Understanding Roles: Who is the principal applicant in spousal sponsorship?

Published on: April 8th, 2024

When navigating the process of spousal sponsorship in Canada, understanding the different roles involved is crucial. This blog post clarifies these roles to help you understand where you or your partner might fit in the process.

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One of the most frequently asked questions by couples embarking on the journey of spousal sponsorship in Canada is: “Who is the principal applicant?” This question underscores the importance of understanding that, although spousal sponsorship may seem like a singular process, it encompasses a variety of roles, each with its own distinct set of requirements and responsibilities. In this blog post, we will delve into the nuances of these roles, clarifying who the principal applicant is, and how their responsibilities differ from those of the sponsor and other parties involved.

Primarily, there are two key roles: the ‘Principal Applicant’, who is the person applying for permanent residence, and the ‘Sponsor’. Each has distinct responsibilities and requirements.

While both the principal applicant (or the sponsored person) and the sponsor are integral to the sponsorship process, their roles are quite distinct. The sponsor is essentially vouching for and supporting the principal applicant’s entry and settlement in Canada, while the principal applicant is the one who undergoes the immigration process to become a resident. Understanding these roles is key to a successful spousal sponsorship application.

The Principal Applicant in Spousal Sponsorship

In the context of spousal sponsorship, the ‘Principal Applicant’ refers to the foreign spouse or common-law partner who is being sponsored to become a permanent resident. The principal applicant is the person who wishes to immigrate to Canada through the spousal sponsorship program and achieve a permanent resident status

The principal applicant’s role and responsibilities include:

  1. Relationship: In Canadian spousal sponsorship, there are three recognized relationship types by the IRCC:
  2. Providing Personal Documentation: This includes a valid passport, birth certificate, and other identification documents.
  3. Undergoing Medical Exams and Police Checks: As part of the immigration process, the principal applicant must undergo a medical exam and provide police clearance certificates from countries where they’ve lived for six months or more since turning 18.
  4. Completing Application Forms Accurately: The principal applicant needs to provide accurate and complete information on all application forms to avoid delays or rejections.
  5. Meeting Eligibility Criteria: The principal applicant must meet certain eligibility criteria, such as not being inadmissible to Canada for reasons like security risks or criminal history.
  6. Communicating with Immigration Officials: Throughout the process, the principal applicant may need to communicate with Canadian immigration officials, provide additional information, or attend interviews.

The Sponsor’s Role

On the other side of the process is the ‘Sponsor’. This is typically the Canadian citizen or permanent resident who is sponsoring their foreign spouse or partner to come to Canada.

Are you eligible to sponsor someone?

  1. Meet Eligibility Requirements: The sponsor must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and meet certain income requirements to prove they can financially support their spouse or partner.
  2. Take Financial Responsibility: The sponsor commits to providing financial support to the principal applicant for a specified period, ensuring they do not need to seek social assistance.
  3. Submit the Sponsorship Application: The sponsor is responsible for submitting the sponsorship application and ensuring all the required documentation and fees are included.
  4. Maintain Communication with Immigration Services: The sponsor must keep in touch with Canadian immigration services, providing updates on any changes in circumstances.


Personal information about Sponsor and Principal Applicant

When preparing a spousal sponsorship application in Canada, both the sponsor and the principal applicant must provide comprehensive personal information. This includes full legal names, dates of birth, addresses, and employment history. It’s essential to disclose any previous relationships and their current status, as well as information about any dependents involved. Additionally, the couple must provide details of their relationship history, such as how and when they met, and the progression of their relationship over time.

This personal information plays a critical role in establishing the legitimacy and depth of the relationship for the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada). Accuracy and transparency in this section are paramount, as any discrepancies can lead to delays or complications in the application process. Ensuring that all information is up-to-date, consistent across all documents, and thoroughly verified will contribute significantly to a smoother and more efficient sponsorship experience.


Other Applicants: Declaring all family members

An often overlooked but crucial aspect is the declaration of all family members by both the principal applicant and the sponsor. This includes any dependents, regardless of whether they will accompany the principal applicant to Canada or not.

Importance of Full Declaration

The full declaration of all family members is mandatory under Canadian immigration law. The IRCC requires complete transparency about your family situation for several reasons:

  • To Prevent Future Inadmissibility: Failing to disclose a family member can lead to future applications for that individual being denied.
  • To Assess the Sponsor’s Financial Capability: The sponsor needs to prove they can support all family members, not just the principal applicant.
  • For Family Reunification Purposes: It helps the IRCC understand the full context of the applicant’s family, which is vital for any potential future family reunification processes.

Who to Declare

  • Dependent Children: This includes all biological, adopted, or stepchildren, regardless of their age or marital status. If your children are already Canadian citizens, they cannot be sponsored for permanent residency. Verify whether your children hold Canadian citizenship.
  • Previous Spouses or Common-Law Partners: Details of any previous relationships that resulted in legal responsibilities should be included.
  • Other Dependents: Any other individuals financially dependent on the principal applicant or sponsor must be declared, especially if they have been included in previous sponsorship applications.

Documentation Required

For each family member, certain documents are necessary:

  • Birth Certificates: For all children, to prove parentage.
  • Marriage or Divorce Certificates: To clarify the status of previous relationships.
  • Other Legal Documents: Any documents relating to custody arrangements or legal guardianship. Adoption records.

Consequences of Non-Disclosure

Not declaring all family members can lead to serious consequences, including:

  • Rejection of the Sponsorship Application: Incomplete information can lead to a direct refusal.
  • Legal Penalties: Both the sponsor and the principal applicant may face legal repercussions for withholding information.

Declaring all family members is a vital step in the spousal sponsorship process. It ensures compliance with Canadian immigration laws and facilitates a smooth and transparent application process. Applicants should meticulously review their family circumstances and provide complete and accurate information to avoid any complications.


If you want to sponsor your partner, or if you want to be sponsored, we can help! Simply complete our free sponsorship assessment and a member of the Canadim Team will contact you to discuss your options!


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