The Definition of Family Member

*Note: Information current to July 25th, 2022.
A ‘family member’ can mean different things to different people. In the context of immigration, the Canadian government has set their own definition for what it means in terms of applications regarding sponsorship. 
In general, a ‘family member’ can include:
– Your spouse/partner;
– Your dependent children, and;
– Dependent children of dependent children.
What is meant by ‘spouse’?
– Legal spouse: 
o You married at City Hall or in a civil ceremony using an official who is registered to perform marriages in your country
o You married in a faith ceremony in your country where it was also registered (this can include a nikah, a kalyanam, a nissu’in, or other ceremonies)
o Your spouse must be at least 18 years old
– Common-law spouse/partner:
o In Canada, it is someone you are in an intimate relationship with, who you have been living with for over 12 months and are not legally married to.
 For example: You lived with your spouse/partner from January 2021, and you still live with then in July 2022
o Very brief separations are allowed but it must be within short and temporary periods
 For example: Not living in the same home for a short period of time because of family obligations, such as caring for a sick relative or because of work- or business-related travel
o This can be with someone of the same sex
o Your spouse must be at least 18 years old
– Conjugal spouse/partner:
o Someone who you are in a relationship with for at least one year, but they live outside of Canada
o They cannot marry or live with you in their country because of significant legal and immigration reasons
 For example: they live in a country where divorce is not permitted, or you are of different religious faiths and that would put you in danger
o This can be with someone of the same sex
o Your spouse/partner must be at least 18 years old
What is meant by ‘dependent children’?
– A dependent child is defined as: 
o Under 22 years old and not married legally or with a common law spouse
o Older than 22 years old only if:
 They cannot financially support themselves due to mental/physical problems AND the parents have been supporting them since before they turned 22
– Your dependent child can also bring their dependent child (your grandchild), but that child must also meet the definition of a dependent child 
o For example: you are sponsoring your legal spouse and your daughter by that spouse who is under 18, that daughter is unmarried and has a 2-year-old baby. All three of them can be put on the sponsorship application
What else should I know?
– Adopted children or orphaned family members have a different application that can be very complex and needs to be reviewed by someone in the legal profession
– Parents and grandparents need a different application and are not a part of the family member definition
For more information, or if you have questions about options available for you, please visit the IRCC Glossary Webpage (click here: or contact our clinic at 416-441-1764 ext. 1.