorities I know mine isn’t a good case to represent but I am going to disclose truth and then will hope for the best.

        Thanks for your reply.
        Andy.

        • Hi Andy.

          I have applied recently through spousal sponsorship an my Canadian wife is in the UK so I can share with you my approach.

          On a separate sheet of paper I presented my detailed plan on how I will settle, where I intend to live and why. This demonstrates that I have really thought about things as I am completely serious about my move. I have also made it clear that I will be staying with my mother in law until I can find my feet and provided her contact details so cic can confirm with her if they wish. On top of that I have provided other pieces of evidence such as the estimates I have from removal companies and jobs I have applied for.

          I think that the idea is to show that you have a considered plan to seriously move to Canada.

          Good luck man, I hope it all works out for you guys.

          Best

          Dil

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  12. can i visit my wife during the application is in process ,im candian permanent resident and she lives in india.

  13. Ha – no problems buddy. My cousin had the same question as his fiancé is in the UK. It was fine for him to travel but the only things he was advised to be aware of is that if for some reason he was not allowed back into Canada then his application would be void. A PR is unlikely to be refused re-entry I guess but it’s just worth being aware of that.

    • I agree, someone holding a valid PR status can travel freely in and out, as long as you still meet residency requirements (and any other border crossing rule). Thank you for your help answering the question!

      • It’s a forum so I guess we all have to pitch in and help!

        Btw – based on your guidance and help last fall I put in my family class application in January. I should hear about the fist stage Sponsor Approval in the next few weeks so fingers crossed!!

        • Crossing my fingers for you! Help is always appreciated. My own immigration process was a while ago now, and things have changed.

          I wish you a speedy immigration process! What kind of family class? Spouse/partner? (sorry, curious now!)

          • I’ve applied as a Spouse. Its what they consider a “straight forward” application as me and my Canadian Citizen wife have been married for over 14 years, have kids and no previous marriages or sponsorship undertakings.

            Things have changed over the last year or so. The first stage Sponsor Approval now takes a minimum of 3 months whereas just 6 months ago the first stage was about 30 days!

            I’m British applying outland so it used to take about 4 months for London to process applicants but as Islamabad applications are now also being processed in London, the wait is more like 8 months for British citizens (33 for Pakistani applicants).

            CIC also now have a near zero tolerance on applications being incorrect – if something is missing or even slightly wrong, the whole pack is returned and its to the back of the line!

            I’ll be interesting to hear about the experience other recent applicants have had.

          • Yes, my application was returned in the early stage because I had misunderstood a question. I remember the frustration… It didn’t affect the process overall though, I sent it back right away with the correction.

            I applied exactly ten years ago, and it was faster, even through the busy Paris office (that process(ed) application from Northern Africa). I remember the first stage taking less than a month, you’re right.

            On the positive side, sometime straightforward applications are processed really fast. I was one of the lucky ones.

  14. Im not sure how much I have to pay to sponsor my son?
    I already paid 75$ , but if he is the principle applicant?
    Im a Canadian citizen, and my son single, under 18 years?
    Thanks

  15. I would like to ask who should I ask IF I as a sponsored spouse would like to move to Ontario without my Wife…

    We are not separated, but due to work, I stayed in Ottawa more than I stay in Montreal where she is currently employed as a Permanent Employee, while I am still working since October 2013 up to date in Ottawa as a Casual Employee, I am staying with a family friend and travelling every weekend to Montreal…

    I want to save taxes… can I moved to Ottawa without her as my sponsor?

    • Yes, you can do whatever you want. Your living arrangements are your business. If you are a landed PR, no one cares. It may look weird if you are in the process of applying under the sponsorship category.

  16. Hi,

    I was wondering if the medical report has to be done before sending the application or we can wait for instructions as soon as we get the notice of eligibility. Because on the document checklist they put that the medical report is optional and will be requested afterward.
    And I suppose that the medical report is only for the applicant not the sponsor. Same for the police reports only for applicant not the sponsor. Right?

    Thank you

  17. Hi all,

    I’ve recently applied (10 months ago) and am at final stages and the instructions I followed are for Outland Family Class from the UK and I do not think they have changed in this time – they could be different for other categories and applicants from other countries so read your instructions carefully. If you get it wrong CIC can send the entire pack back to you and ask you to reapply!

    Police Cert – only for Applicants (unless they are young children). The Sponsor does not need one and our kids did not require them.

    Medical Checks – for applications under the Family Class these must be done before hand for ALL Applicants. They are sent electronically by the Dr and you put the receipts in with the application pack. Not required for the Sponsor. A piece of advice here – do these as the very last thing as they are only valid for a year. If your application takes 11 months to process but your medicals were done a month before sending it, they will expire and you may have to re-do them. This adds time and a large cost to an already lengthy and costly process.

    Good luck!

    • Thank you for your previous feedback! It’s great to have first-hand up-to-date information. I’m glad to hear you’re almost at the end of the process, good job!

  18. I am waiting for the derogation of the law that set dependent age below 19 instead of 22.

    What do you think ? , When they are going to change this probably in 2016?

  19. Hello everyone,
    It’s amazing the information your blog provided. I gain better understanding than the canadian website itself. Well here is my situation, me and my husband just decided to immigrate to Canada for a better future. He is a Saudi Arabian and I am a Malaysian. He is currently working in Saudi as engineer and i have a degree in psychology however only a stay at home wife for now. We both studied in states together but now after our wedding i can’t seem to find myself living in Saudi Arabia hence I am looking at Canada as a great option to move to. His concern however is that he is a 33 years old engineer with only 3 years of working experience. He is afraid there is no chance he will land in any good job in his field there in Canada. I am also currently 3 months pregnant and been wondering if i should deliver in Canada so the child will have the Canadian citizenship automatically and make the entire process a lot easier? Do you think we have a chance in immigrating? If yes could you give me some opinions on how i can look up job for him and does he have to get the job offer before we start applying. Will anyone hire him since he is not a citizen and only look forward to come and start a new life in Canada?

    • Unfortunately, I’m not up to date with latest immigration regulations and I can’t give you an informed opinion. My best advice would be to check whether you are eligible to apply for permanent residence.

      Giving birth in Canada will not help you, though.

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