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Canadian Family Sponsorship: everything you need to know


Yulia Kan


December 13, 2021


07:54 PM

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One of the main pillars of Canadian immigration is “to see that families are reunited in Canada” as quoted in section 3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, making Canadian sponsorship programs one of the more generous family reunification programs in the world.

It allows all eligible sponsors to sponsor eligible family members directly for permanent residence and after meeting minimum citizenship requirements, said family members can apply for citizenship.

Contrary to belief or the assumptions from the name: no program in Canada allows an application directly for citizenship. Everyone must obtain permanent residence first, even if the sponsor is a Canadian citizen.

What makes an eligible sponsor?

Generally speaking, eligible sponsors must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age holding Canadian citizenship or permanent residence status, or be a registered Indian under Canadian Indian Act,
  • Be financially sustainable and not be in receipt of social assistance other than disability,
  • Permanently reside in Canada or have the intent to return to Canada once the sponsored person gets their application for permanent residence approved,
  • Must not be convicted of attempting / threatening to commit / commit a crime that constitutes a criminal offence in Canada.

What are some of the factors that can prevent a sponsor from sponsoring a family member?

If a potential sponsor meets all eligibility criteria above, it may not always ensure that the sponsor can proceed with a sponsorship application.

There are additional factors that can stand in the way and prevent the sponsor from being eligible to submit an application to sponsor a family member. These factors are:

  • Sponsoring a spouse or a partner under 18 years of age,
  • Sponsoring a second spouse or partner if it hadn’t been 3 years since they obtained permanent residence status,
  • Sponsoring a spouse or a partner if you (sponsor) were sponsored by your previous spouse and it hadn’t been 5 years since you obtained permanent resident status,
  • Inability to pay back any social assistance that the sponsored person received while the sponsorship undertaking was in place,
  • Indebted:
  • In default on an immigration loan or a performance bond,
  • Alimony or child support,
  • Declared bankruptcy which had not been discharged,
  • Previous or current convictions of:
  • Offenses of sexual nature,
  • Violent crimes,
  • Offense against a relative causing bodily harm,
  • Any attempt to commit any of the above.
  • A removal order is in place,
  • The sponsor is in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison,
  • There is an active sponsorship application that is being reviewed by IRCC - in simple words, no duplicate applications are allowed.

Who can be sponsored under this program?

  1. Spouses,
  2. Common law partners - couples that are not married but act like a married couple. Eligibility criteria is to continuously live in the same residence for at least 12 months.
  3. Conjugal partners - couples that are not able to marry or live together due to circumstances outside of their control. This can apply to LGBTQ couples living in restrictive countries or for couples living in countries where divorce is not legally recognized.
  4. Parents and grandparents - applies to natural and adoptive / step parents alike,
  5. Children under the age of 22 - applies to natural and adoptive children alike,
  6. Other relatives for lonely Canadians: the sponsor must prove that they are indeed lonely, meaning that they don’t have any other living family member that they can sponsor.

How long does the process take and what does it entail?

Generally speaking the whole process takes about 1 year: sponsor must submit a completed application of all forms and supporting documents to the processing office in Canada.

The processing office responds back a few months later confirming that the application was received and assigned an application number.

Then the office starts reviewing the documents, sends a request letter for the applicant to undergo a medical exam and submit their fingerprints for biometric information.

Ideally, the next expected letter is the approval letter, but sometimes officers will send requests for additional documents or information in case if anything wasn’t clear in the submitted application.

Depending on the application type, documents will vary, but the most common are:

  • Proof of identity: passports, birth certificates, photographs, etc.
  • Proof of relationship,
  • Financial documents from the sponsor, and
  • Police clearance certificates from the sponsored person.

What factors can refuse a sponsorship application?

Once again, this varies depending on the application type.

For example, spouses, common law partners, conjugal partners, children, and dependent children of spouses of partners are exempt from medical inadmissibility whereas parents and grandparents are not.

Medical inadmissibility entails that an applicant is a potential danger to public health and / or safety, or they have a condition that will cause an excessive demand on health or social services.

In simpler terms, if the cost on health and social services will cost more than CAD $21,204 (numbers as of the date this article was written), then the person will be considered medically inadmissible.

Other more general factors contributing to a refusal of an application are quite reasonable such as: lying on an application, withholding relevant information, fake documents, marriage of convenience or inability to satisfy the officer that the relationship is genuine (generally applies to spouses, common law or conjugal partners).

Learn More About Family Sponsorship to Canada and Other Immigration Pathways to Canada

Connect with Yulia to discuss Canadian immigration matters.

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