What You Need to Know About Canadian Sponsorships

Many people believe that if you apply for Canadian spousal sponsorship you’ll sign some forms, provide a few documents and be approved just like that. After all they aren’t reviewing your work or educational history and language tests are not required.

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While it is true that a spousal sponsorship application is not reviewing your career history, they are evaluating if your relationship to your spouse is genuine, regardless if you are married, common-law, or conjugal partners. A genuine relationship, as per the visa office, should follow a “logical progression of how the couple meets and gets married”.

Spousal Sponsorship “Red Flags”

It’s important to remember that the visa officer reviewing your file isn’t out to get you. They will do their best to assess your case and take into account cultural practices, both by country and even regionally. They also serve another valuable purpose and that is to protect the Canadian immigration system from unscrupulous individuals whose primary reason for their relationship is for immigration purposes. This guide will outline some of the indicators, or “red flags”, visa officers use to determine if your relationship is what they call a “marriage of convenience”.

Definition: Marriage of Convenience

A marriage or common-law relationship whose sole purpose is to let the sponsored spouse or partner immigrate to Canada.

Some of these red flags are obvious indicators of marriage fraud. For example, you should expect a greater degree of scrutiny on your application if you and your partner do not share a common language to communicate, or you did not meet your husband or wife in person before your marriage. Major differences in age and values can also create warning flags. Scrutiny may be higher when a marriage is from a country that requires a visitor’s visa to enter Canada.

Even if you are not from one of these countries but you are from a region or city where occurrence of fraud is high, this can still be viewed as an indicator that your file should receive additional analysis. Previously refused applications for Canadian refugee or other temporary status in Canada will also be a major red flag, but not necessarily a deal breaker for your application. Insufficient or contradictory documentation can lead to delays or all out refusal of your application.

Not knowing intimate details about your partner like previous marriages and divorces or even the colour of their toothbrush or what brand of makeup they use could serve as indicators that a relationship might not be genuine. In the same vein as insufficient documentation, too much documentation can be a problem too. Dozens of love letters that express nothing but love and admiration for each other could actually lower your credibility because it could be seen as though the letters were written for the visa officer, for immigration purposes, not for your partner.

The moral of the story here is that if you have a genuinely loving relationship, you should be fine. But there is always a chance that something could go wrong. A Canadian immigration attorney can give you the peace of mind that someone is watching out for your case, reviewing every piece of documentation that is submitted and advise you of the risks involved in your application and how best to confront them, head-on, to alleviate any concerns the visa officer may have about your relationship and application for spousal sponsorship.

Marriage, Common-law, and Conjugal Relationships

Canada recognizes three types of relationships as valid for spousal sponsorship:

  • Married
  • Common-law
  • Conjugal

Married couples (spouses) are legally married. If the marriage took place outside of Canada, the marriage must be valid both under Canadian law and under local laws. A common-law partner is someone who have been living with for at least a year, while in a committed relationship. A roommate is not a common-law partner, regardless of how long you have been living together, unless you are in a romantic, committed relationship with them.

A conjugal partner is someone you have been in a romantic, committed relationship with for at least a year, but there are significant barriers preventing you from living together. For Canadian immigration purposes, a fiance, or girlfriend or boyfriend, is not a sufficient relationship for sponsorship, unless they meet the definition of common-law or conjugal.

Financial Undertaking

Whenever you sponsor a family member to Canada, you must sign an undertaking, in which you promise to provide financial support for the basic needs of your sponsored family member. The length of the undertaking depends on the category of sponsorship. For spousal sponsorship (including spouses and common-law or conjugal partners), the length of the undertaking is 3 years from the day the sponsored individual becomes a Canadian permanent resident.

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