A foreign national seeking spousal sponsorship to Canada faces a highly complex legal process, regardless of whether the application is submitted domestically or at a Canadian embassy or consulate abroad. The spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner seeking to immigrate to Canada must be sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, who must also submit a sponsorship application in support of the foreign spouse.

Spouse Visa Canada

If the spousal sponsorship application is successful, Immigration Canada will approve a change in the partner’s immigration status to permanent resident of Canada. If the partner resides abroad at the time the application is submitted, Canadian immigration authorities will issue a Canada Spouse Visa (Confirmation of Permanent Residence) to the partner, and he or she will become a permanent resident of Canada only upon entering the country.

Immigration Canada Spouse Sponsorship Terminology

The term “partner” used alone refers to someone seeking immigration to Canada as the spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner of a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, depending on context.

The term “sponsor” refers to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident seeking immigration benefits on behalf of his or her partner.

The Canadian Federal Government department that handles all immigration matters, previously called Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), has recently been renamed Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Both terms for “Immigration Canada” are used interchangeably on this website.

Eligible Relationships

The following relationships with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident are considered functionally equivalent under Canadian law for the purposes of immigration to Canada.

Spouse: To qualify as a spouse, you must be legally married to the sponsor. The marriage must have been considered valid when it was entered into under the law of the jurisdiction where you were married and under Canadian law, regardless of where you lived after you were married. An example of a marriage that might be recognized abroad but not in Canada would be a marriage in which one of the partners was legally married to two or more partners at the same time under the law of a foreign country.

Common-Law Partner: You are considered a common-law partner under Canadian law if you have cohabited with your partner in a conjugal relationship for at least one year (12 consecutive months, not necessarily an entire calendar year). This 12-month period does not have to be absolutely continuous; short absences for business or family reasons are acceptable. Since you will not be able to provide a marriage certificate, Canadian immigration authorities may require additional evidence of the authenticity of your relationship. Keep in mind that “cohabitation” means more than simply living in the same dwelling; you must have combined your affairs, including your financial affairs.

Conjugal Partner: The conjugal partner category is designed for partners who would have qualified under the spouse or common-law partner categories but were prevented from doing so by local law or other factors beyond their control such as an immigration barrier or marital status. For example, if you were married to another person and were not permitted to divorce under local law. Failure to cohabit due to unwillingness by one or both partners to quit school or quit a job to be with the other partner does not qualify as an acceptable reason for not living together. Moreover, you cannot qualify as a conjugal partner if you have lived apart from your partner for a year or more and either one of you is the conjugal partner or common-law partner of someone else.