SPOUSE SPONSORSHIPBRINGING YOUR FOREIGN SPOUSE OR PARTNER TO LIVE IN CANADA
Canadian citizens or permanent residents may sponsor their foreign spouses or partners to immigrate to Canada as permanent residents. This is a two-step application in which the Canadian first applies to the government to be approved as a sponsor, then once that application is approved, the foreign spouse or partner applies for permanent residence on this basis. Spouse or partner sponsorship applications entail the completion of numerous forms and the provision of detailed documentation, which will be assessed by the immigration authorities to ensure that the requirements of the category have been met. Communication with the immigration authorities will generally be restricted to written correspondence, but in some cases an interview between the sponsored applicant and an immigration officer will be convoked prior to any decision being made.
THREE TYPES OF SPOUSE AND PARTNER SPONSORSHIPS
There are three categories of spouse or partner sponsorship: spousal sponsorship, common-law partner sponsorship, and conjugal partner sponsorship. It is important to understand the legal description of each category to ensure that you qualify before you submit any application to the immigration authorities. The basic requirements are as follows:
A spousal relationship is a marital relationship. The marriage can be performed in any country and will be recognized as valid by the Canadian immigration authorities as long as it was conducted in accordance with the laws of that country and is otherwise consistent with Canadian law. The immigration authorities will require a valid marriage certificate as proof of the spousal relationship. This is the simplest and most straight-forward type of relationship for sponsorship purposes since the marriage certificate is generally sufficient to demonstrate the legality of the spousal relationship.
COMMON-LAW PARTNER SPONSORSHIP
Two people who have been living together continuously for at least one year in a marriage-like relationship are considered to be common-law partners. For immigration purposes this has the same legal effect as being married and is a basis for a sponsorship. The immigration authorities will expect to see evidence that the couple has been living together for at least one year, such as lease or rental agreements in both names. This makes this type of application slightly more complicated that a spousal sponsorship application since it adds the requirement to provide evidence of the common-law relationship.
CONJUGAL PARTNER SPONSORSHIPS
Conjugal partners are two people who are in a marriage-like relationship but due to extenuating circumstances have not been able to marry or to live together continuously for a year so as to qualify as common-law. This could be as a result of visa barriers or other barriers to cohabitation. This of course requires that the couple be able to prove that their relationship is marriage-like in nature and to explain why they have not been able to live together or marry. The immigration authorities treat this type of application as an exception category for people who face severe barriers to marriage or cohabitation, and will not approve the application if the couple could actually live together or marry, even though this may not be convenient for them. In particular, the conjugal partner category is not intended as a type of fiancé visa for people who are planning to marry later on, and an application under the conjugal partner category should not be attempted in this scenario.