How to sponsor your spouse and children for Canadian immigration

Shelby Thevenot
Published: April 19, 2022

Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their immediate families for Canadian immigration.

As the sponsor, you need to meet certain eligibility criteria. For instance, you must be at least 18 years old; have Canadian citizenship, permanent residency, or Indian status (under the Indian Act); prove that you are not receiving social assistance; and be able to financially support your family.

There are a couple other more specific criteria as well. If you are a citizen applying to sponsor your family from outside Canada, you must demonstrate that you intend to return once Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) makes a decision on your file. Permanent residents must sponsor their spouses from inside Canada. There are also a number of circumstances that could make you ineligible for sponsorship, such as not being discharged for bankruptcy.

Sponsor your family for Canadian immigration

As for who you can sponsor under this particular program, Canada recognizes three different types of partners: spouses, common-law partners, and conjugal partners. You can also sponsor your dependent children.

Spouses need to be married to their sponsor by an in-person ceremony. 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.

In all cases, your partner must be over the age of 18. IRCC will check that your partner is admissible by running medical and background security checks. People with criminal convictions are oftentimes 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 immigration.

Dependent children

Children qualify as dependants if they are under age 22 and they do not have a spouse or common-law partner. If they are age 22 or older, they may qualify as dependants if they are unable to financially support themselves because of a mental or physical condition and they have depended on their parents for financial support since before age 22.

Your child may still be dependent if they turn age 22 while their application is in processing. However, they must continue to meet all the other previously-mentioned requirements until IRCC finishes processing the application.

You can sponsor your own child or your partner and their child. If you are a Canadian citizen, your child may already be a citizen even if they weren't born in Canada. In this case, you might need to apply for a Proof of Citizenship for your foreign-born child if you have not yet done so. You do not need to sponsor your own child if they are already a citizen.

If your own child does not qualify as a citizen, and you want to sponsor them without sponsoring your partner, you can name your child as the principal applicant in the application. You'll have to demonstrate that the other parent or legal guardian agrees to allow your child to immigrate to Canada.

For those who are sponsoring their spouse and their dependent child, you will name your partner as the principal applicant and the child as the dependant in the application.

If a dependent child also has a dependent child (your grandchild), they can also be included in the application.

The processes for sponsoring adopted children and orphaned family members is different from sponsoring your own child or your partner's child.

Spousal, common-law, and dependant child immigration process

There are two applications required to sponsor your spouse, partner, or child: your application to become a sponsor, and your family's application for permanent residence. Both the sponsorship and permanent residence applications should be submitted together at the same time. If you live in Quebec, there is a different sponsorship process.

The first step is to get the application package. The government provides an application guide with specific and up-to-date information, as well as details on how to fill out forms in the complete guide. The documents required for foreign nationals will depend on residency status, where they are applying from, and maybe even travel history.

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. Again, different countries will have different form requirements.

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. Applications for children vary by country.

During the processing period, IRCC asks for biometrics and a medical exam from the foreign applicants. 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.

Sponsor your family for Canadian immigration

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