As a new permanent resident (PR) of Canada, living away from your immediate family can be difficult. To help families stay together, the government allows eligible Canadian citizens and PR holders to sponsor their immediate family members, including their spouses and children, for permanent residence in Canada.
Although this immigration pathway is part of the Family Sponsorship program, the process for sponsoring your spouse, partner, or dependent children differs from that for other relatives. In this article, we cover the eligibility requirements for spousal sponsorship and child sponsorship, as well as provide a step-by-step guide on how to sponsor your spouse or children for Canadian permanent residence.
In this article:
What is a dependent child or spousal sponsorship?
Under the government’s Family Sponsorship immigration program, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, or dependent children, for PR in Canada. For individuals who’ve recently become Canadian permanent residents, this popular program serves as a way to bring their immediate family to Canada after settling down.
If you got PR under a program for which your spouse/partner did not qualify, started a relationship or family in another country after becoming a Canadian permanent resident, or are in a committed relationship with someone living in Canada under temporary status, you may be able to sponsor your wife, husband, or partner for PR.
Although the term “spousal sponsorship” is commonly used to describe this program, you don’t need to be legally married to qualify for this program. In addition to your husband or wife, the program also allows you to sponsor your conjugal or common-law partner (such as your boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiance/fiancee) as well as dependent children, provided they can provide proof of their relationship to you and meet the following criteria:
- Common-law partner: A partner of either sex who isn’t legally married to you, but has lived with you for at least 12 consecutive months without spending significant time apart. Your common-law partner must be at least 18 years old.
- Conjugal partner: A partner of either sex who isn’t legally married to you or in a common-law relationship with you. They must be at least 18 years old and have been in a relationship with you for at least one year. Your conjugal partner must live outside Canada and be unable to live with or marry you in their home country due to legal and immigration reasons. These can include their sexual orientation, fear of persecution because of the relationship, or an existing marital relationship in a country where divorce is illegal.
- Dependent child: If your children are under 22 years of age and don’t have a spouse or common-law partner, they qualify as dependents. Children over 22 years of age who cannot support themselves financially due to a physical or mental condition and have been financially dependent on their parents since before the age of 22 may also be considered dependent.
Eligibility criteria to sponsor your spouse, partner, or child for Canadian PR
To be eligible to sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, or dependent children for permanent residence in Canada, you must:
- Be 18 years of age or older.
- Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or a person registered under the Canadian Indian Act. If you’re a permanent resident, you must currently reside in Canada. If you’re a Canadian citizen residing outside Canada, you must prove that you plan to live in Canada once the person(s) you sponsor receives PR.
- Not be receiving social assistance for anything other than a disability.
- Be able to provide for the basic needs, including financial needs, of the person(s) you sponsor.
- Meet the minimum income requirements only if you’re sponsoring a dependent child (yours or your spouse/partner’s) with dependent children of their own.
In addition, you must meet some general conditions to be eligible as a sponsor, including criminal background checks, absence of ongoing bankruptcy or immigration loan default, and more.
Eligibility criteria for the person being sponsored
This article only provides information on sponsoring your spouse, partner, or dependent children. If you wish to sponsor other immediate family members, such as your parents, grandparents, or other relatives, read our article on Family Sponsorship.
You can only sponsor your immediate family members for permanent residence under this program. To be eligible, the person being sponsored must be one of the following:
- Your spouse or common-law partner living with you in Canada, provided they are at least 18 years old.
- Your spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner living abroad, provided they are at least 18 years of age.
- Your or your spouse/partner’s dependent child
The person being sponsored must be able to provide proof of their relationship with you. For instance, a common-law partner who lives with you can show a joint lease or rental agreement, statements from a joint bank account, identity documents showing the same address as yours, or other eligible documents. If you’re sponsoring a conjugal partner living in a different country, they’ll need to provide proof that you could not get married or live together in their country, such as proof of refused visas.
They must also meet other general admission requirements for Canada, including clearing medical, security, and criminal background checks.
What are your obligations as a sponsor?
As a sponsor, you will be legally responsible for the financial needs of the person/s you are sponsoring during their initial years in Canada. You will need to sign two documents, which are an undertaking and a sponsorship agreement, before you can sponsor your spouse, partner, or child for Canadian permanent residence.
An undertaking is a legally binding document wherein you promise to provide financial support to your sponsored family members once they become permanent residents. In all provinces and territories except Quebec, the duration of this undertaking (and your financial support) will be three years for a sponsored spouse, partner, or dependent child over 22 years of age.
For a dependent child under 22 years of age, the undertaking will be for 10 years or until the child turns 25, whichever comes first. You will also commit to repaying any social assistance your sponsored family members receive from the province during that time.
Once the person you’re sponsoring receives PR in Canada, the undertaking cannot be cancelled and you remain financially responsible for the individual for the duration of the undertaking. Your undertaking cannot be cancelled even if:
- You get divorced or separated.
- Your financial situation changes, or you lose your job.
- Your sponsored family member becomes a Canadian citizen.
- Your sponsored family member moves to a different province or country.
You can, however, withdraw your application for sponsorship before the person you’re sponsoring gets permanent residence.
You and your sponsored family members will also need to sign a sponsorship agreement, committing to certain responsibilities for the duration of the undertaking. This will include a promise from you (the sponsor) to provide for the basic needs of the person/s you are sponsoring as well as a commitment from your sponsored family members that they will make every effort to support themselves and their family.
The length of the undertaking depends on your relationship with the person you’re sponsoring, their age, and the province you’re in. The sponsorship requirements in Quebec, including the undertaking period, may be different.
Application classes under which you can sponsor your spouse or child
There are two classes of applications under which you can sponsor your spouse, partner, or child: Family Class and the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class. Make sure you select the right application based on who you’re sponsoring and their country of residence.
Apply under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class if your spouse or common-law partner meets one of the below criteria:
- Lives in Canada with you.
- Has valid temporary resident status in Canada, such as a visitor visa, study permit, or work permit, or is exempt from this status.
- Qualifies for and wants to apply for an open work permit while their PR application is processed.
Apply under the Family Class if you’re sponsoring one of the following:
- Your conjugal partner (see definition above) or dependent child, regardless of where they live. Sponsorship applications for dependent children and conjugal partners cannot be submitted under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, even if they live with you in Canada.
- A family member (spouse or common-law partner) who lives outside Canada.
- A spouse or common-law partner who currently lives with you in Canada (on a temporary resident permit or visitor visa), but won’t be staying in the country while the application is being processed.
How to apply for spousal sponsorship for Canadian PR?
There is no maximum limit to the number of spousal or child sponsorship applications the government processes each year. You can apply to sponsor your family members at any time, provided both you and the person/s being sponsored meet the eligibility criteria. Here’s an overview of the application process:
Step 1: Review the application package
Your application package will contain both your application to sponsor, as well as your spouse, partner, or child’s application for permanent residence. Make sure you get instructions and the document checklist for the appropriate application class based on who is being sponsored and where they reside. You will need to submit a printed, filled-in copy of this checklist with your application.
Step 2: Gather essential documents as per country-specific requirements
The document requirements vary by country, so use the document checklist to collect the paperwork you need to submit. These may include:
- Proof of identity and age.
- Birth or marriage certificates or other proof of relationship.
- Police certificates for the person(s) being sponsored.
- Photographs, and more.
If your documents are not in English or French, submit a translation along with an affidavit from the translator and a certified copy of the original document.
Step 3: Fill out the application
Next, you and the person(s) being sponsored need to fill out and sign all applicable forms. Both parties must sign the Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking (IMM 1344) and the Sponsorship Evaluation and Relationship Questionnaire (IMM 5532). The person being sponsored must also fill out the Generic Application form for Canada (IMM 0008), Schedule A – Background/Declaration (eIMM 5669) and Additional Family Information (IMM 5406) form. Some of the forms (IMM 1344, 0008, and 5669) have a “validate” button and must be filled out electronically and validated to confirm you’ve completed all the sections.
Depending on your relationship with the person being sponsored and the country they reside in, there may be additional forms to submit. If you’re hiring an immigration consultant to help with the application, both parties will have to fill out the Use of a Representative (IMM 5476) form. For applicants under the age of 18, such as a dependent child, a parent or guardian must fill out and sign the forms.
If you’re sponsoring a family member under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, your spouse/partner can apply for an open work permit along with their PR application or while the application is being processed.
Step 4: Pay application fees and submit your application
Once the application is complete, you can pay the application processing fees, including the sponsorship fee, biometrics, and right for permanent residence fee online. Attach a printed copy of the payment receipt to your application and keep one for your records. You can submit your application by mail or courier. Applications for sponsoring your spouse, partner, or dependent children for PR cannot be submitted online.
Step 5: Link your application to your IRCC account
Once your application is submitted, you can link it to your IRCC account to receive communication and track your application status online. This step is not mandatory, and if you don’t create an IRCC account, you (or your representative) will still receive communication from the IRCC through e-mail or mail.
After you apply to sponsor your spouse, partner, or child for PR
After you submit your application, IRCC will review it to make sure all the forms and documents are complete, and send you an e-mail or letter to confirm your application has been accepted for processing. If your application is found to be incomplete, it will be returned to you.
Next, the government will assess your eligibility to be a sponsor and, if your sponsorship undertaking is approved, your family members’ application for PR will be forwarded to the processing office. At this stage, IRCC will send the family member you’re sponsoring (or their representative) an acknowledgement of receipt (AOR) and application number.
While the PR application is processed, your family members will receive communication from the IRCC asking them to submit their biometrics (if required) and appear for a medical exam. Even after processing starts, they may be asked to submit additional documents or information to support their application.
How much does it cost to sponsor your spouse or child for Canadian PR?
The Family Sponsorship application fee to sponsor your wife, husband, or partner is $1,080 CAD. This includes a $75 CAD sponsorship fee, a principal applicant fee of $490 CAD, and a right of permanent residence fee of $515 CAD.
If you’re sponsoring a dependent child, the total application fee will be $150 CAD per child, including a $75 CAD sponsorship fee and a $75 CAD processing fee. You can also include a dependent child on your spousal sponsorship application for an additional fee of $155 CAD per child.
In addition, you need to pay a biometrics fee of $85 CAD per person or $170 per family. It’s important to note that application fees do not include fees for acquiring travel documents or tickets, medical exams, courier charges, and other expenses you may incur for your application. Since you’ll be financially responsible for the people you sponsor for three years or more, you should also keep in mind their cost of living in Canada.
What is the processing time for spousal or dependent child sponsorship applications?
It takes around 12 months to process spousal sponsorship or partner sponsorship applications. If you apply to sponsor a dependent child, the processing time can vary based on their country of residence. As of May 2022, the processing time for dependent child sponsorship applications in India and China is 25 months and 23 months, respectively. You can find up-to-date processing times by country on the government website.
Can my spouse move to Canada with me even if they don’t have PR?
In many cases, your spouse or partner may be able to move to Canada with you temporarily, even before their PR application is approved. If you’ve been approved for or have received PR in Canada, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for a temporary residence permit, such as a work permit, study permit, or visitor visa. However, they will need to submit a separate application for temporary residence and can only stay in Canada for the duration of their permit or visa. This extra time can help your family get acclimated to their new country and improve their chances of settling down successfully in Canada.