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The Power of Accompanying/Non-Accompanying Family Members in Canadian Immigration

Updated: Apr 25

By: Ipek Pakkaner, Paralegal

Embarking on a journey to Canada is not just about individual aspirations; it often involves the dreams and aspirations of entire families. In the realm of Canadian immigration, the concept of accompanying family members plays a crucial role in shaping the application process and outcomes for individuals and families. Understanding what constitutes an accompanying family member, the policy basis behind it, and the implications of designating a family member as accompanying or not are essential for navigating the immigration landscape effectively.

Defining Family Members in Canadian Immigration: Understanding the Scope of "Family" in Immigration Regulations


According to Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, a “family member” is defined as the principal applicant’s spouse or common-law partner; any dependent children of the principal applicant or the principal applicant's spouse/common-law partner; any dependent child of the principal applicant’s dependent child or the principal applicant's spouse/common-law partner’s dependent child.

In the Canadian immigration system, a “dependent child” is defined as any children under the age of 22 and not a spouse or common-law partner. A child 22 or older is considered to be a dependent child only if they have depended substantially on the financial support of the parent since before the age of 22 and are unable to support themselves financially due to a physical or mental condition.

Accompanying vs. Non-Accompanying Family Members

“Accompanying family member” refers to a family member who is included in the application of the principal applicant and intends to immigrate to Canada with the principal applicant. These applicants are part of the principal applicant's application package and undergo the same assessment and processing procedures, such as the requirements to undergo medical examinations and submit police clearances. But their ability to obtain permanent residence depends entirely on the principal applicant’s ability to obtain permanent residence.

By contrast, a “non-accompanying family member” is a family member who is identified in the principal applicant’s application but is not seeking permanent residence at the same time as the principal applicant. Therefore, if they wish to immigrate to Canada at a later time, they will need to ensure that they qualify independently of the principal applicant’s qualifications. Also, regardless of whether a family member is accompanying or non-accompanying, they must take a medical examination and submit police clearances in order to establish admissibility.  This is because the inadmissibility of a family member may make the principal applicant inadmissible.

Impact on Immigration Outcomes: Strategic Planning and the Express Entry System

The decision of whether a family member is designated as accompanying or not lies with the principal applicant and is typically based on factors such as the family's immigration goals, individual circumstances, and eligibility criteria.

The impact of distinguishing between accompanying and non-accompanying family members lies in the strategic planning and decision-making process of the principal applicant, particularly in the context of programs such as the Express Entry system. Under Express Entry, applicants are awarded Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points based on various factors, including the presence of accompanying family members. For example, additional points are awarded for spouses or common-law partners who possess certain levels of language proficiency or educational qualifications.

By carefully considering which family members to include in their application as accompanying family members, applicants can maximize their chances of meeting eligibility criteria, earning additional points in points-based systems, and ultimately achieving successful immigration outcomes for themselves and their families. There are times when accompanying spouse/partners increase Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points under Express Entry (for example, when a spouse/partner is highly educated or has years of Canadian work experience). There are also times when an accompanying spouse/partner can reduce the chances of a principal applicant being selected for Express Entry (for example, when education levels or language fluency of the spouse/partner is very low). Experienced legal counsel should always be consulted prior to deciding whether to classify an family member as “accompanying” or “non-accompanying.”

Disclosure Obligation of the Principal Applicant for Non-Accompanying Dependents

Whether they are accompanying or non-accompanying, all family members should be declared in the principal applicant’s application. The principal applicant cannot simply ignore their existence and exclude them. Failure to accurately declare dependents or provide misleading information can result in application refusals, delays, or even allegations of misrepresentation, which can have serious consequences for future immigration endeavors.

Going Forward

In conclusion, understanding the concept of accompanying family members in Canadian immigration is crucial for prospective applicants seeking to immigrate to Canada with their families. By grasping the definitions, implications, and decision-making process associated with accompanying dependents, applicants can make informed decisions and navigate the immigration process with confidence.

For personalized guidance and assistance with your immigration journey and consulting with a qualified Canadian immigration lawyer, please contact us! You can book a consultation by sending an email to or by calling (416) 203-2899 x 30.


QUESTION: If the principal applicant’s spouse or common-law partner is a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident, should they be listed as accompanying or non-accompanying in the Express Entry profile?

ANSWER: The Ministerial Instructions respecting the Express Entry system, at definition 1, state:

“accompanying spouse or common-law partner”, in respect of a foreign national, means the foreign national’s spouse or common-law partner who is accompanying him or her to Canada and is not a Canadian Citizen or a permanent resident.”

Therefore, if the principal applicant’s spouse or common law partner is a Canadian citizen or a Permanent Resident, then they are not an accompanying spouse for the purpose of the Express Entry application.

However, they still do need to be declared and if the principal applicant is applying under the Federal Skilled Worker category, their Canadian family members also are taken into account in terms of the settlement funds that they need to show.


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