What is spousal sponsorship?
Canada’s spousal sponsorship program allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner to come live permanently in Canada.
If you are at least 18 years old and your relationship with your partner falls under the following categories, you are eligible for spousal sponsorship (Canada recognizes same gender partnerships):
- Spouse: You have a legally valid civil marriage
- Common-law partner: You have lived with your partner for at least 12 consecutive months in a marriage like relationship
- Conjugal relationships: You have been in a relationship with your partner for at least one year, but are unable to live together for reasons outside of your control such as cultural, religious, or legal reasons. For conjugal relationships, the person being sponsored cannot be living in Canada.
You can become a sponsor as long as you meet the following criteria:
- You are at least 18 years old
- You are a Canadian citizen, registered as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act, or a permanent resident
- You live in Canada or plan to live in Canada when your sponsored partner becomes a permanent resident
- You are not receiving social assistance, except for disabilities
- You can provide basic needs for yourself, your partner, and your partner’s dependent children (if applicable)
What are the financial requirements for spousal sponsorship in Canada?
There are no minimum income requirements for the majority of spousal sponsorships. However, the sponsor must sign an undertaking which states that they promise to financially support the basic needs of their partners.
The only instances where there is a low-income-cut-off (LICO) is if the spouse you are sponsoring has a dependent child who has their own dependent child or if you are sponsoring a dependent child who has their own dependent child. The low-income-cut-off is determined by the Canadian government each year.
Is there a background check for spousal sponsorship?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) requires all applicants to complete a background check to ensure that they do not pose any dangers to the Canadian public or national security. Applicants with a criminal record may not be allowed to enter Canada.
Some ground for inadmissibility include:
- Being linked to organizations involved in organized crime
- Previous involement in espionage, terrorism, or subversion
- Violating human or international rights
Is police certificate required for spousal sponsorship, too?
When you apply to become a permanent resident through spousal sponsorship, you (the primary applicant) and any family members over the age of 18 must include a police certificate as part of the application.
Police certificates are statements that verify you don’t have a criminal record or if you do, they provide a copy of your criminal record.
You are required to submit police certificates from the country where you’ve lived for most of your life since turning 18 and any country you’ve lived in for 6 months or longer.
You don’t need police certificates for time spent in Canada or before you were 18 years old.
What are the specifications for a spousal sponsorship photo?
Once your application is approved, a photo is required for the Permanent Resident Card. The photo should be taken by a commercial photographer and can be in black and white or colour. The photo cannot be altered in any way and must be taken within the past 6 months.
The photo should meet the following specifications:
- Photo size is 50mm x 70 mm (2 inches wide x 2 ¾ inches long)
- The height of the face from the chin to the top of the head should be between 31mm to 36mm (1 ¼ inches and 1 7/16 inches)
- Taken in front of a plain white background
- Clear and in focus with uniform lighting
- Show a full frontal view of the person’s head and shoulders
- The face should be centered in the middle of the photo
- Facial expression should be neutral with the mouth closed and no smiling
What is the letter of support for spousal sponsorship?
Letters of support are documents used to prove to the immigration officer that your relationship is genuine.
Although they are not mandatory, letters of support can help strengthen the spousal sponsorship application, especially if your marriage is recent or you and your partner have only lived together for a short period of time.
Letters of support are most effective when written by immediate family members and close friends of the couple.
What is the process of spousal sponsorship application?
In order to apply for spousal sponsorship you need to first ensure that you meet the requirements. Next you must download and complete the application package from the IRCC which will include a document checklist and forms for the sponsor and spouse to fill out.
After completing the application, you need to pay for the application fees which can be done online. Once payment is complete, all that is left to do is to mail your application to the IRCC.
What are the fees for spousal sponsorship application?
The total cost of spousal sponsorship fees is $1135 CAN.
Breakdown of the costs:
Sponsorship fee = $75
Principal applicant processing fee = $475
Right of permanent residence fee = $500
Biometrics (per person) = $85
Total = $1135
An additional cost of $150 is required for each dependent child being sponsored. For residents of Quebec, an additional $289 processing fee is applied.
How long is the spousal sponsorship timeline and processing time
The average time for spousal sponsorship applications to be processed is approximately 12 months. However, the specific time depends on each unique case.
Some of the reasons applications can take longer to process include:
- Photocopies of documents are blurry or unclear
- A medical condition requires more tests
- The background check reveals a criminal or security problem
- Communication with offices abroad are required
The processing time includes the time needed to submit your biometrics, an assessment of the sponsor and the spouse, and time to ensure the eligibility requirements are fulfilled.
For estimated processing times, you can use this calculator offered by the Government of Canada.
What is in the spousal sponsorship checklist?
You can download your forms and checklist on the application package page.
The checklist will:
- Tell you which forms you need to complete
- Tell you which documents you need to submit
- Provide instructions on how to fill out each form
All of the forms listed on your specific checklist must be completed and submitted with your application. If a form does not apply to you then simply write “not applicable” or “N/A” on the specific section. If your application is incomplete it will not be processed.
For all documents that are not in English or French, you must include:
- A certified copy of the original document
- A translation of the document in either English or French by a certified translator
- If the translation is not completed by a certified translator, you must include an affidavit from the person who completed the translation to confirm the accuracy of the translation and the language proficiency of the translator
How do I track and check the status of my spousal sponsorship application?
Applicants can receive email updates on the status of their spousal sponsorship application by creating an account online.
For those in Canada or the United States, you can also contact the IRCC or check the status of the application online.
For those outside of Canada and the United States, you can contact the Canadian embassy or the consulate responsible for your location.
You can also check on the general status of applications through the Government of Canada website here.
What is the interview process for spousal sponsorship?
Although uncommon, an immigration officer may require an interview. If an interview is necessary, the IRCC will contact the applicant with the date, time, location, and documents required.
Some topics the immigration officer may ask the application about during the interview could include:
- Relationship with the sponsor
- Reason for immigrating
- Plans for the future
- Financial situation
- Past encounters with the law
What do I do in case I get refused the spousal sponsorship?
There are two kinds of spousal sponsorships: inland and outland.
Inland sponsorships are for when your spouse resides in Canada.This option allows the sponsored spouse to apply for an open work permit which allows you to work in Canada while your application is being processed.
Outland sponsorships are for when your spouse does not reside in Canada.
If rejected, inland spousal sponsorship applications are not eligible for appeal. In these circumstances you will need to reapply.
Outland spousal sponsorship applications are eligible for appeal within 30 days of receiving the refusal letter.