The thrill of marrying a partner can quickly turn into a legal nightmare when it comes time to reunite in Canada. Not many people anticipate this process and many couples who are preparing to move to the Land of Maple Leaf find themselves scrambling to figure out what it takes to obtain permanent residency. Spousal sponsorship is thus one of the most popular immigration options.
However, the process can sometimes be long and arduous if approached wrongly. The good news is that the Canadian Government provides all potential sponsor spouses with a clear set of rules. In fact, getting a spousal sponsorship approved takes 12 months when done correctly the first time. So what steps are required? Let’s find out below.
Sponsorship is granted to eligible Canadian citizens or permanent residents whose foreign-born spouses or common-law partners wish to relocate permanently. Sponsors must meet these criteria:
- 18 years or older
- Currently residing in Canada or planning to return after the sponsored spouse’s PR application has been approved
- Financially stable and willing to support the spouse and accompanying dependents for 3 years
A sponsor may not be eligible for spousal sponsorship if:
- Issued a removal order (deportation)
- There is no proof of a stable source of income or means of financial support
- Foreign-born spouse has a serious criminal history
- Both party cannot provide credible proof that the marriage is genuine
- The spouse is inadmissible for medical reasons, such as a serious health condition
Documents Needed for Application
To begin the application process, the sponsor needs to tender certain documents along with a completed application form.
- ID documents
- Birth certificates (also applicable to dependents)
- Passport-type photos
- Certificate of marriage and other supporting documents such as marriage registration forms, wedding invitations, and photos
- Proof of Canadian citizenship or permanent residence
- Proof of income (such as salary and bank statements)
- Spouse’s medical certificate
- Police certificates and clearances verifying the sponsored spouse’s residence in other countries for at least 6 months
- Application fee receipts
- Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation questionnaire
Having these documents in hand expedites the application process. A rule of thumb is to have an immigration consultant analyze and review the documents before sending them in. Partners who are not married can provide documents that validate their relationship. A joint lease for a property, utility bills in both parties’ names, car insurance policy, and joint bank statement all fall into this category.
Taking an Immigration Interview
Interviews are not generally required to process spousal sponsorship. They typically occur due to incomplete or inaccurate documents submitted in the initial application. Zero proof of cohabitation, discrepancies in age and birth dates, or a mismatch between the sponsor’s and spouse’s status, are just some of the factors that may result in an interview.
The visa officer has the final say if an interview is needed. Applicants may be questioned about the validity of their relationship (with acknowledgements from family members and friends), employment status, and financial stability, to mention a few. Failure to provide satisfactory answers may lead to the delay or refusal of the application.
In this regard, applicants are advised to consult a dedicated immigration consultant with proven experience in the field.
How Long Does the Application Take?
Once a spousal sponsorship application is submitted, it usually takes a year (12 months) to process, depending on the workload, staffing number, and processing priorities at the visa office. There is no guarantee of getting clearance in a shorter amount of time. In some cases, applications may take more than a year to be approved.
The reasons for delays are many: late delivery of supporting documents, inadequate proof of relationship, and so on. Such challenges can be avoided by preparing, at least, 6 months before submitting the application. In-Canada sponsored applicants take longer to receive approval than their counterparts since they are already in the country and have low-priority applications in the queue.
When is the Best Time to Apply for Sponsorship?
Spousal sponsorship applications are filed on an ongoing basis throughout the year. There is no deadline for sponsoring a partner, as long as both parties meet the requirements listed above and the visa office still accepts applications. The only caveat is that the visa office will not approve applications submitted in an “unreasonable” amount of time.
Married sponsors who have just been granted Canadian citizenship or permanent residency are eligible to start the application process to bring their spouses and any dependents with them. The earlier they do so, the sooner they can reunite with their loved ones.
How Much Does it Cost?
The sponsorship program comes with a one-time, non-refundable fee of C$1,135. Included in the fee structure are:
- Sponsorship fee: C$75
- Biometrics: C$85
- Right of permanent residence fee: C$500
- Principal applicant processing fee: C$475
An additional fee of C$150 is required for each accompanying dependent child. Quebec-based sponsors are required to pay a separate fee of C$289.
Related article: A Fee Guide for Canada Express Entry Applicants
Why Hire an Immigration Consultant?
Many couples believe that completing the spousal sponsorship application on their own will save them money. However, it is common for applicants to make mistakes on the forms and send them in only to find out later that they are ineligible. This results in unnecessary delays or outright refusals.
Hiring a reputable immigration consultant to handle the application process often turns out to be the best option. Immigration attorneys can be of great help with:
- Sorting all the necessary documents needed to apply
- Guidance on how to submit the application
- Tips for a successful interview
- Trip arrangement to Canada upon approval
- Pre-departure information on securing a job, finding a school, or starting a business in Canada
- Legal advice during the application process
Spousal sponsorship applications have become more competitive in recent years due to the growing number of applicants from around the world. The good news is that Canada has a flexible immigration system which allows for changes in circumstance and adjustments of status.If any issues come up along the way, couples have the right to request a review or reconsideration.
As many spousal sponsorship clients have discovered, immigration can be a lengthy and complicated process but as long as they work with a qualified immigration consultant, it’s not all bad news.