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Spouse Sponsorship in Canada

You leave your country at the age of twenty to pursue higher studies in Canada. You leave behind your family, friends, the love of your life. You spend the next four years diligently studying, maybe going back for a quick visit here and there. You graduate. You get a job. You become a permanent resident or citizen of Canada. You go back home, marry the love of your life and sadly have to leave them behind all over again because while you are a citizen or a resident of Canada, they are not.

Unfortunately, this is a reality for hundreds and thousands of people who live in Canada. Sometimes in search of a better life, one spouse comes to Canada leaving behind their husband or wife and their children (if they have any). It’s not an easy situation to deal with by any means. 

Keeping in mind how difficult life can be without family, Canada has an amazing family sponsorship program, making it easier than ever to bring your family to Canada. 

What is the Family Sponsorship Program?

The family sponsorship program allows you (as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident) to sponsor a family member as long as certain conditions are meant. This can be a spouse, a parent, grandparent, a nephew, niece, aunt, uncle etc. 

So if you recently got married or you are in a common-law relationship and you want to sponsor your spouse, you can do so under the spousal sponsorship program, which falls within the category of family sponsorship. 

This is great news and means living without your spouse does not have to be a long term or permanent sacrifice! 

Who is Considered a Spouse or Common-Law Partner? 

Under the Canadian law, spouse is defined as someone you are married to legally while common-law partner is defined as someone you are living with in a conjugal relationship for one year or more. 

Inland Sponsorship:  

This type of sponsorship falls under the Spouse or common-law partner in Canada class. This was created to allow families in Canada to remain united. Basically, what it means is that if you are a permanent resident or Canadian citizen and your spouse (who is not one) is living with you in Canada, they can be sponsored to have legal temporary resident status. Your spouse must be:  

  • 18 years of age or older 
  • Undergo a medical and criminal background check 

As part of your application, you will have to provide proof you are in a real relationship with your spouse. In most cases, this category of sponsorship also enables the spouse to work while they wait for their papers to come through. If that’s of interest to you, make sure to complete the work permit application along with your sponsorship application. 

If any dependents are in the picture, they would also need to be included in the application, unless they were born in Canada, in which case they are Canadian citizens by birth. 

There is a lot of information out there to process and some parts of the application process can seem confusing or frustrating, rather than making mistakes and having your application delayed, consult a RCIC to save yourself some time and headaches. 

Outland Sponsorship: 

This means you are sponsoring a spouse who is living outside of Canada. They need to be at least 18 or older and will also need to have a background check. 

After you apply to be a sponsor, you will need to complete an application form and pay a fee. The application can be submitted either online (which is highly recommended!) or via mail. The average wait time to have the application processed is approximately 12 months but some factors, which can affect how long it will take are: 

  • Your spouse’s national country. Not surprisingly, applications from developing or third-world countries may take longer to process than the United Kingdom or the United States for instance. 
  • Is anything missing from the application? Incomplete application or missing information will require more back and forth for both you and the agent reviewing your application. So comb through it carefully and make sure to include everything they ask for. 
  • How many applications are received? The volume of applications plays a significant role in how quickly your application will be processed. 

When you submit your application online, you can track the process through your online account and see what step its at. If at any point you have questions or need help, you can contact the Client Support Centre Services

Qualifications Needed in Order to Become a Sponsor: 

Wanting to sponsor someone does not necessarily mean you will be allowed to. For any type of family class sponsorship, a few basic qualifications have to be met: 

  • Need to be over eighteen years of age;
  • Meet certain financial expectations, i.e. cannot be bankrupt; 
  • Are either a: 
    • Permanent resident who is not under any removal orders; 
    • A Canadian Citizen; 
    • Or registered as an Indian under the Indian Act; 
  • Be physically residing in Canada; 
  • Have a clean criminal record free of any serious offenses; 

Please note, other factors can play a role in the decision making process and result in your sponsorship application getting rejected. These factors can include: 

  • If you have outstanding debts with the Canadian government; 
  • Are in receipt of welfare or social assistance (not related to a disability); 
  • Sponsored someone previously and failed to provide for them; 
  • Are in jail. 

Can Your Spouse Work in Canada? 

Your spouse may have completed their studies in Canada and they are anxious to begin their career or they may need to work for financial reasons or perhaps they already have a job (this may be especially pertinent for an individual on a student visa) which they want to continue doing. Whatever the case may be, you and your spouse may need or want the option of being able to work. If this is the case, make sure to apply for an open work permit. It takes a few months (4 to 5) to process, during this time your spouse must have a valid residency status, either as a student, a visitor or worker. 

The work permit must be approved before your spouse can legally work while waiting for a decision on the sponsorship.  

Sponsorship Ban: 

Keep in mind that if someone entered Canada as a spouse who was sponsored, they are not eligible to sponsor a new partner for a period of five years. The same ban applies for the individual doing the sponsoring. 

For example, let’s say a man named Mikhail who is a Canadian Citizen sponsors his wife Lyla. She arrives in Canada in 2015 as a permanent resident. Unfortunately, the marriage does not work out and Mikhail and Lyla end up getting a divorce within a year. Mikhail is still financially responsible for Lyla for a period of three years starting from the day she become a permanent resident. Let’s say they both meet someone else and get married again. Mikhail would not be allowed to sponsor his new wife during the three-year financial undertaking, while Lyla would not be permitted to sponsor her new husband for five years. 

If in this scenario, Lyla was receiving social assistance or welfare, Mikhail would need to repay the full amount before he can sponsor someone else again. 

These regulations helps to prevent spousal sponsorship abuse where people get married and divorced simply for the sake of becoming a permanent resident in Canada. 


The Canadian government is a firm believer in keeping families united and the policies and processes they have in place are geared towards uniting families. If you have a spouse or common-law partner who lives with you or lives back home and you want them to live with you permanently, complete and submit an application today! 

There is a lot of information online and it can feel overwhelming and confusing, so consider contacting an RCIC approved consultant to go over everything with you. 



The child of immigrant parents, I came to Canada when I was just five years old. I used to volunteer at an immigration resource centre and now work for the Canadian Federal Government. Writing is my passion and I hope my words can provide some help to a new immigrant or someone considering a move to Canada.

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