Canada has a well-established commitment to family values and unity. As a reflection of this commitment, the Government of Canada created the Spousal Sponsorship Program, a section of the Family Class Sponsorship Program which allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their spouse or common-law partner for Canadian Permanent Residency. Both the sponsor and the sponsored partner must receive approval from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in order for the sponsored person to receive Canadian Permanent Residency.
Couples can apply under the Spousal Sponsorship Program by following one of two application options: Inland application and Outland application. While both are viable methods for foreign nationals to join their partners in Canada, each program has pros and cons that should be considered before submitting an application.
Couples who wish to submit a sponsorship application while already living in Canada must submit an ‘Inland’ application. If a couple is pursuing an Inland application, the sponsored spouse may become eligible to obtain an open work permit, allowing them to work while waiting for the sponsorship result. As such, applications for open work permits are usually submitted at the same time as the Inland sponsorship application. However, no applicant may work in Canada until a valid work permit has been delivered. Moreover, applicants who leave the country during the application process will risk having their application declared “abandoned” by CIC if they decide to leave the country.
A major Canadian newspaper recently interviewed several applicants to the program who have been able to join their spouses in Canada, but have been unable to work in the country for extended periods of time while waiting for their work permits to arrive. This has led to emotional and financial hardships for many Inland applicants and their partners.
“Inland sponsorship is an option for many couples, especially if the sponsored spouse is already in the country,” said Attorney David Cohen. “However, this option has the potential to seriously delay a sponsored person’s professional development.”
An Outland application is generally pursued when the sponsored partner is living outside of Canada. However, Outland applicants can still be in Canada and apply through the Outland program, and may be permitted to travel in and out of Canada throughout the application process. Outland applications are processed through the visa office that serves the applicant’s country of origin, or where they have resided legally for at least one year. Thus, processing times for applications will depend on the visa office.
What This Means for Applicants
Both Inland and Outland applications are practical methods for foreign nationals to join their partners in Canada; however, it is important for applicants and their spouses to understand the differences between the programs in order to make the choice that is best suited to them. Proper planning will help for couples to avoid being placed in unnecessarily difficult situations.
“I strongly urge individuals who wish to apply to the Spousal Sponsorship program to make an educated decision,” said Attorney David Cohen. “No one should have to choose between being with their partner and being able to work. I hope that all future applicants make choices that will keep them safe from such a situation.”