Canada’s immigration legislation includes different categories such as family class, skilled worker and investor under which prospective immigrants can apply for Canadian permanent resident status. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), examples of individuals who can be sponsored under the family class, include a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, parents, grandparents and dependent children. There are specific requirements for each of these categories of individuals that can be sponsored.
To be a sponsor, you must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, living in Canada and will continue to live in Canada (with certain exceptions), and be financially eligible to qualify. There is a processing fee for sponsorship. Individuals may not qualify to be a sponsor if certain criterion applies to them.
There are rules governing family class sponsorships such as rules about co-signors, financial requirements of sponsors, the length of the sponsorship undertaking as well as responsibilities of the sponsors. There are also different sponsorship processes which apply to applications made from within and those made from outside of Canada. An appeal process is available for sponsorships that are refused. Appeals must be made within the proscribed time limit.
This link will provide details and information about family class sponsorship. This brochure focuses on the eligibility criteria for this category as well as the rights of the sponsor and sponsored person(s) and the application process. Our brochure contains only general legal information. The law can change, and each person’s situation is different. If you have any specific questions, please contact your local community legal clinic, community agency or an immigration lawyer.
By Topic List
- Spouse who is 16 years of age or older and legally married to sponsor
- Common-law partner of the sponsor who is 16 years of age or older and is a person of the same sex or opposite sex who has lived with the sponsor in a spousal for at least one year
- Conjugal partner of the sponsor who is 16 years of age or older and is person of the same sex or opposite sex residing outside of Canada who has been in a conjugal relationship with the sponsor for at least one year. Conjugal partners are those who are prevented from living together or marrying because of circumstances beyond their control such as immigration barriers or same-sex relationships which are not legally recognized in the country where the partners live. )
- Parents and grandparents of the sponsor
- Children the sponsor intends to adopt who are under the age of 18 and never married
- Brothers, sisters, nephews/nieces or grandchildren of the sponsor who are less than 18 years of age, orphaned and who are unmarried and not a common-law partner
- Dependent children who are either
1) the sponsor’s biological children who have not been adopted by any other persons other than the spouse or common-law partner of the sponsor or
2) the sponsor’s legally adopted children and who are:
- Less than 19 years of age, unmarried and not a common-law partner; or
- 19 years of age or older who depend substantially on the financial support of parents since before the age of 19 due to a physical or mental condition.
This age restriction for dependent children applies only to sponsorship applications of dependent children which are received on or after August 1, 2014.
- A relative of any age or relationship if the sponsor does not have a living spouse or common-law partner, conjugal partner, a son or daughter, parent, grandparent, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece who could be sponsored as a member of the family class, or who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada.
A Sponsor must be：
- At least 18 years of age
- A citizen or permanent resident of Canada
- Living in Canada and will continue to live in Canada. However, a Canadian citizen applying to sponsor his/her spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent children without children of their own does not need to live in Canada during the sponsorship application process but must commit to live in Canada when the sponsored family members become permanent residents.
- Financially qualify to sponsor
You may not be eligible to sponsor if you:
- Are subject to a removal order.
- Are imprisoned.
- Have declared bankruptcy which has not been discharged.
- Have been convicted under the Criminal Code or outside of Canada of an offence of a sexual nature or attempted or threatened to commit such an offence against your dependent children, spouse, common-law partner and their children/family members. If the offence was committed in Canada, you can sponsor only if you have received a pardon for the conviction(s) or 5 years has elapsed since the completion of the sentence for the conviction of the offence. If the offense was committed outside of Canada, 5 years must have elapsed since the completion of the sentence imposed for the conviction in order to sponsor.
- Are in receipt of social assistance for reasons other than a disability.
- Defaulted on a previous sponsorship agreement and caused the sponsored person to turn to the government for social assistance. If the sponsor reimburses the government for the money that the sponsored person received from the government, they will no longer be considered in default.
- Defaulted on any court ordered support payments such as child support.
- Have not paid monies owing to immigration authorities.
Co-sponsors must also meet these requirements in order for their income to be considered in the sponsorship application.
If the sponsor is facing any of the proceedings listed below, the processing of the sponsorship application could be suspended until there is a final decision on the proceeding:
- Charged with a criminal offence that is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least ten years
- Canadian citizen or permanent resident status is being investigated and may be revoked
- Subject of a certificate signed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Solicitor General of Canada stating that the sponsor is inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, serious criminality or organized criminality.
- Permanent resident status has been revoked and revocation is being appealed
Five-year Sponsorship Bar for Persons Sponsored to Canada as a Spouse or Partner
Under the changes that came into force on March 2, 2012, a previously sponsored spouse or partner cannot sponsor a new spouse or partner within five years of becoming a permanent resident, even if the previously sponsored spouse acquires Canadian Citizenship during this five-year period. These changes affect spousal sponsorship applications received on or after March 2, 2012. Sponsoring other members of the Family Class will not be affected by the changes.
In the case where the sponsor’s income is insufficient, the sponsor’s spouse or common-law partner (who has lived with the sponsor at least one year) can jointly sign the sponsorship application. The co-signer must be:
- At least 18 years of age
- A Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada
- Live and will continue to live in Canada
- Meet the same requirements of sponsors as mentioned above
Financial Requirements of Sponsors:
- If the person being sponsored is a spouse/common-law or conjugal partner or dependent child under 19 years of age without children of their own, the sponsor does not have to meet the LICO requirements. Nevertheless, the sponsor still cannot be in receipt of government social assistance unless for disability reasons.
- For sponsorship applications of parents, grandparents, and the dependents of the parents or grandparents, the income of the sponsor for each of the three years prior to the date the application was submitted must meet the low income cut-off (LICO) plus 30%. The LICO amount is revised annually.
- For all other categories of sponsorship applications, the income of the sponsor must meet the LICO requirement in the past 12 months prior to the date the application is received.
- The LICO amount the sponsor must have is based on the number of persons in his own family, the number of family members who are being sponsored and the number of persons included in previous sponsorship undertakings which the sponsor has signed or co-signed and which are still in effect. The low-income cut-off chart is included in the sponsorship application guide.
- In assessing whether the sponsor has met the minimum necessary income requirement, Canada Immigration will only look at the sponsor’s Notice of Assessment issued by the Canada Revenue Agency for the three years preceding the application date.
- The financial evaluation form in the sponsorship application contains a detailed breakdown of what can be included as income. Examples of income include wages, self-employment income, rent, pension income, special employment insurance benefits such as maternity, parental and sickness benefits, old age security supplement amounts, business and investment income.
The sponsorship agreement that a sponsor/co-signer signs with Immigration Canada is a legally binding document. The sponsor bears full financial responsibility for the sponsored person; this includes meals, accommodation and other living needs. How long the sponsorship agreement remains in effect depends on the family member that is being sponsored.
The sponsorship agreement must be signed by the sponsor, co-signer and the sponsored person. This document confirms that they know the rights and responsibilities associated with the sponsorship and must be included in the sponsorship application.
Length of Sponsorship Undertakings:
- If the sponsored person is a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent children over the age of 19, the validity period is three (3) years from the date the person enters Canada to remain here as a permanent resident.
- If the sponsored person is a dependent child under the age of 19, the sponsorship validity period is ten (10) years from the date of landing or until the child turns 22, whichever comes first.
- For parents, grandparents, and any accompanying dependents of the parents and grandparents, the sponsorship validity period is twenty (20) years from the date they enter Canada to remain here as permanent residents. This length of sponsorship undertaking only applies to applications received on or after January 2, 2014. For applications approved before January 2, 2014, the sponsorship validity period is ten (10) years from the date they enter Canada to remain as permanent residents.
- For all other family members, the sponsorship validity period is ten (10) years from the date of landing.
In the case where the sponsor or co-signer do not comply with the sponsorship agreement by not providing financial support and the sponsored family members have to turn to social assistance while the undertaking is still valid, Immigration Canada will disallow the sponsor and co-sponsor from sponsoring other family members in the future until they fully repay the money their sponsored family members received from social assistance. Signing this undertaking is a legal commitment to the Government of Canada and is therefore a serious responsibility. Failing to comply with the obligations set out in the undertaking and agreement means the sponsor and co-signer both have the same responsibilities and will face the same consequences.
Conditional Permanent Residence for Spousal Sponsorship
Any sponsorship submit after October 25, 2012 for spouses, common-law or conjugal partners who are in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsor and have no children in common with their sponsor at the time of sponsorship application are subject to a 2 years period of conditional permanent residence. The sponsored spouse or partner must co-habit in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for a period of two years after receiving permanent resident status. If this condition is not met, permanent residence status could be revoked and an order for removal from Canada may be issued. Some exemption applied for family violence, neglect or death of the sponsored.
Family class sponsorships are usually processed from outside of Canada through a visa office abroad. However, under certain circumstances, family class members can apply for landing from within Canada.
Sponsorship application kits can be obtained by calling Canada Immigration’s Call Center at 1-888-242-2100 and have the forms mailed to you. The forms can also be downloaded from Canada Immigration’s website at www.cic.gc.ca. You can fill the forms out online and submit by mail. Some of the forms can be submitted online.
It is important to complete the forms correctly and truthfully. Information that is concealed or misreported would lead to investigation and long delays.
The application kit to sponsor spouses, common-law partners and dependent children is different from the one used to sponsor all other members of the family class. The applications kits include a detailed instruction guide which explains how to correctly complete the forms. Each kit contains a document checklist. It is very important to follow that checklist to make sure you have included all of the necessary documents and forms because errors will cause delay.
It is important to note that there is an annual application cap for sponsorship applications of parents, grandparents, and their accompanying dependents. The annual cap on these applications is typically announced in the beginning of the year. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will only accept complete sponsorship applications of parents, grandparents and their accompanying dependents during a specific period at the beginning of the year. Applications received after the cap has been met will be returned to the applicant. Therefore, it is important that this type of sponsorship application be submitted as soon as the intake period is open.
For all other categories of sponsorship applications, they may be submitted at any time during the year and they are not subject to an application cap.
1） Sponsorship Application From Outside of Canada
The sponsorship application kits consist of forms the sponsor has to complete as well as forms the applicant(s) have to complete. Once the application kit is completed and signed, it is sent to the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga (CPC Mississauga). CPC Mississauga’s function to be make sure all of the necessary forms have been completed and that the sponsor is eligible to sponsor. If the sponsor is not qualified to sponsor, the application fee minus $75.00 will be returned to the sponsor unless the sponsor has indicated an intention to continue with the application in the event that he/she is deemed not qualified to do so. If the sponsorship passes CPC Mississauga’s screening, or if the sponsor asks to continue with the process, it will transfer the forms to the visa office overseas which is responsible for processing immigration applications for the country where the applicant resides.
The Visa Office
Once overseas, the visa office will continue to process the application to completion. This usually involves reviewing the facts of the case in detail, asking for any missing supporting documents, reviewing the medical examination results for the applicant and completing criminal checks.
The applicant may also be asked to attend an interview at the visa office if the visa officer decides they have questions about the sponsorship. With marriage or common-law relationships, the visa office may in some cases suspect the marriage or relationship is not genuine. It is very important to prepare well for this interview. Often, the visa officer will ask questions in an interrogation-like manner which may be very intimidating. Be prepared to answer questions such as how much the applicant knows about the sponsor’s life in Canada, any previous relationships and details about the sponsor’s character and the courtship. The visa officer is looking for specific and detailed responses rather than general statements because details prove the applicant is familiar with the sponsor. The visa officer will also be matching the responses given at the interview with the information written down on the application forms, particularly the applicant’s and sponsor’s marriage and common-law questionnaires. Therefore, the information given in the application should be comprehensive, coherent, consistent and detailed. Supporting documents which help establish frequency of contact between the sponsor and applicant should be provided to the visa office. This information includes phone bills, emails, letters and the envelopes showing the postmark date, long distance phone cards, greeting cards, photos, money remittance receipts and plane tickets.
If all of the procedural requirements are met, then the applicant will be notified that they can be granted permanent resident status and will be issued a Confirmation of Permanent Residence form. When the applicant arrives in Canada, the port-of-entry immigration officer will verify the information on the form and then allow the applicant to enter Canada. The applicant has to provide a mailing address to the port-of –entry officer because a permanent resident card will be mailed to the applicant within 4-5 weeks of the date of landing. The Applicant is able to work and study in Canada after he or she is landed.
Spouses and common-law partners sponsorships are given priority at visa offices and the processing times for these applications is significantly shorter than for other types of applications such as skilled workers. If during the processing of the application, problems arise or the application is refused, it is best to seek help from an experienced immigration lawyer or legal clinics as soon as possible because there might be deadlines for filing documents or appeal notices.
2) In-Canada Sponsorships
Applications to sponsor family members generally take place outside of the country. However, under certain circumstances, you can submit an inland sponsorship.
a. In Canada Spouse or Common-Law Partner Class
If a sponsor has a spouse, common-law partner or dependent child who is in Canada, an inland sponsorship can be submitted under this Class. The application package contains a spousal, common-law partner or conjugal partner questionnaire which requires the sponsor and applicant spouse/partner to provide details of their relationship. These forms should be filled out carefully and in as much detail as possible. In addition, any supporting documents to evidence the genuineness of the relationship should be submitted with the application. Approval of the application usually depends on whether Canada Immigrations decides the relationship between sponsor and the applicant is real. If the application receives approval, the applicant can apply for a work permit or study permit while Canada Immigration finishes processing the application. These permits should be extended until the applicant receives his or her permanent resident status.
After the applicant passes the medical examination, he/she is eligible for health insurance benefits in Ontario (OHIP). After receiving permanent resident status, the applicant can legally work and study in Canada and continue to be eligible for OHIP coverage.
b. Humanitarian and Compassionate applications
This type of applications is used by those who do not qualify to apply under the In Canada Spouse and Common-Law partner class and do not qualify to apply for landing under any other immigration category.
Examples of people who could make a humanitarian and compassionate application include, failed refugee claimants who have been in Canada for a number of years and who have established themselves in Canada or a parents who comes to Canada to visit their children but for various reasons they and their children would face great hardship if separated.
In order to have a successful H&C application, applicants have to satisfy Canada Immigration that their personal circumstances are such that they would face unusual, undeserved and disproportionate hardship if forced to obtain a permanent resident visa from outside of Canada. The applicants should submit as much information as possible to prove this hardship. H&C applications are more complex and more subjective than most other immigration applications because the immigration officer is given discretion to weigh all of the facts of the case in arriving at the decision.
Factors the immigration officer will look at when making a decision include length of time in Canada (the longer the better), establishment in Canada, whether inability to leave Canada was beyond applicant’s control, stable employment history (i.e. steady income). Canadian job skills, English and or French language skills, integration into community through involvement with community, social and religious organizations and volunteer work, close family members in Canada, whether applicant has committed any crimes during his/her time in Canada, financial establishment in Canada (i.e. bank savings, RRSPs), hardship on family members in Canada if applicant were to have to leave Canada and the best interests of children that will be affected by removal from Canada.
H&C applications are decided in a two part assessment process. The first part of the assessment is to determine whether the facts of the case warrant granting an exemption from the regular Immigration rules and allowing the applicant to apply for landing from within Canada. The second part is to determine whether the applicant meets the criminal, security and medical requirements which all permanent resident applicants must meet before being allowed to immigrate to Canada. If there is a positive first part decision, the applicant will be eligible to apply for a work permit and/or student permit while he/she waits to be landed.
Just submitting an H&C application does not freeze or stop any removal action which Canada Immigration may take against the applicant if he or she has no status in Canada. Canada Immigration can still remove the applicant from Canada if the H&C application has been submitted but not yet decided. Applicants who are facing removal should contact a legal clinic or immigration lawyer as soon as possible.
Having a sponsor for an H&C application is very helpful but is not necessary. If for instance, parents are in Canada to be with their children and the children are able to sponsor, the children can complete a sponsorship application and submit it along with the parents’ H&C application.
Having a sponsorship is a positive factor but the officer will still have to look at all of the circumstances of the case. As Canada Immigration will make its decision based primarily on the information submitted, seek the advice of an immigration lawyer or legal clinic when completing the application kit.
The fees for applications made inside and outside of Canada are as follows:
|Principal Applicant if under 22 years of age, never married, and not in a common-law relationship|| $75
|Each accompanying family member listed in application under or over 22 years of age who is married or in a common-law relationship||$550|
|Each accompanying family member under 22 years of age who has never married and is not in a common-law relationship||$150|
|Right of Permanent Residence Fee for principal applicant or accompanying family member who is not a dependent child of the sponsor or principal applicant or a child to be adopted by the sponsor or an orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece or grandchild of the sponsor|| $490
If the sponsor notifies Canada Immigration that he/she wishes to cancel the sponsorship application before any processing has be done on the application, the full processing fee paid minus the $75 sponsorship application fee will be refunded. The right of permanent residence fee which the principal applicant and accompanying spouse or common-law partner must each pay can be paid at the time of application or right before the immigrant visa is to be issued. If the sponsorship application is denied, this fee will be refunded in full.
If Canada Immigration rejects the sponsored person’s immigration application, the sponsor has the right to file an appeal. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of receiving the decision to the Appeal Division (IAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The IAD has the power to overturn the original decision. Canada Immigration will provide the sponsor with the refusal letter along and the appeal form and the address of the Immigration Appeal Division. As the appeal can involve complex legal issues, an immigration lawyer or legal aid clinic should be consulted prior to the appeal. If the appeal is dismissed, the sponsor can apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of IAD’s decision.
If the sponsorship application was rejected because the applicant or sponsor has committed a serious criminal offense (crime in Canada with at least 6 months of imprisonment or conviction of a crime outside of Canada and the foreign conviction or criminal act carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more under Canadian law) or participated in organized crime, violated human and international rights or threatened national security, the sponsor cannot appeal to the IAD and must directly apply for judicial review to the Federal Court.
For more information about the appeal process, please refer to the brochure entitled Immigration Appeals Rights.
If sponsorship termination happens before immigrant status is granted:
Sponsorship termination may happen when the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person (applicant) breaks down. If the sponsor decides to withdraw their sponsorship, it is important for the applicant to consult an immigration lawyer or legal aid clinic because Immigration Canada may then end its processing of the sponsorship application and the applicant may have to leave Canada. The applicant can still apply for permanent resident status based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds even though the sponsorship has been terminated because the sponsorship may have been terminated as a result of the applicant being subject to physical, sexual or mental abuse from the sponsor. Other factors which may be included in the application could be the applicant’s integration into life in Canada after a prolonged time here, Canadian work and language skills, family members in Canada and best interests of any children affected by the termination of the sponsorship.
If sponsorship termination happens after permanent resident status is granted:
If the relationship between the sponsor and sponsored person breaks down after the sponsored person has been granted permanent resident status, this status will not be affected even if the sponsor reports the termination of their relationship to Immigration Canada. However, in certain circumstances, if Canada Immigration decides the sponsored person misrepresented material facts to Canada Immigration in order to acquire permanent resident status, enforcement action against that person will be commenced which could ultimately lead to the removal of that person from Canada. Anyone in this situation should consult an immigration lawyer or legal clinic.
Sponsored immigrants and Social assistance
Sponsored immigrants will not be deprived of social assistance because of their sponsored status. According to the present law in Ontario, sponsored immigrants applying for social assistance must continue to seek financial assistance from their sponsor. If they do not seek financial assistance from their sponsor, their social assistance application could be denied. However, if the sponsor is not willing to provide any support, the sponsored immigrant should be entitled to social assistance.
Recovering social assistance payments from the sponsor
If a sponsored immigrant applies for social assistance during the sponsorship period, the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) will recover the amount paid to the sponsored immigrant as social assistance from the sponsor regardless of the sponsor’s financial situation. MCSS will also notify Canada Immigration of the sponsor’s breach of the sponsorship undertaking so that the sponsor is prevented from sponsorship anyone else until the debt that is owed is repaid.
Where to get help?
For legal advice and representation, you can contact a lawyer or a community legal clinic. To find the community legal clinic in your area, you can phone Legal Aid Ontario, their toll free outside Toronto number is 1-800-668-8258, in Toronto, call 416-979-1446 or check their web site at www.legalaid.on.ca
This booklet provides general information only. Each person’s situation is different and the law can change. If you have any legal issues, please contact a lawyer or local community legal clinic.