Spousal Sponsorships: Covering Partners Who are Outside and Inside Canada


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 sponsorship

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. 

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.