Family Sponsorship Immigration: How to Sponsor Family to Canada

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Now is a great time to start thinking about family class sponsorships. Under the government’s new 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, Canada is looking to welcome around 80,000 relatives into the country this year. [1] Additionally, the number of spousal sponsorship applications that have been finalized by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) doubled in the year 2020. These promising statistics mean that you could be reunited with your spouse, partner, child or other loved one sooner than you think.


Below we have broken down the most asked questions about the family class sponsorship to provide you with answers and to shed some light on the criteria and the process.


What Is Canada’s Family Class Sponsorship?

Canada’s family class sponsorship program is aimed at reuniting Canadian citizens and permanent residents with their loved ones. By undertaking to support sponsored members of the family class, the sponsor promises that, for a specified duration, they will provide basic needs for their family members, so they do not have to rely on money from the government.


Family class sponsorship applications involving spouses, common-law or conjugal partners and dependent children are given priority in processing times. On average, they are processed within 10 months to one year. These applications are often decided on the financial ability of the sponsor to support the members they seek to sponsor as well as the establishment of a genuine family relationship between the applicant and sponsor.


What Are the Requirements to Become a Sponsor?

In Canada, you can sponsor your spouse, partner, or dependent child if you fit the following four criteria:

  • You are at least 18 years old.

  • You are a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada currently living in the country or are registered as an Indian under the Indian Act.

  • You are not receiving social assistance, unless it is for disability reasons.

  • You can provide basic needs of the person you wish to sponsor. [2]

Unfortunately, not everyone can be a sponsor. You will not be eligible to sponsor if:

  • You do not meet the above criteria.

  • You are a temporary resident in Canada (on a visitor, study or work permit).

  • Your own permanent resident application is still being processed. [3]

Who Can I Sponsor to Canada?

You can sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, parents, or a dependent child to enter Canada. You cannot sponsor your sibling directly, but if they are under 22 years old then they can accompany a sponsored parent. [4] As described below, you may also be able to sponsor more distant relatives. Notably, the relative you wish to sponsor must meet certain eligibility criteria. As we go through each category, you will see that the requirements for some loved ones are more demanding than others.


Your Spouse

The Canadian government has only two requirements to prove that someone is your spouse. To qualify, they must simply show that they are legally married to you and are at least 18 years of age. Although many weddings happened virtually this year due to COVID-19, Canadian Immigration officers will only recognize marriages where both spouses were physically present. [5]


Your Common-Law Partner

An individual can qualify as your common-law partner if they are at least 18 years old, not legally married to you and have been living with you for at least 12 months. This means that you have shared your primary household for that time. Notably, a common-law partner can be of your same-sex or opposite sex. [6]


Wondering how to prove that you and your common-law partner have been together for at least 12 months? Don’t worry – Immigration officers accept numerous items, such as proof of joint property ownership, joint leases or rental agreements, utility bills, or other important documents showing that both of you have the same residential address.[7]


Your Conjugal Partner

If you are in a conjugal relationship, you may have to provide a little more evidence to prove your relationship to Immigration officers.


The key difference that sets conjugal partners apart from the above categories is that they must live outside of Canada. Officers may also require proof that they cannot live with or marry you in their home country for legal and immigration reasons. Perhaps you are in a same-sex relationship, which is not accepted in their country of residence. Maybe your relationship is under threat of legal or religious persecution in their home country. These are both valid situations that the IRCC may accept when assessing a conjugal partner’s eligibility to become sponsored. [8]


Your Dependent Children

Children (whether natural or adopted) qualify as dependent if they are under 22 years of age and do not have a spouse or common law partner.


However, your child may still qualify as a dependent if they are over 22 years old. To qualify, they would need to prove that they cannot financially support themselves due to a mental or physical condition. They must also prove that they have financially depended on you since before turning 22. [9]


Can I Sponsor Non-Immediate Family Members to Canada?

The government imposes more restrictions on sponsoring non-immediate family members to enter Canada, but it is not impossible. You may be able to sponsor one relative such as a sibling, a cousin, or an aunt or uncle as long as you meet certain eligibility criteria.


You may sponsor only one non-immediate relative family member, but only if:

  • The relative you wish to sponsor is related by blood or adoption;

  • You do not have a family member of closer relation who you can sponsor instead (like a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, dependent child, parent, grandparent or orphaned sibling);

  • You do not have any relatives in Canada who are Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or registered Indians under the Indian Act. [10]

The government also allows you the option to sponsor an orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece, or grandchild, but they must meet certain conditions. Most importantly, they must be orphaned because both their mother and father passed away, and they themselves must be unmarried and in no common-law or conjugal relationship. If the child was abandoned, cannot find their parents, or their parents are imprisoned, immigration officers will unfortunately not recognize the child as an orphan. [11]


How Much Income Do I Need to Sponsor My Family to Canada?

In many cases, the government does not impose an income requirement on the sponsor. For example, there is no income requirement to sponsor your spouse, partner or dependent child. You only need to prove that you meet an income requirement if the person you are sponsoring has a dependent child of their own. [12]


If you fall into a category that requires you to prove your finances (for example, if you are sponsoring your parents) you must prove that your annual income is at least equal to the minimum necessary income to support your sponsored person(s).


Below is a table reflecting the Low-Income Cut-Off for all provinces excluding Quebec. These figures are relevant as of July 7, 2021. [13]




Feeling anxious about meeting income requirements? If you think you don’t have enough money to sponsor someone on your own, you can get your spouse or common-law partner to help you by becoming a co-signer. As a co-signer, your spouse or common-law partner will assume the same responsibility as you in providing for the basic requirements of the person(s) you wish to sponsor. This also means the co-signer is equally liable if commitments are not met. [14]


How Long Am I Financially Responsible For My Sponsor?

When you apply to sponsor someone, you will need to sign an undertaking. This is essentially a promise to the government that you will be financially responsible for the sponsored person and will provide them with the basic necessities for life in Canada such as food, clothing and shelter. But don’t worry—it’s only temporary.


The undertaking begins on the day the person you sponsor becomes a permanent resident. Once it begins, the length of undertaking will depend on a variety of factors, including the age of sponsored relative, their relationship to you, and where you live. If you live in Quebec, the length of your undertaking will be slightly different.


Below is a general idea of the length of undertaking for all provinces except Quebec (as of July 7, 2021). [15]




If you live in Quebec, the duration of undertaking is slightly different. See below for the length of undertaking (as of July 7, 2021). [16]




If the person you are sponsoring takes social assistance during the periods in these charts, you will be required to reimburse the amount of social assistance taken.


An undertaking is a legal responsibility that you cannot back out of, so make sure you are prepared to financially support the person you wish to sponsor. You will still be responsible for them even if your financial situation worsens or if your relationship to the person changes, such as through divorce or separation. Even if the person you sponsor becomes a Canadian citizen, you may still be financially responsible for them. [17]

How to Apply for Family Sponsorship In 5 Steps

Step 1: Check your eligibility to sponsor your family and ensure your family members meet the requirements to be sponsored.

Step 2: Review the sponsorship application package, including the instruction guide, forms to fill out and list of documents you will need to collect.

Step 3: Pay application fees online, including the right of permanent residence fee and the biometrics fee.

Step 4: Compile relevant documents. During this time, sponsored persons should obtain their biometrics, police certificates, and complete medical exams, if applicable.

Step 5: Submit your completed application to a designated Case Processing Centre (CPC) for processing. You’re on your way!


How To Sponsor Your Husband, Wife, or Common-Law Partner

If you are looking to sponsor your spouse or partner, you need to first ensure that you both meet the necessary eligibility criteria.


To prove a spousal relationship, your spouse must prove:

  • That they are legally married to you.

  • That they are at least 18 years of age.


To prove a common-law relationship, your partner must prove:

  • That they are at least 18 years old.

  • That they are not legally married to you.

  • That they have been living with you for at least 12 months with no long periods apart.

When it comes time to apply, there are two applications to fill out. You, the sponsor, must apply to become a sponsor. At the same time, your spouse or partner must apply for permanent residence. [18]


Inland vs Outland (“Overseas”) Spousal and Common-Law Partner Sponsorship

The IRCC currently has two types of spousal and common-law sponsorship applications: inland and outland.

If the relative you wish to sponsor is currently in Canada, you can file an Inland sponsorship application. This type of sponsorship allows the sponsored person to continue living in Canada while their application is being processed -- and they should be able to work freely during the process. A benefit to Inland sponsorships is that applying will enable your relative to apply for an Open Work Permit, which allows them to work in any job, anywhere in Canada. This can ease financial burdens for couples, as processing Inland sponsorships can take as long as 1 year. To apply under an Inland sponsorship, you must prove that your spouse or partner lives with you in Canada and that the person looking to be sponsored has valid, temporary status in Canada (such as a work, study or visitor visa). Conjugal partnerships are not eligible for Inland sponsorships.


But what if the person you want to sponsor is living and/or working outside of Canada? In this case, you would file an Outland sponsorship application. This application is completed from abroad through an Embassy or Consulate. The benefit of an Outland sponsorship is that it allows your spouse or partner to travel in an out of the country with ease while the application is being processed. This is also the best option for individuals who cannot legally reside in Canada, or those in conjugal partner relationships.


How To Sponsor Your Dependent Children

Children can qualify as dependents if they are under 22 years of age, are unmarried and do not have a common law partner. The government makes no distinction between naturally conceived or adopted children, although you may be required to fill out extra forms if your child is adopted. [19]


If your child is over 22 years old, they will need to prove that they cannot financially support themselves due to a mental or physical condition. They must also prove that they have financially depended on their parents since before turning 22. [20]


When it comes time to apply, you will need to complete two applications to be submitted at the same time. You, the sponsor, must apply to become a sponsor, and your child (or their representative) must apply for permanent residence. If your child requires assistance with their application, you or a family member are entitled to act as their representative and prepare their application on their behalf. [21]


How To Sponsor Your Parents or Grandparents

The sponsorship process for parents and grandparents is a little different than the other categories. First, you must submit an interest to sponsor form. The application window to do this happens once a year and is only open for a short amount of time. Once you have submitted the interest form, the government selects and invites potential sponsors to apply to sponsor their parents and grandparents on a lottery system basis. This means that they choose who can apply at random. In 2020, the government accepted a total of 10,000 applications to sponsor parents and grandparents into Canada [22].In 2021, the government has stated that they will accept 30,000 people for processing in this category [23].


If you are invited to apply to sponsor, you must submit two applications at the same time. Yourself, the sponsor, must apply to become a sponsor. At the same time, your parents or grandparents must apply for permanent residence.


When applying, you will need to show that you have enough money to support a parent or grandparent by providing proof of income. This is important to think about, considering that you will be making a very long commitment. The length of undertaking for parents and grandparents is 20 years, beginning on the day they achieve permanent resident status. During these 20 years, they cannot be receiving any money from the government—if they do, you will be responsible for paying it back [24].


Assuming you are eligible to act as a sponsor in Canada, you can apply to sponsor your own parents and grandparents, related by blood or adoption. You can only include your siblings or step-siblings if they qualify as dependent children. You cannot sponsor your spouse’s parents or grandparents, but you can co-sign their application. [25]


If you were not invited to apply to sponsor your parents or grandparents, you may want to consider applying for a super visa, which can allow a parent or grandparent to enter Canada for up to 2 years at a time.


Canada’s Super Visa For Parents and Grandparents to Visit

A super visa can be just as exciting as it sounds—this travel document allows you to visit your children or grandchildren in Canada for up to 2 years at a time. A super visa allows parents and grandparents to enter Canada multiple times for a period of up to 10 years.

To qualify for this visa, you must:

  • Be the parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;

  • Have a signed letter from your child or grandchild inviting you to Canada, along with their promise of financial support for the duration of your stay;

  • Have medical insurance from a Canadian insurance company that is valid for at least 1 year and has at minimum $100,000 coverage. [26]

Immigration officers ultimately want to ensure that you will leave by choice at the end of your stay. To assess this, they may also look at other aspects of your life such as the purpose of your visit, your finances, as well as any instability in your home country. Notably, you cannot include any dependents on a super visa application. [27]


Contact Battista Smith Migration Law Group for Family Sponsorship Help

Before deciding on a sponsorship route, we encourage you to book a consultation with one of our experienced Battista Smith Migration Law Group Canadian immigration lawyers to better understand your options. Family class sponsorship applications is a foundation of our practice! We represent people being sponsored to Canada by preparing their entire applications, including completing the necessary forms, collecting the required evidence to support the application, and filing it together with our submissions at the appropriate immigration office. We then remain the point of contact for the application throughout the processing period until permanent residence is granted.


Please contact one of our lawyers at (416) 203-2899 ext. 30 or at reception@migrationlawgroup.com to book an initial consultation or if you have any questions about the family class sponsorship program.


Look for the new book on family class sponsorships by Michael Battista and Adrienne Smith!



family class sponsorship in canadian immigration law book cover by adrienne smith and michael battista










References

[1] CIC News, “Canada is processing more spousal immigration applications”: https://www.cicnews.com/2020/11/canada-is-processing-more-spousal-immigration-applications-1116330.html#gs.5seeuf.

[2] IRCC, “Sponsor your spouse, partner or child: check if you’re eligible”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/spouse-partner-children/eligibility.html [“Check if you’re eligible”].

[3] “Check if you’re eligible” supra note 2.

[4] IRCC, “Sponsor your spouse, partner or child: who you can sponsor”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/spouse-partner-children/who-you-can-sponsor.html [“Who you can sponsor”].

[5] “Who you can sponsor” supra note 4.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Government of Canada: “How can my common-law partner and I prove we have been together for 12 months?”: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=347&top=14.

[8] “Who you can sponsor” supra note 4.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] IRCC, “Guide 5482 – Instruction to fill the Financial Evaluation form (IMM 1283): https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/application-forms-guides/guide-5482-instruction-fill-financial-evaluation-form-1283.html [“Guide 5482”].

[13] “Guide 5482” supra note 12.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Government of Canada, “How long am I financially responsible for the family member or relative I sponsor?”: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1355&top=14 [“How long am I financially responsible”].

[16] Immigration, Francisation et Integration Quebec: “Duration of sponsorship (undertaking)”: http://www.immigration-quebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/immigrate-settle/family-reunification/requirements-sponsor/duration-sponsorship.html.

[17] “How long am I financially responsible” supra note 14.

[18] IRCC, “Sponsor your spouse, partner or child: how to apply”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/spouse-partner-children/apply.html [“How to apply”].

[19] “Who you can sponsor” supra note 4.

[20] Ibid.

[21] “How to apply” supra note 17.

[22] IRCC, “Sponsor your parents and grandparents: Find out if you’re invited to apply”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/sponsor-parents-grandparents/selected.html.

[23] IRCC, “Sponsor your parents and grandparents: Submit the interest to sponsor form”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/sponsor-parents-grandparents/tell-us-you-want-sponsor-parent-grandparent.html.

[24] IRCC, “Sponsor your parents and grandparents: Check if you’re eligible”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/sponsor-parents-grandparents/eligibility.html.

[25] IRCC, “Sponsor your parents and grandparents: Who you can sponsor”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/family-sponsorship/sponsor-parents-grandparents/who-you-can-sponsor.html.

[26] IRCC, “Super visa (for parents and grandparents): Who can apply”: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/parent-grandparent-super-visa/eligibility.html [“Super visa”].

[27] “Super Visa” supra note 25.





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