Spousal Sponsorships: Covering Partners Who are Outside and Inside Canada

Canada has welcomed 313,838 new immigrants from January to October 2021. One of the biggest problems with getting immigration into Canada for you and your family is the delays. With a backlog of 1.8 million Canadian immigration applications, it can take a while before you’re united with your family.

Are you a new immigrant who’s waiting to sponsor your family to Canada? Are you considering spousal sponsorships? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Understanding how spousal sponsorships work can help you and your spouse when you’re immigrating to Canada. Keep on reading for everything you need to know about spousal sponsorships, including partners who are inside Canada or outside Canada.

Who Can Sponsor Their Spouse?

To be able to sponsor a spouse, you need certain eligibility criteria. You, as the sponsor, must be 18 years of age and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. The sponsor must also be residing in Canada. Other criteria include:

  • Clean record with no criminal convictions
  • No violent or sexual convictions
  • No bankruptcy
  • No government assistance except in special circumstances

You will need to show that you are in a genuine, bona-fide relationship. Evidence to support this can include marriage certificates, photos, emails, phone records, and other supporting documents. You can also show evidence of joint bank accounts, co-ownership of property, and official documents that list the same address.

Same-Sex Spouses

Canada immigration laws recognize same-sex marriages and same-sex common-law partners as sponsors. Opposite- or same-sex marriages will be recognized if the marriage was legally performed in Canada. If it was performed outside of Canada, the marriage must be legally recognized in the country where it took place.

Common-Law Spouses

You can sponsor your opposite- or same-sex common-law partner as long as you’ve lived with them for at least 12 consecutive months.

Conjugal Partners

You can also sponsor an opposite- or same-sex conjugal partner. A conjugal partner means a person who is:

  • Living outside Canada
  • Has been in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 months
  • Could not live as a couple because of reasons beyond their control like immigration, religion, or sexual orientation


One important thing to note is that when you agree to be a sponsor, you will have to sign an undertaking promising to give financial support for the basic needs of your spouse or partner. Basic needs include food, clothing, shelter, and other everyday needs. It will also include dental or eye care that’s not covered by public health services.

The undertaking will be for 3 years from the day your spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident. You can only withdraw your undertaking before a final decision has been made on your file. 

Remember that this undertaking will apply even if your situation changes. You will need to provide financial support even if the person you’re sponsoring becomes a Canadian citizen, you get divorced or separated, your spouse or partner moves to a different country, or you run into financial problems.

How Do Spousal Sponsorships Work?

Spousal sponsorship rules are different if your spouse is living outside of Canada or inside Canada as a worker, student, or visitor. Understanding how each one works can help you make your decision on which method works best for you.

If you’re looking to sponsor other relatives, the process is very different. There are other streams and processes for sponsoring relatives including the Parents and Grandparents Program.

Spousal Sponsorships Inside Canada

You can sponsor your spouse if they live with you in Canada. The spousal sponsorship application can be done within Canada, but your spouse must remain in Canada until the application is finalized. It’s also recommended that your spouse continues to maintain legal status. This means if their work or study permit is expiring, they should apply to renew it.

Your spouse will also have the option to apply for an open work permit and work in Canada while they are waiting for a response on their application.

If you’re sponsoring your spouse inside Canada and the application is refused, there is no option to appeal at the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD). However, an application for Judicial Review at the Federal Court of Canada may be an option.

Spousal Sponsorships Outside Canada

Where the spouse is outside Canada, the application will be processed in their country of origin. In this process, there are no restrictions on traveling in or out of Canada. If the spousal sponsorship application is denied, the refusal can be appealed at the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD).

If your spouse is outside Canada, you can apply as a conjugal partner if you haven’t lived together for 12 consecutive months for immigration reasons.

What Are the Processing Times for Spousal Sponsorship?

It can take up to 12 months for the government to review your spousal sponsorship application. This is the same whether you apply inside Canada or outside Canada. There are times where the spousal sponsorship outside Canada processes faster than the application for spousal sponsorship inside Canada. 

You may need to give fingerprints or photo biometrics with your application. The processing time includes the time it takes you to give biometrics verification, and the time the government takes to assess the sponsor and person being sponsored and review eligibility requirements.  

Remember to provide all the necessary documentation, including multiple evidence of your spousal relationship to help smooth the application process.

Book a Consultation to Discuss Spousal Sponsorship Today

You now know if you’re eligible for spousal sponsorships. You have options whether your spouse or partner is in Canada or outside of Canada. With this knowledge, you’re ready to apply for their sponsorship so you can be united as a family and begin your new life in Canada.

Remember that having a spousal sponsorship declined can further delay your reunion. You want reliable experts by your side to help you navigate the rules and regulations of Canadian spousal sponsorship. We offer 30- or 60-minute consultations that allow you the opportunity to discuss your situation with experts. Book your consultation today. 

How to Sponsor Your Relatives for Canada’s Unique PGP Program

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has now issued more than 30,000 invitations for its unique Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP). This scheme enables Canadians and permanent residents to sponsor qualifying relatives and bring them to live in Canada.

IRCC has stated that: “Family reunification plays a significant role in attracting, retaining and integrating immigrants who contribute to our success as a country.”

As a result, parents and grandparents sponsored by family members will receive permanent residency in Canada, with the usual related benefits (such as the country’s highly coveted free health care).

However, demand to sponsor is usually significant — and COVID-19-related disruptions meant 2021’s lottery was the biggest so far.

IRCC initially intended to invite 20,000 sponsors last year and 20,000 more this year. But just 10,000 were issued in 2020, and the remaining 10,000 were added to 2021’s standard amount.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor was required to submit their “interest to sponsor” forms on the IRCC website in October/November 2020. A lottery determined which sponsors received an invitation to apply to be a sponsor, and the IRCC has finally finished sending all 30,000.

What should you do if you have received an invitation?

In this post, we’ll answer this and other crucial questions to help you get started.

What you need to know about applying to sponsor a relative in the PGP program

After receiving your invitation, you have just 60 days to prepare and submit a complete application form.

But you must meet the IRCC eligibility criteria to qualify as a sponsor. This covers:

Age and residency status

You must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or be status First Nations over 18 years old.

Minimum Necessary Income (MNI)

You must submit your Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) notices for the 2020, 2019, and 2018 tax years to prove to IRCC that you have earned the Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) for those three consecutive years.

This will demonstrate that you can support yourself, your family unit, and anyone you intend to sponsor.

Your family unit may include:

  • A spouse or partner.
  • Dependent children.
  • Relatives you have sponsored previously.
  • A spouse/partner’s dependent children.

For sponsors living outside the Province of Quebec, the MNI for the 2020 tax year is:

  • $32,270 (when responsible for 2 people).
  • $39,672 (when responsible for 3 people).
  • $48,167 (when responsible for 4 people).
  • $54,630 (when responsible for 5 people).
  • $61,613 (when responsible for 6 people).
  • $68,598 (when responsible for 7 people).

You should add $6,985 for each extra person if you’re responsible for more than 7 people.

However, IRCC has amended its requirements in 2021 to accommodate those sponsors who may have experienced financial difficulties during the pandemic. As a result, the income requirement for the 2020 tax year has been dropped to the MNI only rather than the MNI plus 30% as before.

Additionally, family class sponsors can include the following benefits in their income calculations for the tax year:

  • Standard Employment Insurance benefits (instead of only Special Employment Insurance benefits).
  • All Canada Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) issued under the Employment Insurance Act or the CERB Act.
  • Other temporary benefits related to the pandemic, provided they’re not included in provincial social assistance programs.

However, you don’t need to have been a permanent resident or citizen for those three years to apply.

Even if you want to sponsor one parent (for example, if they’re estranged or separated from your other parent), you will need to account for both of them in your MNI calculations.

Completing the application in full

Make sure you only submit a complete application: that means you finish everything included in the checklist — every single question, every single box. No mistakes or omissions.

The IRCC has sent applications back to potential sponsors who overlook just one box or forget to attach a document. If this happens, you will need to wait for the next draw as you cannot resubmit an application or make an appeal.

What can you do if you don’t receive an invitation to sponsor?

IRCC has yet to confirm whether or not it will launch the PGP program in 2022. If you didn’t receive an invitation to apply, you may feel concerned that you will have no way to bring your relatives to live in Canada.

Fortunately, you may be eligible for a super visa instead.

The super visa for parents and grandparents provides qualifying family members from outside Canada to visit the country for up to two years, without needing to renew their status. Most people visiting Canada on a standard visa can stay for as many as six months, but they need to apply for an extension and pay an accompanying fee.

As a multi-entry visa, this allows multiple two-year entries for up to a decade. The eligibility requirements are similar to those of the PGP, but parents and grandparents will need medical insurance for at least one year from the date of entry (with $100,000 coverage minimum).

Eligible persons will be the parents or grandparents of permanent residents or Canadian citizens. They will need to have an immigration medical exam, and you should meet the MNI to show you can support them for their stay if needed.

You can still take part in the PGP lottery or other initiatives launched by the IRCC during the super visa timeframe.

How to find the best immigration help in Toronto

If you have been invited to apply to sponsor parents or grandparents, you may find immigration eligibility, applications, and fees daunting.

But they don’t have to be.

At Abramovich & Tchern, we’re experienced Canadian immigration lawyers dedicated to providing clients with honest advice and unparalleled advocacy.

Whether you want to sponsor one parent, two, or your grandparents, we can help you understand the application process and its potential complications in detail.

To learn more about Abramovich & Tchern, contact our Toronto immigration lawyers today.