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Who can be sponsored?

For the purposes of the family class sponsorship program, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor a foreign national to whom they are married to, or a person who is a common-law partner or conjugal partner of the sponsor. Same-sex spouses and partners are also recognized and eligible under these programs and Canadian law in general. Dependent children may also be sponsored under this program. Please see the Family Class Sponsorship page to learn more about the Canadian sponsorship process and requirements.

If you are in Quebec and want to sponsor someone from the family class, you need to apply through the Quebec Family Class Program. Speak with a Canadian immigration lawyer at our law firm can ensure a smooth application process.

What is a spouse?

A spouse is someone who is legally married to another person. If the couple was married in Canada, the applicant must be able to provide a marriage certificate issued by the province or territory where the marriage took place.

If the couple was married outside Canada, the marriage must be considered valid in the foreign country where it was issued and considered valid under Canadian law as well. If a marriage takes place in an embassy or consulate, the marriage must comply with the laws of the country where the marriage was actually performed, and not the laws of the country in which the embassy or consulate is representing (however must still be considered valid in Canada).

What is a same-sex spouse?

A Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor a same-sex partner as a spouse if:

  • the couple was married in Canada and issued a marriage certificate by a province or territory (certain conditions apply depending on the province).
  • Same sex marriages performed outside of Canada are valid so long as the marriage is legally recognized in the country of where it occurred as well as under Canadian law.

What is a common-law partner?

A common-law partner is defined as a couple living together in a conjugal relationship for at least the duration of one year. This includes same-sex common law partners. The couple must have been in a conjugal relationship for a continuous 12-month period that was not interrupted in any way, however, they are allowed short absences for business or family reasons.

What is a conjugal partner?

This category is for couples, including same-sex couples, who are unable to qualify as spouses or common-law partners, due to exceptional circumstances beyond their control. A conjugal relationship is more than a physical relationship. Conjugal partners must depend and be committed to each other in a way that is similar to the level of commitment of a married couple or common-law partners.

To be deemed a conjugal partner, conjugal partners must:

  • Have been maintaining a conjugal relationship with the sponsor for at least one year and have been prevented from marrying each other or living together because of circumstances out of their control such as:

    • barriers to immigrations (for example, where one partner is refused long-term stays in each other’s country)

    • marital status (such as when you are married to someone else and divorce is not possible in that country) .

    • sexual orientation (for example, where a same-sex relationship is not permitted or illegal in the country where the couple were residing.

Individuals should not apply as a conjugal partner if:

  • the couple could have lived together but chose not to as this demonstrates a lack of commitment that is necessary.

  • the couple cannot provide any evidence there was a reason they could not live together.

  • The couple is engaged to become married. Such couples should wait until the marriage has occurred or at least after 12 months of continuously living together

IMPORTANT: Conditional Permanent Resident Period

Sponsored spouses, common law spouses and conjugal partners, must live together in a legitimate relationship with their sponsor for at least 24 months from the day they acquired their Canadian Permanent Residency or else they risk losing their Canadian permanent residency (including same-sex spouses and partners).

This condition applies to any couples who have no common children together and who meet one of the following circumstances:

  • Those who are married for two years or less; or

  • those who have dated for four years, but have been married for two years or less; or

  • those who have been in a conjugal relationship with the sponsor for two years or less; or

  • those who have cohabited in a common law relationship for two years or less;

This condition does not apply if the couple:

  • have been married for more than two years; or

  • have been in a conjugal relationship for more than two years; or

  • has cohabited in a common-law relationship for more than two years; or

  • they have children in common.