Spousal Sponsorship and Open Work Permits In Canada: The Basics
Many Canadians, particularly newly settled Canadian immigrants, have a foreign spouse or partner who also seeks residency and employment in Canada. They may be assured Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is committed to keeping families united.
This includes giving immigrant couples the opportunity for both partners to live and work in Canada, through the spousal sponsorship program. The spousal sponsorship program enables Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their spouses or common-law partners for permanent residency. There is also the possibility of such candidates working in Canada even before they obtain permanent resident status.
Sponsored spouses who wish to work while awaiting permanent resident status can apply for a visa in one of two categories, Inland or Outland:
Inland sponsorship is for those spouses who wish to reside in Canada while awaiting processing of their sponsorship application, and who will remain in the country throughout the application process.
Outland sponsorship is for spouses who will remain outside of Canada throughout the sponsorship process, until they have obtained a permanent resident visa.
The following is a quick guide to the two spousal sponsorship options. Note that CIC directly facilitates work permits for Inland sponsorship but does not oversee the process for Outland applicants.
Inland Sponsorship Work Permits
If you have a foreign spouse or partner currently living in Canada, you must follow two steps to apply for Inland sponsorship:
- First, the prospective sponsor must obtain Canadian immigration’s approval to sponsor his or her spouse or partner. If approved, Canadian immigration authorities will then evaluate the partner’s admissibility as a candidate.
- Once “approved in principle”, the partner being sponsored may apply for an Open Work Permit, allowing him or her to work for any Canadian employer or have self-employment status while awaiting permanent residency.
CIC will usually notify the applicant of their eligibility to apply for an Open Work Permit. The initial application for permanent residency may already include a work permit application in order to expedite the process and issue a permit as soon as the immigration office approves the first stage. If the spouse or partner is already employed temporarily in Canada, they will have ‘implied status’ until a decision is rendered. ‘Implied status’ means individuals may continue working after their existing work permit expires, insofar as they are awaiting the outcome of an application.
Outland Sponsorship Work Permits
If your spouse or partner intends to live outside Canada throughout the application process, you must apply for Outland sponsorship in a two-step process similar to that of Inland sponsorship. The main difference, however, is that once a candidate is approved in principle, they are not automatically eligible for an Open Work Permit. Outland sponsorship candidates may apply for a temporary work permit, albeit under the regular requirements.
To be eligible for a standard work permit, a foreign spouse must have a job offer from a Canadian employer. Usually, the employer will require a positive Labour Market Opinion (LMO) to justify the need for the foreign hire. Foreign spouses may be exempt from an LMO depending on factors such as profession, age, or nationality, or through their participation in a program such as International Experience Canada or NAFTA Professional.
If you are applying for a work permit after submitting an Outland sponsorship application, you should note that temporary work permits are generally granted to those intending to leave the country once the permit expires. The government may refuse your application if you cannot confirm your intention to depart the country after the expiry date. You may circumvent this problem by declaring ‘dual intent,’ which allows you to hold a temporary visa concurrently with a pending application for a permanent resident visa.
If your partner’s application for a work permit is denied, it has no bearing on his or her application for permanent residency.
Seeking the proper guidance
While Canadian immigration law is invested in unifying families and seeing newcomers socially and economically integrated into their new home country, sponsorship applicants need to be diligent when it come to whose advice they follow.
If you are considering spousal sponsorship, a Canadian immigration lawyer can navigate the process for you to minimize chances of delay or refusal.
For more information contact First Immigration Law Firm toll-free in North America at 1-855-360-4333 or 514-360-4333 internationally.