New Policies to Speed Up Reunification for Spouses, Common-Law Partners and Dependent Children in Family Class Sponsorship Applications

Important: If you are considering filing an application, it is important to first consult with a lawyer regarding your and your family’s particular circumstances. This article contains very general information about options, rules and criteria, but may not apply in every situation. There may be exceptions to rules or exemptions available for missed requirements. This is legal information and not legal advice. If you need further information or need legal advice, please call our Intake Line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 or complete our online Intake Form.

Visitor visas and work permits

On May 26, 2023, the Immigration Minister, Hon. Sean Fraser, announced measures to help overseas spousal sponsorship applicants (this category includes a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner) join their spouses in Canada and enter the Canadian workforce more quickly. These measures invite spousal sponsorship applicants and dependent children to apply for temporary resident visas and open work permits relatively soon after submitting a complete permanent residence application under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class (SPCLC) or other family class programs.

Limited to Family Class sponsorships

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made this policy specifically for spouses and children in the context of Family Class sponsorship applications, but without mentioning whether these options are available to spouses and children in other permanent residence categories – such as Protected Persons or the One-Year Window of Opportunity.  The Protected Persons application is for Convention refugees adjudicated in Canada to apply for permanent residence, and the One-Year Window of Opportunity is for Convention refugees adjudicated overseas to request permanent residence for their eligible family members.

The Family Class spousal and dependent children sponsorship application has distinct eligibility criteria, obligations and beneficial policies.

Eligibility to sponsor

To qualify as a sponsor, a person must be:

  • a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • at least 18 years of age
  • able to provide for their family’s basic needs, including themselves and family members who will joint them

A prospective sponsor should not:

  • be receiving social assistance other than disability, for the duration of the application
  • fail to pay back an immigration loan
  • fail to pay court-ordered alimony or child support
  • have declared bankruptcy not yet discharged
  • be convicted of crimes of a violent or sexual nature

Where a prospective sponsor previously sponsored another person, the sponsor should not:

  • owe money to the province for failing to provide basic needs to the person they previously promised to support, who then had to turn to social assistance
  • be within the three-year undertaking period of a prior spousal sponsorship.

Prospective sponsors who got permanent residence through sponsorship by a former spouse or partner, must wait five years after they were granted permanent residence to sponsor a new spouse or partner.

Eligible applicants

In a Family Class spousal or child sponsorship, sponsors may sponsor their:

  • spouse – person to whom the sponsor is legally married by both the rules of where the marriage took place and in Canada.
  • common-law partner – a conjugal partner with whom the sponsor has cohabited continuously for the period of one year.
  • conjugal partner – a person living outside of Canada, who has been in a conjugal relationship with the sponsor for at least one year.
  • dependent children – biological children under the age of 22 who are not married or in a common-law partnership; or if over the age of 22, have been financially dependent on the sponsor from before age 22 due to a mental or physical condition.

Undertaking to provide for basic needs

A sponsor in a successful spousal sponsorship application must sign an undertaking to provide for the basic needs:

  • of a sponsored spouse or partner for the period of three years
  • of a dependent child who becomes a permanent resident under the age of 22, for the earlier of 10 years or the child’s 25th birthday
  • of a dependent child who becomes a permanent resident at age 22 or older, for three years

If the sponsored spouse, partner or dependent child needs to go onto social assistance during the period of the undertaking, the provincial government will require the sponsor to pay it back.

Special policies for Family Class sponsorship applications

As discussed, IRCC has offered some beneficial options for spouses and children in sponsorship applications that are not available with other permanent residence applications:

  • Undeclared spouse or dependent child: Until September 9, 2023, a special public policy exemption is available to permit sponsorship of a previously undeclared spouse, partner or dependent child. Ordinarily, failure to declare a family member would bar their sponsorship for life (see here). At this time, there have been no announcements about extension of this policy. More information here.
  • Visitor visas: A new approach to achieving faster temporary resident visa processing for overseas spouses and dependents, estimated to be within 30 days, and with greater consideration for earlier family reunification.  Temporary resident permits have routinely been refused on grounds that spouses are unlikely to leave Canada after entering; however, IRCC boasts that under the new approach, 98% of applications have been approved. More information here.
  • Work permits: Open work permits for spouse, partners and dependent children once they are in Canada with valid temporary resident status and living at the same residential address as the sponsor. The public policy is already in effect and will remain so until revoked. More information here. You can also find information about the application process online here.  Depending on your circumstances, it may be beneficial to seek legal advice before submitting an application.

This is legal information and not legal advice. If you need further information or need legal advice, please call our Intake Line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 or complete our online Intake Form.