Will a divorce or annulment of my marriage end my Canadian sponsorship undertaking?

Julia Hornstein
Published: January 2, 2024

When you agree to be a sponsor, you must sign an undertaking, which is a promise to provide financial support for the basic needs of your spouse or partner and their dependent children.

Sponsor your family for Canadian immigration

Basic needs include:

  • Food, shelter, clothing and other needs for daily living
  • Dental care, eye care and other health needs that are not covered by public health services

In addition, before signing the undertaking, you must ensure that the person you are sponsoring will not ask the government for financial help. If they receive social assistance in Canada, you will have to pay back what they received during the time you are legally responsible for them.

The length of undertaking for a spouse, common law-partner or conjugal partner is 3 years from the day the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident. The length of undertaking for residents of Quebec is different from the length of undertaking for the rest of Canada.

Importantly, the undertaking is a binding promise of support, meaning that it is your responsibility to support the applicant for the length of the undertaking period, even if your situation changes.

The undertaking will not end or be cancelled, even if:

  • You become divorced, separated or your relationship with the sponsored person breaks down
  • You or the sponsored person move to another province or country
  • The sponsored person becomes a Canadian citizen
  • You have financial problems

What to do if the relationship turns out to not be genuine?

When applying to sponsor your spouse or partner, your relationship is assessed by an Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officer. The officer needs to be satisfied that a genuine relationship exists.

In order to prove a genuine relationship, the applicants must submit certain documents as evidence of proof of the relationship. Evidence can include wedding invitations, proof of joint ownership of residential property or other documents showing the applicant and sponsor live at the same address or have joint accounts (e.g. cell phone bills, tax forms).

A spousal relationship or common law partnership that is not genuine or that was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege will be refused.

In some cases, sponsors and foreign applicants enter into “marriages of convenience”, which is a marriage or relationship whose sole purpose is to let the sponsored person immigrate to Canada.

IRCC officers are trained to recognize genuine immigration applications. Moreover, Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are in a marriage of convenience for immigration reasons may be charged with a crime.

There may be situations where a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is a victim of marriage fraud. Marriage fraud occurs when the sponsorship process is complete. Once the sponsored person is granted permanent residence, the sponsored person will leave and end the marriage or relationship, essentially using the sponsor to immigrate to Canada.

If you are a victim of marriage fraud, you must contact IRCC and explain the situation. Although you will still be responsible for the undertaking of the person you have sponsored, there will be other consequences for the sponsored person and IRCC will be responsible for determining how to deal with the fraud.

IRCC can:

  • Charge them with a crime
  • Ban them for Canada for 5 years
  • Remove them from Canada
  • Take away their status as a permanent resident or Canadian citizen

The Canadian government provides information on protect against immigration fraud. They recommend you being careful when marrying someone and sponsoring them to come to Canada, especially if you’ve just met, they want to get married quickly, they’ve been married many times before or they have not shared much information about their background or family.

Sponsor your family for Canadian immigration

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