Spousal sponsorships are one of the most common forms of immigration to Canada.  Over the course of the past number of years there have been very substantial changes for this category.  Some of the changes have broadened the category while recent changes have tightened the requirements.

Definition of Spouse (legal marriage)

The term “spouse” has a very specific definition in the context of Canadian immigration.  While the term in its most general sense refers to a partner in a marriage or common law relationship, in the immigration context it specifically refers only to two people who are legally married.  The spouses may be same sex as long as the marriage is legally recognized in the jurisdiction where the marriage took place as well as Canada.

Common law Partners

A couple of the same or opposite sex who have been living together in a conjugal relationship for one or more years but are not married are referred to as common law partners.

Conjugal Partner

This category has been designed for partners of either the same or opposite sex who are unable to live together due to conditions which are beyond their control.  Though you are unable to live together the partners must demonstrate a level of intention and commitment similar to that of a common law partner which has been in place for at least one year.  As well the couple must demonstrate how their environment prevented them from living together as common law partners.  The inability to live together could, for example, be based on religious or cultural norms in the home country.

Sponsor’s Requirements

To be a sponsor the person must be:

  • 18 years or older,
  • Able to meet the income guidelines in order to support the spouse or partner,
  • Able to give a 3 year undertaking to support the spouse or partner,


Bars to spousal sponsorship

  • The marriage must be legal in both Canada and the jurisdiction where the partner lives.  (For example, a sponsor who enters into a legal polygamous marriage with a 14 year old in country X would not be able to sponsor that spouse to Canada even though the marriage is recognized in country X.  Since Canada requires spouses to be at least 16 and does not recognize polygamy the sponsorship would be barred for two reasons),
  • Your partner is under 16,
  • One of the partners was married at the time of the marriage (Canada does not recognize polygamy),
  • The sponsor has failed to include the partner in their application for permanent residence status,
  • The sponsor has sponsored another spouse, or partner in the past and 3 years have not passed since that person became a permanent resident (or 5 years if the application was received after March 2, 2012),
  • Defaulted on an immigration loan or payment,
  • If a prior family member was sponsored and the sponsor failed to support the person and thereby defaulted on the undertaking,
  • failed to pay a court order for alimony or support,
  • certain types of criminal convictions such as violent crime or an offence of a sexual nature,
  • violent crime committed against a family member,
  • you are an unreleased bankrupt,
  • you are in prison,
  • 5 year bar – if you were sponsored by a spouse or partner, you cannot sponsor a new spouse or partner within 5 years of obtaining your PR status.