Can I sponsor my sibling for Canadian permanent residence?

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: February 6, 2024

Family sponsorship is one of the largest categories of immigrants set forth by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in the annual immigration levels plan.

While this form of sponsorship allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents (and persons registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act) to sponsor loved ones to immigrate to Canada and potentially settle permanently, it does not allow these persons to sponsor their siblings—except for rare circumstances. Read on to learn more about these exceptional cases, what eligibility requirements are needed from sponsors, and what options you may have to bring your sibling to Canada, even if you cannot sponsor them for permanent residence (PR).

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Who can act as a sponsor?

To be eligible to sponsor loved ones for Canadian PR, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada, or a person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act;
  • Reside in Canada (except for Canadian citizens who can sponsor their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, or dependent children without physical presence in Canada, as long as they can demonstrate their intention to live in Canada when the sponsored individuals arrive in Canada);
  • Agree to provide for the basic needs of the person being sponsored for a specified period (the length of the undertaking); and
  • Have sufficient income to support the relative(s) they are sponsoring (this requirement varies depending on the relative being sponsored).

Under what circumstances can I sponsor my sibling for Canadian PR?

It's important to note that, while you generally cannot sponsor your siblings for PR, there is an exception to this rule, often referred to as the "lonely Canadian rule." Under this exception, you may sponsor an orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece, or grandchild if they meet the following conditions:

  • They are related by blood or adoption;
  • Both their mother and father have passed away;
  • They are under 18 years of age; and
  • They are single (not married or in a common-law or conjugal relationship).

However, even under these provisions, you cannot sponsor your sibling for PR if:

  • One of their parents is still alive;
  • No one knows where their parents are;
  • Their parents abandoned them;
  • Someone else other than their parents is taking care of them while one or both their parents are alive; and/or
  • Their parents are in jail or otherwise detained.

What options do I have to bring my sibling to Canada if I cannot sponsor them?

Since siblings often do not qualify for sponsorship, the most available route to many Canadian PRs and/or citizens is to help their sibling build eligibility for PR, usually through one of Canada’s economic immigration programs.

The educational route

Often the easiest and most straightforward way to do this, is to help your sibling find an educational course or program from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)—the only schools in Canada authorised to accept international students—that makes them eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) upon graduation. From here your sibling can work in Canada and build eligibility for one of the country’s economic immigration programs (be it through Express Entry managed streams, or through Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)). There is also strong data to suggest that newcomers who have Canadian education and work experience tend to see better long-term outcomes in the country.

LMIA-based work permits

If you do not want to pursue an educational route for your sibling, you can also look into helping your sibling obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)-supported job offer, which would deliver them an LMIA-based work permit* if successful.

An LMIA is the Canadian government’s mechanism to determine what impact the hiring of a foreign worker will have on the Canadian labour market. If an LMIA yields a positive or neutral outcome (i.e.: there were no Canadian citizens or permanent residents who could have filled the role and hiring a foreign national will not negatively impact Canada’s economy or workforce), the application is usually successful, and allows the recipient the ability to build eligibility for Canadian PR, again through one of the country’s economic immigration programs.

*Note that LMIA-based work permits are usually tied to a single employer, and job. Disruptions in employment may impact your sibling's immigration opportunities.

International Experience Canada (IEC)

Finally, if you are from a country that holds a bilateral youth mobility agreement with Canada, you may be eligible for an open work permit (OWP) under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. These programs offer OWPs to individuals from nations that Canada has trade agreements with and allows foreign nationals from these countries (provided that they meet age requirements) to obtain an OWP and work in Canada. Unlike LMIA-based work permits, OWPs allow holders to work for most employers in most industries and are not tied to a single employer or position, allowing holders much more freedom. This is again another way to help your sibling build eligibility for one of the country’s economic immigration programs, and eventually obtain PR.

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