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It’s been a long road

You’ve spent immeasurable quantities of time traveling back and forth between cities, making the most of every moment spent together, sharing your lives over the phone and video chat. You’ve sent postcards, care packages, and countless voice notes. Now, it’s time to close the gap in your long-distance relationship and start the next chapter of your lives together.

If you are a Canadian who wants to sponsor a foreign partner along the path to permanent residency, you have two options:

  1. Sponsor them as a spouse (legally married)
  2. Sponsor them as a common-law spouse (not married)

We’ll be breaking down the eligibility criteria and general application process for both options. Both paths lead to permanent residency for your other half, and after five years, the opportunity to apply for citizenship.

Can I sponsor my partner without a lawyer?

Yes – you’re under no obligation to work with an immigration specialist. However, the Canadian government scrutinizes spousal and common-law sponsorships to an extreme degree, since they are very wary of fraud. 

A single error on a single document can have your application packet rejected, at which point you will need to start from scratch. We strongly recommend working with a lawyer in order to avoid delays, especially since the process still takes at least one year, if not more, if everything goes smoothly.

Who can become a sponsor?

Any Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered in Canada under the Canadian Indian Act who is at least 18 years old may sponsor a partner. You must also be living in Canada. If you are a citizen, you can live abroad during the application process, but you will need to provide proof that you plan to be in Canada when your sponsor becomes a permanent resident.

What is the difference between a spouse and common-law spouse?

A spouse is someone to whom you are legally married. A common-law relationship, as defined by immigration law, is someone with whom you have been cohabiting for at least one consecutive yearnot intermittently

For example, if you live together for 12 months in a row, you will be viewed as common-law. If you live together for 6 months, live apart for a few months, then live together for another 6 months, you will not be viewed as common-law. 

Brief separations are permitted within the consecutive year, such as a work trip or a family obligation, but they must be short and infrequent. After a couple has lived together for one consecutive year, they may live apart for periods of time while still maintaining a common-law relationship – however, no matter the situation, common-law partners lose their status if they live apart for more than 6 months.

Sponsors in Quebec: a two-tiered approval process

Quebec has some additional requirements for spousal and common-law sponsorships. Applicants must first submit their candidacy to the federal government, and if they meet the requirements at that level, they will then receive an email or letter with instructions to download Quebec’s sponsorship kit.

Can my partner work and live in Canada while the application is being processed?

If your spouse or common-law partner will be living with you in Canada while their application is being processed, they can apply for an open work permit in tandem with their permanent residency application. This means they will be able to work and live in Canada for as long as the packet is in the government’s hands. 

How to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner

Step 1: Download your application package

As with any immigration application, there are a number of documents both the sponsor and applicant will need to fill out. You will also need to include the provided checklist with your application packet.

Step 2: Arrange and complete your documents

Go over the checklist to understand which documents apply to your specific situation. You must be absolutely sure about the paperwork you need to submit – if a single document is incomplete or not included, your packet will be sent back to you.

Proof of relationship

One of Immigration Canada’s main concerns is that your marriage or marriage-like relationship is legitimate. Along with all of the legal forms required for this type of application, you will need to provide:

  • A one-page story that contextualizes your relationship
  • Photos
  • Letters from family, friends, neighbours, employers, etc. that attest to the validity of your relationship
  • Screenshots of past communications (WhatsApp, Messenger, texts, etc.)
  • A lease with both of your names on it

If you do not have a lease together: The applicant should provide extensive bank records that prove the majority of their daily transactions – groceries, entertainment, bus passes, etc. – have been taking place in Canada (barring occasional short-term travel). This is especially important for common-law applicants who must prove they have been living together.

Best practices

  • Choose photos that show a variety of scenarios. Some can be of the couple on their own, others should include family and friends. It’s best to include photos that show travel, activities, events, and life experiences being lived together.
  • Write a caption for every photo. This gives you an opportunity to provide additional background and elaborate on your story. Also caption your communications screenshots to describe the life situation that was unfolding at the time.
  • When it comes to letters, more is more. It’s best to have at least 10 letters from a very diverse range of people who are close to both you and your partner.
  • Bear in mind that the easier you make it for the immigration officer to contextualize your relationship, the better your chances will be of getting approved. If ever you identify an opportunity to provide additional information or dive into greater detail, do it.

Step 3: Pay your fees

The total cost of sponsoring a partner is $1,050. This includes the sponsorship fee ($75), principal applicant processing fee ($475), and right of permanent residence fee ($500). When the applicant undergoes their biometric exam, an additional $85 fee will apply at that time.

Sponsors who live in Quebec will need to take additional fees into account for the provincial leg of the approval.

Step 4: Send it off

After you have thoroughly reviewed every form and document for errors or omissions, it will be time to send it off.

There is a specific order in which your documents must be organized:

  • Checklist
  • Open work permit application (if applicable)
  • Barcode pages
  • Supporting documents in the same order as they are listed on the checklist

If your partner is living with you in Canada, send the completed packet to:

CPC Mississauga

P.O. Box 5040, Station B

Mississauga, ON

L4Y 4H0


If they are living outside of Canada at the time of your application, send the packet to:

CPC Sydney

P.O. Box 9500

Sydney, NS

B1P 0H5

After you apply

To learn more about how long it might take before you get an answer, you can visit this page for current processing times. In some cases, Immigration Canada will want to interview the applicant – if so, they will contact you in writing with further details.

Once your documents are submitted, all that is left to do is wait! Once your partner’s candidacy is approved, you will need to submit a photo that meets certain requirements (i.e. a passport photo) for their permanent resident card.

Why roll the dice on your future?

There’s a lot riding on any spousal or common-law sponsorship, from your future happiness to your ability to enjoy life as a couple. Don’t leave it up to chance: reach out to the team at Exeo to tell us about your current situation and learn more about how we can help.

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