Sponsorship Can Be Used To Legalize Status In Canada

Under Citizenship and Immigration public policy, a person being sponsored in the Spouses and Common-Law Partners in Canada Class by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is no longer required to have legal residency status in Canada. This is very good news for these persons, because it means that spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, regardless of their status in Canada, are now allowed to remain in Canada while their immigration application is being considered. 

This change applies to couples that are in a genuine relationship. It addresses real concerns about the hardships that couples would experience if they had to be separated during the application process, since previously, the spouse or common-law partner who was in Canada illegally had to leave Canada first and only then apply to be sponsored by his or her spouse or common-law partner.

Incidentally, this change applies also to same-sex partners. Same-sex couples’ access to civil marriage was extended throughout Canada on July 20, 2005, under the Civil Marriage Act.

Canada Immigration recognizes the validity of civil marriages between a foreign national and his or her Canadian citizen or permanent resident same-sex partner, and therefore these persons can take advantage of the policy as well.

Under the policy, if a person who is in Canada illegally happens to meet and fall in love with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada of the same or opposite sex, and the couple then either live together for one year or get married, that person no longer needs to apply for permanent residence on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Because processing times under the new policy are shorter, the person may be exempt from some of the financial and medical requirements, and the chances of success are greatly enhanced. The sponsored person can alsoinclude other family members who are in Canada or in another country in the application for permanent residence under the new policy.

Where a person has been working or studying in Canada without a permit for several years, he or she can also apply to become a permanent resident under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class, as can persons who have overstayed their visitor visas. Even if the person is a failed refugee claimant, and that person subsequently lives with a common-law partner for one year, or if the person marries, that person can also apply in this class and can obtain permanent residence of Canada without having to leave Canada first.

Sponsorship has been an effective tool for many years, for Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada, for bringing and sponsoring family members from overseas to Canada.

Aside from the above sponsorship situation where spouses and common-law partners can sponsor their partners, Canadian citizens and permanent residents living in Canada who are 18 years of age or older may sponsor other close relatives or family members who want to become permanent residents of Canada. Sponsors must promise to support the relative or family member and his or her accompanying family members for a period of three to ten years to help them settle in Canada. Sponsoring family members other than spouses and common-law partners already living in Canada, however, is done through one of the Canadian visa posts overseas.

A Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada can sponsor relatives or family members (in addition to the above described Class) from abroad if they are his or her:
  • spouse, common-law or conjugal partner 16 years of age or older
  • parents or grandparents
  • dependent children, including adopted children
  • children under 18 years of age whom the person intends to adopt
  • brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces or grandchildren who are orphans, under the age of 18 and not married or in a common-law relationship
  • relative of any age if the person does not have an aunt, uncle or family member from the list above who could be sponsored or who is already a Canadian citizen, Indian or permanent resident
The definitions are important here, since a son or daughter are only deemed “dependent” when the child:
  • is under the age of 22 and does not have a spouse or common-law partner
  • is a full-time student and is substantially dependent on a parent for financial support since before the age of 22, or since becoming a spouse or common-law partner (if this happened before age 22)
  • is financially dependent on a parent since before the age of 22 because of a disability
A sponsor in any of the above-listed category of relatives or family members, may have to meet certain income requirements. If that person has previously sponsored relatives or family members who have received social assistance following sponsorship, that person may not be allowed to sponsor another person. If the sponsor lives in any province in Canada except Quebec and wishes to sponsor a relative or family member, the person must sign an undertaking with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, as well as a sponsorship agreement with his or her relative or family member that outlines their mutual commitments. To adopt a child from another country, the sponsor must go through both the adoption process and the sponsorship process.

Once the Immigration Department is in the process of deciding the sponsorship, it may require an interview or additional information and documentation before it can make a decision in the application process. If an interview is needed, the department will notify the persons involved in writing in advance of the date, time and location of the interview as well as of the documents that must be brought to the interview.

At the interview, the officer may ask about the relationship between the sponsor and the person being sponsored, their reasons for emigrating, and about the family connections to establish not only that there is a family relationship but also that the relationship in the case of spouses and common-law partners is genuine and continuing. The persons may also be questioned to determine their ability to settle successfully in Canada.

In cases where the sponsored person is already in Canada while the applications are in process, as a general practice, Canada Immigration will advise these persons in writing when they are eligible to apply for a work or study permit. However, if they already hold a work or study permit and want to maintain their status as temporary residents, they may apply to extend their permits.

If the sponsored persons meet all requirements, they and their dependent children will receive permanent resident status in Canada. If persons have dependent children outside of Canada whom they intend to have join them in Canada, they will be issued a visa that will allow them to enter Canada. Once they arrive at a Canadian port of entry, they will also receive permanent resident status. The sponsored person and his or her dependent children will then have the right to live, study and work in Canada for as long as they remain permanent residents, and will be entitled to most social benefits accorded to Canadian citizens. They may then apply for Canadian citizenship three years after becoming permanent residents.

While permanent residents, these persons will have the same legal obligations as citizens, such as paying taxes and respecting other laws. There are some limitations on permanent residents, such as the fact that they cannot vote in certain elections, that they may be ineligible for certain jobs requiring high-level security clearances, and if they or their dependent children commit a serious crime, they risk being deported from Canada.
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