Canada’s immigration policy has a longstanding tradition of supporting family reunification, enabling recent immigrants and long-established Canadians to be reunited with their family members. It provides a route for spouses, partners, children, parents, grandparents, and in certain cases, other relatives to move and settle in Canada as permanent residents (PRs).
In this article, we will provide an overview of the Family Sponsorship immigration programs, outline some core must-know concepts, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to apply through these programs.
What is Family Sponsorship?
Family sponsorship is an immigration program through which your relatives can live, work, and study in Canada by becoming permanent residents (PRs) of Canada.
Your application must include the sponsorship undertaking and the sponsorship agreement as well as all other required documents.
What is an undertaking?
To become a sponsor, you must promise to financially take care of the persons you are sponsoring for a period of time, which varies depending on the relative you are sponsoring. This legally binding promise or contract is called an undertaking.
The undertaking sets out the obligations of the sponsor which commits to:
- Providing required financial support for your sponsored family members, starting when they become permanent residents (PRs).
- Repaying any provincial social assistance your sponsored family members get during that time.
Tip: The sponsor will be held to the commitments in the undertaking for the duration of its length, regardless of external factors such as relationship breakdown. If the sponsor uses a co-signer, both the sponsor and co-signer are liable for the obligations created by the undertaking. If the sponsor fails to repay a debt, the co-signed will be held to pay the entire amount.
What is a sponsorship agreement?
You and your sponsored family members need to agree to certain responsibilities during the undertaking period. This is called the sponsorship agreement.
The sponsorship agreement provides that:
- You’ll provide for the basic needs of your sponsored family members.
- The person you sponsor will make reasonable efforts to support themselves and their family members.
Tip: Both the sponsor and the primary applicant must sign the sponsorship agreement. Before signing, each should review the agreement in depth to ensure they understand the obligations and rights of both parties in entering into the agreement.
How to apply for family sponsorship: A step-by-step guide
Step 1: Check your eligibility to be a sponsor
According to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), you may be eligible to sponsor certain relatives to come to Canada if you’re at least 18 years old and:
- A Canadian citizen or
- A person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act or
- A permanent resident of Canada residing in Canada
Sponsoring your spouse, partner, or child:
As a sponsor, you must prove you:
- Will be able to meet basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing for your spouse, partner, or child.
- Will be able to support the persons you are sponsoring financially for a period of time.
- Will not be receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability.
|Note on family sponsorship income requirement:
In most cases, there isn’t an income requirement to sponsor your spouse or partner or dependent child. You only need to show that you have enough money to meet the income requirements if:
Sponsoring your parents or grandparents:
As a sponsor, you must be able to:
- Show enough money to support the person(s) you want to sponsor and all family members in Canada by providing your proof of income for the past three tax years.
Sponsoring your relatives:
In addition to the above, as a sponsor, you must be able to:
- Support your relative financially when they arrive beginning on the date they become a PR, for up to 20 years (depending on the length of the undertaking signed).
- Be able to meet basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) for yourself and your relative(s).
- Make sure your relative doesn’t rely on social assistance – if they do, you’ll need to pay the cost back.
If you live in Quebec, you must meet Quebec’s immigration sponsorship requirements after you are approved as a sponsor. You must also sign an undertaking with the province of Quebec. The Quebec ministry in charge of immigration will assess your income.
Step 2: Confirm who you can sponsor
- Common-law partner
- Conjugal partner
- Dependent child/children
- Your own parents or grandparents, related by blood or adoption
- Relatives like a brother, sister, aunt or uncle in very specific situations
Use IRCC’s online tool to check if a child qualifies as a dependent.
A spousal or adopted child relationship will be reviewed to determine its genuineness, and whether it was entered into in good faith. Relationships that are entered into primarily to obtain an immigration benefit do not meet the family relationship requirements, and that family member cannot be sponsored.
Step 3: Apply
To apply to sponsor your family members or relatives, your application to sponsor, and your family member(s) applications for PR status are submitted together. If you are found eligible to sponsor, the PR application will be reviewed.
Application process for sponsoring your spouse, partner, or child:
- Read the guide carefully before you complete the application. Make sure you are using the correct application for your circumstances.
- Complete the application package carefully and correctly – ensure all required information, signatures and documents are provided
Learn more about the process of sponsoring a spouse, partner, or child.
The sponsorship forms change frequently. Before submitting your application, check to ensure you are submitting the correct version of the form.
If you are sponsoring a spouse or common law partner who is currently in Canada, you may be eligible to submit an inland sponsorship application. This application process allows the sponsored spouse to apply for an open work permit, which is generally issued about halfway into the sponsorship’s processing.
Application process for sponsoring your parents or grandparents:
The Parent/Grandparent Sponsorship Program (PGP) is subject to annual quotas, whereby annual demand significantly outweighs annual quota. In the past, IRCC has determined who will be able to participate in the PGP through various methods such as a first come first serve model, and a lottery model.
Although details on 2020’s intake process were to be announced no later than April 1, 2020, in light of COVID-19 these details have not yet been released. Interested applicants should monitor IRCC’s website closely for updates on the application intake process.
Tip: If you’d like your parents and grandparents to come to Canada, the super visa is another option. Your parents and grandparents may be eligible to apply for a super visa to stay in Canada for up to two years at a time.
Learn more about the process of sponsoring parents or grandparents.
Application process for sponsoring your relatives:
Fill out the application package correctly. Read the guide carefully before you complete the application form as the sponsorship application fee for processing your application can’t be refunded.
Learn more about the process of sponsoring relatives.
Lastly, before you submit your application, make sure:
- You list all your family members.
- All the information on your application is true.
- Your application is complete.
Step 4: Pay application fees
Family sponsorship application fees (exclusive of biometrics fee):
In most cases, your application fees will include:
- Processing fees for you, the persons you’re sponsoring and their dependants.
- The right of permanent residence fee – $515 CAD.
- The biometrics fee.
You must pay your fees online, and include proof of having done so in your application. Ensure you save a copy of your fee payment receipt to be included in the application
Depending on your situation, you may incur additional costs for:
- Your medical exam
- A police certificate
- Certified translated copies of documents not in English or French.
The instruction guide will help you understand which fees apply to you.
Step 5: Submit application for processing
The application for eligibility as a sponsor is assessed by an IRCC office within Canada. If the sponsor is found eligible, the sponsored family member(s) application for PR status will be processed by the visa office responsible for their place of residence. The mailing instructions and addresses are available in each application guide. You may use a courier service or regular mail to submit your application. Courier services will help you track your application’s delivery.
Once IRCC begins to process your application, they will send you an application number and an acknowledgment of receipt.
If you’re approved as a sponsor, IRCC will assess the eligibility of the person(s) you want to sponsor.
If your application as a sponsor is refused:
- You can choose to have IRCC continue processing the application for PR for your family members OR
- You can choose to withdraw your application. In this case, you’ll get all other fees back except the $75 CAD sponsorship fee.
During application processing, the person(s) you are sponsoring will be asked to submit their:
- Biometrics: The biometrics fee should be paid when you submit the application. Once the application is in process, your family members will receive a letter asking them to give their biometrics. As a next step, within 30 days from the date of the letter, they are required to show this letter at their closest collection point to provide their biometric data.
- Medical exams
- Police certificates
Tip: Ensure that all dependent family members are disclosed on the application, even if they will not be relocating to Canada. Dependent family members who are not disclosed on the application and who are not examined by IRCC by undergoing a medical examination and providing police certificates (as required) will be permanently barred from being sponsored by that family member as a permanent resident in the future.
Once IRCC approves your family members’ PR application, to finish processing their application, your family members or relatives, and their dependants who are immigrating to Canada with them (if applicable), will be asked to submit:
- Their passports, or photocopies of their passports (depending on whether they are visa-requiring nationals)
- Two photos which meet IRCC’s PR photo specifications
- Proof of payment for the right of permanent residence fee, if they haven’t sent it to IRCC already.
Step 6: Obtain the Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR)
Upon receipt of the items requested in Step 5, IRCC will send your family members the following:
- The Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR).
- A permanent resident visa stamped in their passport, if required.
Once your family members receive these documents, they can travel to Canada.
Tip: Make sure to check the expiry dates on the PR visa and COPR. Your family members must complete the PR landing process, detailed below, at a Canadian port of entry before their documents expire.
How long does family sponsorship take in Canada?
Average application processing time:
- Spouse or partner: 12 months
- Parent or grandparent: 20 to 24 months
- Child or other relative: Varies by country of origin
For the most up to date processing times by category of application, you can use IRCC’s online tool.
Sponsors can check the status of their application online. As the sponsor, if you want to check on the application status for your spouse, partner or child, you must first request to get access to their information.
Persons being sponsored can check the status of their application through their IRCC account or use the Client Application Status online tool. To use their IRCC account, their application has to be linked to their online account.
Step 7: Prepare to settle in Canada
Once your spouse, partner, or relative receives their COPR, there are things they can do to prepare for life in Canada.
- Use free pre-arrival services, which help you find out more about living and working in Canada.
- Take steps to get recognition in Canada for their education, work experience, and professional licences/certificates.
- Read about living and finding work in Canada.
- Learn about the networking culture in Canada, work on their resume, and start building their personal brand.
When your sponsored family members arrive at the port of entry to Canada, they must show the border services officer their:
- Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR).
- Valid passport or travel document.
- PR visa (if we issued one), which must be valid.
- Quebec Selection Certificate, if they’re going to live in Quebec.
- Any other document that was issued to them and asked to bring.
The border officer will:
- Check that their PR visa and COPR haven’t expired.
- Ask your family members to confirm information that they gave in their application.
What can you bring to Canada
Before you travel to Canada, see the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website to find out what you can and cannot bring into the country.
You must tell the border officer if you arrive in Canada with more than $10,000 CAD. If you do not disclose this, you may be fined, and your funds will be seized. Your sponsored family members must tell the officer of any funds they’re bringing into Canada, including cash, stocks, bonds, money orders, and traveller’s cheques.
If satisfied that they meet the requirements to enter Canada, the officer will:
- Allow them to enter Canada as permanent residents.
- Start the process to mail their PR card to the Canadian address on their COPR.
While the Family Sponsorship programs can seem more complex than other immigration programs like Express Entry, with the right knowledge of processes, guidelines, and regulations, you will be able to successfully submit an application. When in doubt, you should always consult an authorized immigration consultant or lawyer for advice. We wish you the very best in your application process!
The information provided in this article is general, is subject to frequent changes and does not constitute legal advice. For specific immigration legal advice that you can rely on, please contact Green and Spiegel.