Canada Spousal Sponsorship: Bringing Your Spouse to Canada
What is Canada Spousal Sponsorship?
Canada spousal sponsorship is how a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident can sponsor their partner to come to Canada and live permanently.
This applies if you chose the option of not accompanying your spouse to Canada in the first place. If you all migrated together on the one application and you were approved as a family on the original application, you do not need to be “sponsored” by your spouse.
If you chose the spouse accompanying option, meaning the primary applicant was approved and migrated to Canada and they plan to move the spouse to Canada too, then spousal sponsorship is how this is done.
What happens if I divorce or separate during the Canada spousal sponsorship process?
When you sponsor your spouse, you sign an agreement with the Government that you are committed to your spouse, and you are responsible for supporting them for three years after they arrive.
This means that if you have sponsored your spouse and the spouse comes to Canada, you have signed an undertaking with the government to be responsible for your spouse’s expenses, livelihood and well being for a period of three years.
Even if your marriage breaks down and you separate or divorce in the span of three years you are still liable to take care of the expenses for your spouse. This includes any social payments your ex-spouse might apply for. It means you will be responsible for paying those too.
This 3 year payment obligation only applies to Canada Spousal Sponsorship applications. If you both applied under Express Entry to come to Canada together then both you and your spouse are considered equal. If you separate you will not be responsible for their expenses for 3 years and you can both move on with your lives.
If you decide to come alone without your spouse accompanying you and then to sponsor your spouse in the future, then the 3-year commitment applies to you.
If you divorce before your sponsorship has been approved, then you are no longer in a relationship and your now ex-spouse will not be eligible for sponsorship and will not be approved.
If they have arrived in Canada, then yes, the 3-year obligation on you applies. You will be required to support and pay all your spouse’s expenses for the 3-year period.
If my spouse and I divorce once I sponsor them to Canada, then I remarry, can I sponsor a new spouse to come to Canada?
In this case, there are also restrictions on both of you in terms of not being able to sponsor another spouse within 5 years of gaining your permanent residency. It does not matter if you are remarried or not, the 5-year rule applies.
Had you arrived together then separated, i.e. not under the spouse sponsorship program, this 5-year restriction would not apply to you. It only applies if you arrived unaccompanied by your spouse and you then applied for them to be given permanent residency via spousal sponsorship.
How long does the Canada Spousal Sponsorship process take?
It has been known to take up to 2 years, however, recent prioritization of spousal sponsorship applications has seen the Canadian Government aiming to process spousal sponsorship visas within a year.
I am getting married, should I get married during the Permanent Residency process or afterward and then seek spousal sponsorship?
In most cases, it is faster, simpler and more desirable to get married and add your spouse to your current, as yet unapproved, application for Permanent Residency.
However, as discussed elsewhere in regards to points, in a few cases an applicant may be better off applying as an unaccompanied applicant. In these cases, if you do get married you must update your application to include a spouse who is not accompanying you at this stage, and then sponsor them in the future.
Please remember that spousal sponsorship can take up to a year after you apply, whereas, if your spouse is included on your application you can arrive together and no “sponsorship” is required.
The main thing is that if you do get married, update your application immediately, otherwise you risk being declared an applicant who “misrepresented” their marital status and then risking your visa in the future.
You will need to provide your wedding date and documents in the future and they will cross-reference them to your application. They will then ask you why you did not declare your marriage. So please remember to update your application if you do get married.
If you get married after you have been granted your Permanent Residency, you just have to provide the information about your marriage when you apply for spousal sponsorship in the future.
What does spouse accompanying and spouse un-accompanying mean?
Spouse accompanying means your spouse intends on coming to Canada with you from the start.
Spouse un-accompanying means your spouse won’t be joining you in Canada from the start and you will apply for your spouse to join you through spouse sponsorship after you are living in Canada.
Why would someone choose a spouse un-accompanying application?
There are a few reasons someone might choose ‘spouse un-accompanying’. The main reason is that a couple might realize they earn less CRS points as a couple than if the strongest of them applied as unaccompanied. This is by far the main reason – to strengthen the application.
Other reasons might include that the spouse has a good job at home and it does not make sense to leave that job right away, your spouse’s parents might need care at the moment, your spouse might be pregnant, your spouse might be studying and wants to finish their course etc.
Why are points different for a spouse accompanying and spouse un-accompanying application?
Canada levels the points playing field for applicants who are single and who are part of a couple. For a single person, only their points are available, so their points are given more weighting.
For a couple there are two people with points that can count so they slightly reduce the points of the main applicant so they can award points to the spouse as well. This gives a fairer way to assess the strength of each application as a whole.
So, if your spouse has strong education and language points, has relatives in Canada, or has some Canadian work experience, it will most likely place your application as a whole in a better position. If your spouse has no education and poor language points, it may place you in a slightly worse off point’s position.
If you have a spouse and they are not going to accompany you at this time, your points are counted as a single applicant, if your spouse is accompanying you then your points are assessed as a couple.
You can work out what your points will be in each case by entering each scenario for your situation into the CRS calculator.
Will immigration ask me why my spouse is not accompanying me?
Yes, they will. Please don’t answer with “oh, it’s because I get more points without my spouse”. This is not a valid reason for Canadian Immigration Officers.
You need to present a valid reason. Eg – “my spouse has a great job and will only leave once I have established myself in Canada and then I’ll sponsor them”. Or, “my spouse is pregnant and wishes to have the baby at home with her family to support her”. Or, “my spouse is studying and will be sponsored to Canada once they finish their program” etc.
Things to remember before deciding on an accompanying or un-accompanying spouse?
1 – You must declare your marriage status regardless of if you are submitting an accompanying or un-accompanying application.
2- Your spouse will still have to submit documents such as their medical check, police check and other evidence with your application even though they are not moving with you at this point.
3 – You will still have to show proof of funds to cover your entire family – spouse and any children, even if they are not accompanying you to Canada at this time. Doing an un-accompanying application will not put this obligation off until they apply under spouse sponsorship in the future. You must meet this requirement at the time of your application. Make sure your funds are in the name of the spouse traveling to Canada or in joint accounts. Funds only in the name of the spouse not traveling to Canada will not be counted.
4 – You will not be able to apply to sponsor your spouse to Canada until you move there and are living there yourself. You can not get your PR visa then apply for your spouse before you move to Canada. You must be in Canada and be working, and you will need to show you can support your spouse. These applications can take over a year to process, so take into consideration that an unaccompanied application will mean a significant time living apart.
5 – It is easiest to do an accompanying application and all move on the one application. It also means that on arrival your spouse has the same rights as you. If you do an un-accompanying application then sponsor, you have to realize you must sign a 3-year obligation with the Government of Canada that you will support your spouse fully for 3 years after they arrive in Canada, this is even if you split up during that time.
If you arrive together this financial support obligation does not apply. Even though people don’t like to think the worst, moving to a new country can place stress on a relationship and things can happen. So just be aware of your obligations in each situation.
What about if both myself and my spouse have in-demand occupations? Who should be the lead applicant?
If you are in the fortunate situation that both you and your spouse have in-demand occupations for Canada then you have a couple of options.
First of all, check the points for Express Entry for an application with you as the main applicant, and then check the points for Express Entry for your spouse as the main applicant.
If only one of you qualifies under Express Entry as the main applicant then that solves the matter, have that person as your main applicant.
What about if we both qualify as the main applicant for an application in Express Entry?
In this case, it is best practice to submit two applications. One with you as the lead applicant and your spouse as the partner, the other with your spouse as the lead applicant and you as the partner. There is no disadvantage to making two applications. It is 100% legal and the normal way for people to follow this process. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain in this instance
I thought I could only have one application in Express Entry?
This is true, but it means you can only have one application as the main applicant. It is completely ok to be in one application as the main applicant and another application as the partner with your spouse as the main applicant.