If you are reading this, you have probably made the great decision to marry a Canadian. The next big step is to make the move to Canada. Packing up your life for the land of the Maple Leaf, like most life decisions, is not easy. This is why we have put together a list of need-to-knows about spousal sponsorship, so that you can make sure if the decision is right for you. Whether you are already married, engaged or just thinking about tying the knot, you will find this article useful.
What is Canadian Spousal Sponsorship?
For those of you who don’t yet know, Spousal Sponsorship is a Canadian immigration program created to keep loved ones together. In brief, if you are married to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, he or she can sponsor your application for permanent residence in Canada if certain criteria are met.
The first thing you should take away from this is that your spouse does not have to be a citizen of Canada yet. If your spouse has previously immigrated to Canada as a permanent resident, you can still apply for Spousal Sponsorship.
If you want your spouse to be your sponsor, he or she must meet the following criteria:
- Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and 18 years or older;
- Be able to provide financial support to whoever they sponsored in the past;
- Must not be a recipient of government financial assistance;
- Must not be convicted of a violent or sexual offense; and
- Must not be imprisoned
Another thing to remember is that both spouses and common-law partners can qualify as sponsors. This means you don’t even have to be legally married yet if you can prove that you are in a serious relationship that has lasted at least 12 consecutive months. Canada also recognizes same-sex marriages and same-sex common-law partners as sponsors.
Can I Move to Canada If I Marry a Canadian?
In general, the answer is yes, unfortunately, it is a little more complicated than that. The biggest difficulty international newlyweds need to overcome is having to prove their relationship. Marrying a Canadian citizen does not automatically grant you permanent residence or citizenship, you will have to apply for these separately and it can take quite some time.
We recommend that you first apply for a temporary visitors visa to enter Canada while you wait for the Spousal Sponsorship application to be processed. This way, you can still stay with your significant other in Canada and you can apply for a temporary work permit. If you want to speed up the processing time, have a look at our top tips here.
How to Prove Your Marriage Is Real
One of the most determining factors for a successful spousal sponsorship is the legitimacy of the marriage or common-law partnership. You will have to prove that the relationship between you and your partner is real. Many people enter into fake marriages with Canadians just to immigrate to Canada, so the government tries to prevent the exploitation of the system with close scrutiny of the relationship.
Apart from providing all the necessary documentation for your application, you will also need to add supporting documentation to prove your relationship is real. This can include anything, like:
- Wedding, honeymoon, travel or any other pictures of you together;
- Email and phone records; and
- Affidavits supporting the relationship
It can be more tricky to prove the existence of a common-law partnership, because there is no marriage certificate or some great public display of your relationship like a wedding. In this case, government officials look favourably on the following kind of evidence:
- Joint bank accounts or any other joint accounts;
- Co-ownership of property;
- Record of cohabitation like shared household expenditures and rentals;
- Official documentation listing the same address for both parties like IDs; and
- Telephone calls
The items discussed above are just examples of the kind of things that will help prove your relationship is real. The list is endless and you can include as much documentation as you want. In fact, you can include anything that you think will help to convince the immigration officials.
There is a chance that you might get interviewed about your relationship. Do not stress! The best advice we can give you is to just relax, be yourself and make sure that you answer all the questions truthfully. If they find that you misrepresented some information on your application or in the interview, you will be barred from Canada for two years. Just be honest and you will surely pass the interview.
How to Apply for Spousal Sponsorship
The application process can be quite lengthy, so it is very important to ensure that all of your documentation is filled in completely and correctly. The smallest error will cause your entire application to fail and you will be removed from the queue to start from scratch. The worst part is that your rejected application can easily stay at the CIC for months before you are notified of the errors.
There are two possible scenarios for the application process and they differ slightly.
Spousal Visa Application From Inside of Canada
This is the case when both you and your spouse or common-law partner are in Canada when you apply for sponsorship. The great thing about this scenario is that you can remain in Canada after your visitor visa expires if you have filed an application. The downside is that you won’t be able to get back into the country if you leave. So be sure to stay in Canada until the process is complete.
Surprisingly, applications from inside of Canada take longer to process. It will take at least 12 months for you to be issued permanent residency following this route.
After your application is approved, the CIC will send a request for your passport to give you your visa. You will have to leave Canada before your visa expires and re-enter for it to be confirmed. You can simply just cross the border and come back to satisfy this requirement.
Spousal Visa Application From Outside of Canada
If you apply from outside of Canada, your application will be processed much faster. Once your application is filed with CIC, you can generally expect it to be processed in roughly six months.
Both you and your sponsoring spouse need to be approved by the CIC. First, within about four months, your spouse will be subject to approval and if he or she is successful, you will be given a file and client ID number. Next, it is your turn to be considered by immigration authorities. If you are approved, like the inside of Canada scenario, you will be asked to provide your passport for the visa and you will have to exit and re-enter the country. This time, however, you must bring along copies of your marriage and birth certificate if the border asks for it.
Please note you must make sure that you choose the correct CIC office to process your application. This can be the office responsible for either your country of birth or country of residence.
How to Become a Permanent Resident and Citizen of Canada After Marriage
Once your spousal sponsorship has been completed, processed and confirmed, you will be awarded permanent residence in Canada. This does not mean that you are a Canadian citizen, even if your partner is one. Citizenship by marriage does not exist. With permanent residence, you can apply for Canadian citizenship.
You will need to satisfy the following requirements to become a citizen of Canada:
- You can’t be under investigation with the possibility of having your permanent residency revoked;
- Within the past four years, you need to have been in Canada for at least three years;
- You must be able to speak English or French; and
- You need to know about Canada’s history, culture and government.
The last two categories will be tested during the citizenship process, so study up.
If you are getting married to a Canadian citizen and you want to immigrate to Canada, you will need some expert help. Thankfully, we specialize in Spousal Sponsorship applications. The first step to starting your application is to evaluate you for eligibility. Don’t leave your partner alone so start today!