How to sponsor your spouse from South Africa
If you want to sponsor your South African partner for Canadian immigration, the first step is to make sure you are both eligible.
Here are some of the general eligibility requirements for both Canadians foreign partners from any country.
Who can sponsor?
Canadian citizens and permanent residents age 18 and older are eligible to sponsor their spouses, common-law partners, or conjugal partners. Canadian citizens can sponsor a spouse from outside Canada, whereas permanent residents must sponsor their spouses from inside Canada, even if their partner is out of the country.
Also, you will have to prove to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that you can financially support yourself and your family—including your partner and any dependent children you have.
In most cases, there is no minimum income cut off for sponsoring spouses, common-law partners, and children. There are very specific instances where you must meet a low-income-cut-off score, which are determined by the government each year. Generally, it only applies if the partner you’re sponsoring has a dependent child who also has a dependent child of their own.
You may become ineligible to meet the income requirement if you are receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability. Other benefits such as employment insurance and federal training allowances are not eligible sources of income. However, if you’re receiving maternity, parental, or sickness benefits, you may still be eligible to sponsor.
What can make me ineligible to sponsor my spouse?
Certain circumstances could make you ineligible to sponsor. You could be ineligible to sponsor if you have committed a violent criminal offence, or even for non-criminal reasons like failing to pay an immigration loan, going through bankruptcy and not being discharged, or if you sponsored a previous spouse within three years of your application. These are just some of the factors that could affect your eligibility.
Also, if you were a sponsored spouse now turned Canadian permanent resident, you cannot sponsor a new spouse within five years of your landing. So you might become eligible once the five years have passed.
If none of these reasons apply to you, and you check all the boxes for eligibility on your end, the next step is to see if your partner is admissible.
Who can be sponsored?
Your partner must be over the age of 18, and pass background, security, as well as medical checks.
The government department that processes immigration applications, IRCC will check that your partner is admissible by running medical and background security checks. People with criminal convictions are generally not allowed to come to Canada, but there may be options to overcome criminal inadmissibility.
The immigration officer handling your file will also want to see that you and your partner are in a genuine relationship. They want to admit people who are coming to Canada for family reunification, and not people who are just getting married for the sole purpose of Canadian permanent residency status.
Spouses need to be married to their sponsor by an in-person ceremony. The pandemic reminded us that virtual marriages are not recognized for the purposes of immigration.
Common-law partners need to demonstrate that they have lived together for at least 12 months.
Conjugal partners are living outside Canada and have been in a relationship for at least one year. They need to demonstrate that there are legal or social barriers preventing them from getting married or living together. You cannot sponsor a conjugal partner who is living in Canada.
Outland vs Inland sponsorship
If your partner is living abroad during the sponsorship process, you will be considered outland applicants. Although it is possible for Canadian citizens to live abroad throughout the process, you have to show that you will both move to Canada if your partner is approved for permanent residency.
What documents do you need from South Africa?
IRCC changes document guidelines regularly. The documents required for foreign nationals will depend on residency status, where they are applying from, and maybe even your travel history. The government provides an application guide with more specific and up-to-date information, as well as detailed information on how to fill out forms in the complete guide.
In addition to the application guides, IRCC offers a documents checklist, which shows you the forms and instructions you need for your application. This list also changes so it is important to double-check before submitting all the documents.
Different countries will have different form requirements. As of the time this article was written, there are no additional forms or special instructions that apply to South Africa.
What happens after you submit the application?
The processing begins once IRCC receives your complete application. If the officer finds that your application is incomplete, they will return it to you and you will have to submit again.
IRCC has a 12-month processing standard on spousal sponsorship applications, although it may take longer.
During the processing period, IRCC asks for biometrics and a medical exam from the foreign spouse. You will have 30 days to send them in. IRCC may also ask for more information or an in-person interview at any time.
You can track and update your application status online until IRCC makes a decision on your application. IRCC will send you instructions about the final steps the foreign spouse or common-law partner needs to take to become a permanent resident.
The last step is to complete the landing process. After that, you have officially become a Canadian permanent resident.
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