How To Apply for a Spouse Visa in Canada 2024

    How To Apply for a Spouse Visa in Canada 2024

    Moving to a new country to be with your spouse can be an exciting but daunting process. As an immigration lawyer who has helped hundreds of clients through the spouse sponsorship process, I want to share my knowledge to help guide you every step of the way.

    In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about applying for a spouse visa in Canada, from eligibility requirements to completing your application.

    Let’s get started!

    The Spousal Sponsorship Process

    Before diving into the nitty gritty of your application, it’s important to have a high-level overview of how the spouse sponsorship system works in Canada.

    The goal of spouse sponsorship is for your Canadian spouse/partner to sponsor you, their foreign spouse/partner, to become a permanent resident of Canada. This allows you to live and work anywhere in Canada without restrictions.

    There are two main categories for spouse sponsorship:

    Spouse In-Canada Class: If you are already living in Canada with a valid temporary resident status (work permit, study permit, etc.), your spouse can sponsor you from within Canada.

    Spouse Outland Class: If you are living abroad, your Canadian spouse will need to sponsor you from outside of Canada. You would then apply for your permanent residence from your home country.

    The application process and requirements are generally the same for both classes, with just a few differences I’ll point out. Now that you have the broad strokes, let’s dive into the nitty gritty specifics.

    Eligibility Requirements for Spousal Sponsorship

    Before putting in all the work on your application, it’s critical to ensure you meet the basic eligibility criteria. This includes requirements for both you (the sponsored spouse) and your Canadian sponsoring spouse.

    Requirements for the sponsored spouse:

    • You must be legally married to, or in a common-law partnership with, a sponsoring spouse who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
    • You must intend to live together in a legitimate marriage or common-law relationship.
    • You cannot have a removal order to leave Canada in effect.
    • You must meet the minimum language requirements in English or French.

    Requirements for the sponsoring Canadian spouse:

    • They must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
    • They must be at least 18 years of age.
    • They must live in Canada (unless outside Canada for studies or work).
    • They must sign an undertaking stating they will financially support you for 3 years.
    • Their combined household income must meet the Low-Income Cut Offs (LICOs) amounts for your family size.
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    Check everything carefully to confirm you’re eligible before progressing with your application. Let’s explore these eligibility criteria in more depth.

    Understanding Common-Law vs Marriage

    Many people assume spousal sponsorship only applies to legally married couples. However, common-law partners have equal status under Canadian immigration law.

    To qualify as common-law, you must have cohabited together in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months. Alternatively, you can have a child together through birth or adoption.

    During the sponsorship process, you’ll need evidence that proves the nature and duration of your common-law relationship, such as:

    • Joint bank accounts, credit cards or loans
    • Joint ownership of property
    • Birth certificates of common children
    • Statutory declarations from family/friends

    Make sure to compile relevant documents early on to establish your common-law status if applicable. Other than providing additional evidence, common-law applicants follow the same application process and requirements as married spouses.

    Proving the Genuineness of Your Relationship

    Immigration officials will assess whether your relationship is genuine or one of convenience to obtain status in Canada. Therefore, you’ll need to submit evidence demonstrating the legitimacy and authentic nature of your relationship.

    The stronger the proof, the better your chances of approval. Important relationship evidence includes:

    • Wedding photos, marriage certificate or common-law documentation
    • Copies of letters, emails or chat history spanning your entire relationship
    • Photographs together from different stages of your relationship
    • Records of joint travels and living arrangements
    • Gift receipts or cards you’ve exchanged over the years

    Review your relationship timeline and gather any tangible artifacts available. Strong proof of genuine affection and commitment go a long way when proving your sponsorship case.

    Language Requirements for Spousal Sponsorship

    To maintain social and economic independence in Canada, sponsored spouses are required to meet minimum level language ability in English or French.

    Specifically, you must provide proof demonstrating CLB 4 ability in all four competencies: listening, speaking, reading and writing. This refers to the benchmarks set by the Canadian Language Benchmarks.

    Acceptable proof can include:

    • An assessment from a designated testing agency
    • Nationally or internationally recognized certificates from accredited institutions
    • Letter from a language school stating you’re enrolled in sufficient classes to achieve CLB 4

    Meeting language requirements upfront saves time. Consider beginning language training early if needed to ensure you’re ready to meet this criteria when applying. Study resources are available to help boost your skills.

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    Financial Requirements for Sponsorship

    As the sponsor, your Canadian spouse must demonstrate financial capacity to support your family. They need to sign a formal undertaking confirming this commitment.

    The Low-Income Cut Offs (LICOs) published by Statistics Canada set the minimum income thresholds your household needs to exceed. These figures vary according to family size and location within Canada.

    Examples of 2020 LICO amounts before taxes for select family sizes:

    • 1 person household in Toronto: $26,233
    • 2 person household in Halifax: $27,877
    • 4 person household in Edmonton: $41,672

    In addition to meeting LICOs, sponsors must show they can continue supporting you after landing in Canada. Consider sharing proof of steady employment, assets, benefits, or a combination thereof.

    Carefully assess your household finances to confirm you satisfy these requirements before submitting your application. Extra documents bolstering financial means adds strength to your evidence.

    Compiling Your Spousal Sponsorship Application

    Now that you understand the criteria, it’s time to start gathering your documentation package. This forms the backbone of your application, so be scrupulously thorough.

    Key evidence generally includes:

    • Completed application forms (IMM 5409, IMM 5707, Schedule A)
    • Relationship proof (photos, letters, chat logs, gifts)
    • Marriage or common-law certificate
    • Language assessment results
    • Police clearances for both parties
    • Birth certificates, passports, ID pages
    • Employment letters and paystubs
    • Property records, bills, bank statements
    • Sponsor’s tax returns and proof of income

    Arrange supporting docs methodically by form section. Consider obtaining certified English translations where needed. Cross-check against eligibility checklists to ensure nothing is missing.

    Take the time to double check your package is complete before submitting. An incomplete application risks delays or refusal. Once polished, you’re ready for the next crucial steps.

    Medical Exams and Police Clearances

    Alongside your application, you’ll need to undergo a medical examination with an authorized physician. This screens for any conditions preventing you from qualifying as a permanent resident on health grounds.

    For sponsored spouses, the police certificate requirements also apply to both you and your sponsoring spouse. Request certificates from all countries/municipalities you’ve lived in over the past 10 years (including Canada, if applicable).

    Proactively obtain your medical and police documents early. They tend to have long processing times, and your application can’t be finalized without them. Book medical exams 1-2 months in advance for ample scheduling flexibility.

    Send your completed application package along with all accompanying documents to the appropriate Visa Application Centre or Canadian processing office. From here, your case officially embarks on the adjudication track.

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    What to Expect During Application Processing

    Depending on current processing volumes at IRCC, you can expect a standard processing range of 6-12 months to review your spouse sponsorship case. Some key stages include:

    • Application receipt and completeness review
    • In-depth evaluation of your relationship evidence and eligibility criteria
    • Spouse interview (in-Canada applications only)
    • Sponsor interview, if applicable
    • Security and criminality screening
    • Request for additional documentation, if needed
    • Final decision made on your permanent residence approval

    While waiting, ensure you and your sponsor maintain valid temporary status if in Canada. Promptly respond to any requests from officers. Patience and an organized approach serve applicants well throughout processing.

    Approved applicants are issued the all-important permanent resident visa. While landing in Canada initiates your permanent status as a resident. Let’s examine the final steps for completing the process.

    Receiving Your Permanent Residence and Landing in Canada

    After approval, the immigration authorities will mail your Permanent Resident visa to your provided address. Your visa grants you status to land, or officially immigrate, to Canada.

    For spouse applicants approved from inside Canada, you simply retain your valid temporary status while awaiting your visa. Once received, you have fulfilled the sponsorship process – congratulations!

    If approved while outside Canada through the Outland class, use your visa to clear Canadian immigration at the port of entry. Make sure to carry all relevant documents like passports, landing letters, proof of medical insurance, and funds for settlement.

    At the border, the officer will confirm your identity and permanent resident status. You’ll receive your permanent resident card shortly after arriving. This card serves as proof of your status as a Canadian resident.

    As a new permanent resident, you enjoy nearly all the same rights and responsibilities as citizens. This includes free access to health care, working any job, owning property, sponsoring additional family, and remaining in Canada indefinitely.

    However, it’s important to reside in Canada for at least two years within a five year period to retain your permanent resident status. Consider your next steps to successfully settle in your new home and community.

    If you follow this comprehensive guide, you have the full picture of what’s involved to sponsor your spouse or partner as a permanent resident of Canada.

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