All About Spousal Sponsorship


A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.

Spousal relationships for the purpose of sponsorship include a married spouse, a common-law partner, or a conjugal partner. 

How To Sponsor Your Spouse To Move To Canada

To sponsor a spouse, you must prepare and submit documentation proving a “bona fide relationship” with your foreign spouse. A “bona fide relationship” means that you and your spouse have a “genuine” relationship, and have not entered into a relationship for the purpose of acquiring a benefit under Canadian immigration law. Our immigration law firm has successfully assisted hundreds of families obtain Canadian permanent residency through the spousal sponsorship application.

It is important to note that a Canadian permanent resident or a naturalized Canadian citizen who has previously been sponsored as a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner may not sponsor a new spouse or partner for a five-year period after becoming a permanent resident.

How To Qualify As A Spouse

To qualify as a spouse, a foreign national must be at least 18 years of age, legally married to the sponsor, and not otherwise married or in a conjugal relationship with someone else. A marriage that takes place outside Canada must be legal in the country where it took place and must also conform to Canadian law.

Spousal Sponsorship In Same-Sex Marriages

In the context of same-sex marriages, the marriage must be legally recognized both in the country where it took place and under Canadian law. Applicants must be able to provide a marriage certificate.

Can I Sponsor My Fiancé?

Presently, there is no category for fiancé(e)s. If an applicant for permanent residence is engaged to be married, they must wait until after the marriage to apply as a spouse, or they may apply as a common-law partner if the couple has lived together continuously for at least 12 months.

Conjugal Partners And Sponsorship

Conjugal partners refer to partners who are not legally married and who do not live together. The conjugal partner sponsorship category was created for those who are unable to legally marry and have not been able to live together continuously for one year, usually as a result of legal, social, or religious barriers. These barriers could include the following, for example:

  • one’s marital status (i.e. one partner is married to someone else and is unable to divorce due to the laws in the legal jurisdiction governing marriage);
  • one’s sexual orientation (i.e same-sex relationships or marriage are not permitted in the country of the applicant); and
  • an immigration barrier, such as where the applicant and/or sponsor were denied long-term stays in each other’s country.

The conjugal partner category applies only when the common-law partnership is not possible as a result of particular circumstances.

Common-Law Partner Sponsorship

A common-law partner is an individual who is cohabiting with the sponsor in a conjugal relationship, having cohabited for a period of at least one year. The common-law partner must have been separated from any prior spouse or common-law partner for at least one year and must be able to prove this. While a formal divorce or legal separation paperwork is preferred, it is not a legal requirement.

How Is A Spousal Relationship Determined To Be Genuine?

In proving the genuineness of the relationship, it is generally advisable to present the Canadian immigration authorities with the following documents:

  • joint bank accounts or credit cards;
  • joint ownership of a home;
  • joint residential leases;
  • joint rental receipts;
  • joint utilities (electricity, gas, and telephone);
  • joint management of household expenses;
  • proof of joint purchases, especially for household items; and
  • correspondence addressed to either person or both people at the same address.

It is also advisable to provide declarations from the applicant and sponsor spouse, as well as supporting letters or declarations from family and friends.

Ultimately, the specific supporting package will depend on the case. Our immigration law firm will help you determine what specific evidence should be provided and highlighted in your application.

Does A Sponsored Spouse Need To Reside In Canada?

Canadian immigration law generally provides that the sponsored spouse should reside in Canada. However, there is no definite rule as to how many days or what percentage of the time a citizen is required to be in Canada. Courts and tribunals have generally taken a flexible approach with the interpretation of residence. 

However, Canadian permanent residents residing outside of Canada cannot sponsor their spouses. There is an exception for Canadian citizens residing outside Canada if they satisfy immigration officials that they will resume residence in Canada when the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident. Proving intent to resume residence in Canada can be difficult – our firm can help you prepare the supporting materials necessary to prove such intent.

Ksenia Tchern

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.