Immigration: The Sponsorship Category (3/10)

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The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

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!


About Author

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


  1. Thanks for this great information! Now I know how to sponsor Kenneth if we ever decide to move back to Canada.

  2. Hi Zhu,

    Your immigration information series is very useful since its written in a lucid language. If someone asks me (and many do), I’ll surely point them here. 🙂

    cheers, Priyank

  3. at least it doesn’t involve money with the sum of 8000 eur, frozen in a bank account for 7 years, a proof of apartment with a size determined by the government, a paycheck, a letter of attachment to the country you are living in and many ridiculous things listed in Danish immigration rules 😛

  4. Yes it isn’t easy to move from country to country anymore. I understand why but it can be challenging when you are in the middle of the process. I remember well how it was to move here to be with Renny and how we had to get married within the first 3 months so I wouldn’t be sent out again hehehe. I believe the rules have changed now so you can have a legal partner without being married, but it is still more difficult.

  5. i’ve been engaged in a serious relationship with a phoca groenlandica or harp seal for three years. even though we have never actually met, our feelings are mutual. i’m fairly certain my country, the united states of america, would NOT allow us to co-habitate for any long-term period of time. does that make me eligible for permanent residence?

  6. Deadpoolite on

    Pretty interesting information if you want to immigrate to Canada. However, what happens when you want to emigrate from Canada, what is the speed dial on fast cheap ticket booking out of there?

    Take care gal!

  7. This one as well as the other immigration posts is very interesting and you’ve really dig into this so thanks for sharing with all the details. It’s lake an information vault for those who need and want to learn.

    It’s actually very similar to how to immigrate to Norway – other than if you are an EU citizen (then it’s easier of course) and that is quite interesting I think.

  8. @Bluefish – That’s definitely an option for you guys, should not be too difficult if one day you decide to stay here!

    @Final_Transit – Thank you! I’m hoping it will help a few people.

    @the writer – Really, that’s what Denmark is asking for? Oh my God, that’s crazy! I like Canada’s way of doing things best then.

    @DianeCA – I don’t think it so bad in Canada actually. Sure, it’s a bit stressful… but eventually it’s okay.

    @Bluefish – Thanks you! 😉

    @shionge – You’re right, I’m sure it happens everywhere… but they are a minority.

    @Sidney – Me neither, but Canada is still quite open. Really.

    @Seraphine – I’m sorry, I’m afraid there is a quota for seals… maybe next year? 😆

    @Deadpoolite – Anywhere hot and sunny usually welcomes us. Lucky us! 😆

    @RennyBA – Thank you! I’m hoping it will be helpful to future immigrants. Does Norway have an immigration policy? As far as I know, European’s borders are quite tight now…

  9. I have been married w/ my husband for almost 6 years and we have a 4 year old son. I have just been missing canada a lot and we always contemplated going back but my father in law wasn’t in the best of health and so we had decided to stay, but he passed away about 1 year and a half ago. So now we are considering going back again. I think it would be hard to say we are in a marriage of convenience.. especially since its been six years and we have a child together. But i don’t want to be too confident any advice?

    • I do think it will be pretty easy to prove that you are a legit couple!

      Doubts mostly arise when the couple met on the web and never in real life, or when they have been together for a very short period of time (months). Seriously, be confident and apply! 😉

      I immigrate there through the sponsorship and even though we don’t have kids, we had been together for a few years. It was quite easy and fast actually. Just follow the guidelines and you will be fine!

  10. Zhu, as here in Ireland, living common partnes are not allowed, my boyfriend and I will get married before applying. Do you know if we should add pictures and letter about our relationship?

    We created a company together and we are living together for almost 4 years.

    I didn’t know I should include these kind of documents.

    .-= Cornflakegirl´s last blog ..The soundtrack of writing =-.

    • I think you should.

      I was in the same situation. From what I remember, I included the marriage certificate, a few pictures over a long time span (you could see my hair was different etc.) and a letter explaining where we met and how the relationship started. Any document with both of your name is good (like the company’s docs) and some letters send at your address showing you live together.

      I know it sounds a bit weird to do that but the CIC wants to make sure you are in a genuine relationship. Given that you are living together etc. I don’t see any problem (those who get married to someone they have just met on the Internet have the hardest time) but it’s better to give all the docs right away. Doing that, I didn’t have any interview and I got my permanent residence in just 4 months!

  11. I don’t know if you’re still paying attention here but I’ll give it a shot. So is it similar for all relatives? That I probably won’t be able to be sponsored by my cousin without a similar load of proof? Or is it enough to prove that I’m related to her?

    (Also, if said cousin has Canadian PR on Chinese passport while I have US passport- does that get looked at strangely too?)

    • Nope, to the best of my knowledge, it doe not work for cousins, only close relatives (spouses, children, parents). You can learn more about that on the CIC website 😉

  12. I DID check.

    “another relative of *any* age or relationship but only under specific conditions”

    Which I presume includes cousins. Unless I’m missing something, in which case ignore the below.

    And as for “specific conditions”-
    “you can sponsor one relative regardless of age or relationship only if you do not have a living spouse or common-law partner, conjugal partner”
    So far so good (I could try to call myself her conjugal partner, but that’s obviously not going to fly with the Immigration people).
    “a son or daughter, parent, grandparent, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece who could be sponsored as a member of the family class”
    I think my claim might fall flat here. Does “Ineligible for entry” (long story that can be summed up with “false pretenses”) mean they’re also ineligible to be sponsored for immigration? Otherwise she has relatives that would fall under this category, barring her from sponsoring me (oh well, there’s always the possibility of finding a job in Canada).
    “and you do not have any relative who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident or registered as an Indian under the Indian Act.”
    Definitely good on this part.

    I mean, I’m not betting anything on this, it’s just one of the many options I’m looking at on this particular fork in the road of my life. Even if this falls flat, as an American citizen I can still visit all I like without a visa, correct?

    • Hi,

      Yes, American citizens can enter in Canada without a visa.

      To the best of my knowledge, cousins are not acceptable for sponsorship, at least, I have never heard of it.. But again, I’m just another immigrant, I don’t know all the immigration rules. You may want to ask in an immigration forum, such as

      Ineligible for entry may be another issue here but I’d need more details.

  13. hi Zhu

    i went to visit my husband this year is it ok to send some
    pictures and other documents flight tickets to immigration to keep them updated.

      • in addition to the question above, where do we send the additional documents and is there any specific ways to tag the docs so they dont get mixed up ?

        one more question, I am about to complete the whole sponsorship process while here in Canada, but can I also send my wife’s documents here as well … she’s currently in Madagascar.

        this website is a great knowledge base, thanks so much!

        • I would send the additional supporting documents to the visa where the application is being processed. Once the sponsor is approved, you will get a letter saying the application has been transferred to XX visa (not sure there is a visa office in Madagascar though, the application could be processed in a neighboring country.

          You should send the sponsor part of the application (I’m assuming you are the sponsor) and your wife has to fill up the rest I believe.

  14. Hi Zhu,
    thanks for this, very helpful.
    I am Dutch, and my boyfriend is Canadian. We met in March 2010 and we lived together in Amsterdam until October. Unfortunately not officially, as he still had his own apartment. He moved back to Canada in October and I am joining him in August (1 week to go!). We’ve been apart for 10 months now.

    I know we can only apply for Common Law partners in August 2012, because we need to have lived together for at least 1 year. But how about marriage?
    Further, I am entering on a tourist visa at first, hopefully being able to extend it for another 6 months. Of course I hope to find a job w/ a work permit in the meantime, but seeing where we will live, not likely.

    I looked at the skilled worker option, but that seems quite difficult as well.

    Do we get married and then apply from within Canada? I basically cannot go back to Holland, because I have no job here and I’ve sub-let my house.

    I am quit confused about what would be our best option. If we do not marry and go for common-law, I can only apply for this in August 2012. How long does an application take and can I wait in Canada? Probably not, because I would have used my 12 months tourist visa already…..

    What to do?
    Thanks for taking the time!

  15. Hi, thank you for the information!

    I am living in the UK with my boyfriend who has Canadian Residency. We are planning on moving back and he is going to Sponsor me. I am entitled to one more 1 year working holiday visa (I’ve used the other one).

    The first part of the application if we do it within Canada takes 1 year, and I’m worried it won’t be complete before my visa runs out. But if we apply from the UK the first part only takes 2 months. SO – can we apply from here, then move to Canada while the second part is being processed? (we have to be back so his residency doesn’t expire) Or do we have to remain in the UK for the entire process?

    Also on a side note is it OK for him to sponsor me when he is still being sponsored by his ex?! crazy times.

    thank you!


    • Hello,

      I assume you are a UK citizen, right? Then as far as I know, you cannot have a second Working Holiday Visa.

      If your boyfriend isn’t a landed immigrant with permanent residence, he cannot sponsor you.

  16. Hi,
    I’m in a similar fix to the girl above.

    Me and my partner are both currently in the UK. We are going to apply for residency for me- he will sponsor me (he’s Canadian). Would it be possible to apply from outside Canada (as its much quicker) and then enter on a work visa before the application process has completed? Or are there rules about not entering the country during applicaton? Would it some how be cheating?

    I’ve scoured the CIC and can’t seem to find any info.

    thanks for your help, really great website you’ve created,


    • First thing is, your partner has to live in Canada to be able to sponsor you (not sure whether you are both in the UK?). You can definitely be in Canada while the application is being processed outside Canada: I did just that. However, you want to get your work visa before you apply for permanent residence, especially if you are getting a Working Holiday Visa (not sure about regular visa). It’s not cheating!

      • Actually, he doesn’t have to be in Canada to sponsor her, he just has to provide reasonable proof that he PLANS to live in Canada, once she has residency.

        I’m currently living in Paris with my husband (love your posts about things you don’t miss from France – amen to that!) and I’m sponsoring him to come to Canada. I just received an email that I’ve been approved as a sponsor. If you want to sponsor someone while you are living outside of Canada, you have to provide solid proof that you will be returning to Canada. The purpose of the sponsorship, after all, is to reunite families. If you’re already together in another country it’s a hard sell to sponsor the person to come to Canada. In my case I sent a photocopy of my work visa, clearly showing the expiration date, at which time I have to return to Canada. (With or without my husband – here’s hoping the application goes through before that!)

        On a side note, do you have any information on the kinds of questions they may ask at the interview? I’d like to prepare him in advance so that he doesn’t draw a blank.

        Thanks for all the info. I’m going to get him to read some of your posts so that he’s better prepared for the big move.


        • You’re absolutely right!

          I didn’t have an interview (lucky me!) so I’m not sure what kind of questions they ask. From what I’ve heard, it revolves around your life as a couple, knowing each other’s family, date and place of holidays together, plans for the future etc.

          Let me know if you have any question, and good luck with the process!

  17. thank you Zhu thats great! Seeing as the application time for the first part is only 2 months from outside and 12 months from inside!

  18. Hello Zhu,

    Thank you for the inetersting info!!

    I have a canadaian residency and planning to move to canada in teh next 5 months.. I currently live and work in the UAE, where I met my current boyfriend. We have been together for 10 months now, we live together and planning to get married soon.
    What can I do to start the sponsor process now so we can go together in October? or at least something that will make him join me shortly after my move there? I honestly dont wanna go without him .. and worse I dont wanna be there for months without him..

    Thank you!

  19. I have a question??? Once they ask for your sponsers passport, how much longer does the process generally take. We live in Nicaragua and they have asked for my husbands passport, but I need to leave the country every 3months. Iam wondering how long they will have his passport for, as we cross into Costa Rica together every 3months and he needs his passport to go to Costa Rica.

    • A “hello” and “thank you” is always appreciated 🙂

      Once the embassy asks for the passport, it’s usually a matter of days to have the visa stuck into the passport. You should ask the embassy to be sure.

  20. Hi Zhu,

    I have found this the most helpful out of everything I have read online 🙂 – What I don’t see mentioned above is the Financial bits that a sponsor needs to prove…
    This bit is hanging me up, on our application it says that the sponsor needs to prove $22,000ish in earning and such forth..

    My situation is that my hubby and I are currently living in England(He’s a brit, I am Canadian by birth and we’ve been married 8 years and have an 18 month old), as he was in the army but has just been made redundant, and we had a baby 18months ago and I am no longer working. My hubby is the main earner. I cannot prove that I can/ have that money but we would be immigrating with £40,000 (his payout) I would work in canada to support him and our daughter and we would be staying with my mother and father until we are on our feet again…But it seems I can’t sponsor, is this true or am I reading it all wrong…And If I cannot sponsor him How can I move home to canada????

    Thank you for any help…

    • Hi,

      You only need to have a minimum income to sponsor parents/siblings, etc. It doesn’t apply for a spouse. You can find all the conditions to sponsor here:

      The only financial requirement is that the sponsor cannot receive government financial assistance for reasons other than a disability. Not sure where you get the $20,000 from, but that doesn’t apply to sponsor a spouse.

      However, to sponsor him, you will have to actually live in Canada, you can’t be living in England.

      • Hey Zhu,

        Thanks for all this information 🙂

        I am also a bit confused about the minimum income required. On the website you linked it says:

        “When you sponsor a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, or dependent children to become permanent residents of Canada, you must promise to support them financially. Therefore, you have to meet certain income requirements.”

        That makes me believe that a even when sponsoring a spouse you must meet a certain income.

        Then on this website (under sponsorship eligibility):

        It states that you need to prove that you are able to sponsor your family member. It also links to the table saying that minimum income is 22k/year.

        Did I just misread these documents? Or where did you get the information from that as a spouse sponsorship you are not required a “minimum income”?

        Thanks in advance! 🙂


        • To the best of my knowledge, this statement is wrong:

          “When you spon­sor a spouse, common-law or con­ju­gal part­ner, or depen­dent chil­dren to become per­ma­nent res­i­dents of Canada, you must promise to sup­port them finan­cially. There­fore, you have to meet cer­tain income requirements.”

          You do not have to have a minimum income when you sponsor a spouse/common law/partner, however you cannot receive financial assistance from the state. The CIC page is right:

          You do take the responsibility to provide for them though and have to sign a statement to that effect.

      • Your response about you have to live in Canada to sponsor your spouse, not true I live in England I am Canadian and he is a brit, I sponsored him and my son while still living in England and when we got accepted we moved to Canada

  21. Quick question. I have submitted an application within Canada. I am from the USA and a visitor’s visit is a max. of 6months. I can stay in Canada for the entire time during my processing time?

    • Sure, as long as you get a six-month stamp when you enter Canada (it’s up to the officer). You won’t be able to study or work though, you will just have a visitor status.

  22. Hi,

    I know you probably don’t know exactly, and countries vary. But if they have completed the security check, we have been asked no questions, and they have just moved our application along, and we are not asked to do a second medical exam, as we are within the time frame of expiry, do you have any ideas when they will grant us permanent residency? Are we a matter of weeks away do you think?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • I’m sorry, I have no idea whatsoever. Processing times vary greatly and my personal experience was in 2005… things have changed. Best of luck!

  23. Hi,

    I have a question. I am sponsoring my husband (uk citizen) who currently is in Canada on an IEC work permit. It expires in April 2013 and we applied for Permanent Residency (outside of canada) in October and so far have received a letter in november stating that i have met the requirements to sponsor and that the application has been sent over to the UK london office for furthur proccessing. How long will it take to hear from the london office? it says average is 6 months, but do you have any insight to how long until i hear somethign back, hope he gets his PR before his work permit expires. Or what else i can do in order for him to be able to continue working while application is still in progress?

    Thank you!

    • I have no idea how long the process will take and there is really no way to tell. It depends on how busy the visa office is, and how straightforward your application is. Mine was processed very fast but that was back in 2005, I was in the same situation, I got my PR right before my work permit expired but that was just luck.

      Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do but wait and keep your fingers crossed! 😉

  24. I am going to sponsor my wife and daughter to Canada. How much Fee I need to pay with my application? I know I need to pay sponsor fee C$75, my wife application fee C$475, How about my daughter? How much for her? Please help. Thanks.

  25. Hai i have applied for my PR under the category of spouse dependent visa(am living in India outside canada and my husband is a PR card holder). But as u mentioned above its a time consuming process. Could you please tell me whether I can apply for visiting visa in the mean time.? Awaiting for an early reply.

    • You can apply whenever you want, but there is no guarantee you will get a visa, especially while your application is being processed.

  26. 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?

  27. 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?


    • 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.

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