Immigration is essential to Canada's culture and economy. For years, Canada has prioritized welcoming immigrants into the country, particularly those facing hardship in their home countries. This emphasis on immigration helps Canada's productivity and diversity, allowing it to grow in recent years, and for years to come.
Reunifying families remains a priority for the Canadian immigration system. With family class immigration (FCI), Canada provides an opportunity for residents to assist family members with immigration via a sponsorship system. This system allows current Canadian citizens to support their family members as they attempt to relocate to Canada. Canada offers two types of sponsorship, which depend on the sponsor's familial relationship with the sponsee.
Immigration involves many complexities, so consulting a legal professional is essential if someone genuinely plans to consider applying for family-class immigration in Canada. Still, conducting external research can help applicants better understand the system and how to proceed. Also, they must consider multiple factors before even deciding whether to sponsor, so learning more about the responsibilities involved is a wise choice.
This article will provide helpful information about family class immigration to Canada and explain the basic steps involved in applying. But first, it's important to understand the basics, so the following sections will explain some key terms related to the family class immigration system.
Family class sponsorship refers to a specific type of immigration process in which a Canadian citizen vouches for or "sponsors" the applicant in their bid for immigration. This process can be complex, so it's crucial to explore the requirements thoroughly before applying firmly. Sponsoring someone is also an impactful decision, so applicants should always be well informed about what it entails before signing.
The two groups eligible for sponsorship include "spouses, partners, and children" and "parents and grandparents." Within those two groups there are two types of sponsorships available: In Canada Sponsorship Class, and Family Class (Outland) Sponsorship Class. Governed by the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the family class immigration system offers an excellent way for Canadian citizens to reunite with their family members still living abroad.
What Is Sponsorship?
Sponsorship is a crucial element of family class immigration in Canada. This term refers to the act of a Canadian citizen placing their support behind an application for immigration. However, citizens can only sponsor immediate family members, and the commitment to support is serious, so this type of immigration may not be ideal for every situation.
Eligibility Requirements to Sponsor a Spouse, Partner, or Child
There are minimum eligibility requirements that must be met in order to sponsor a loved one to come to Canada. They are as follows:
You must be at least 18 years of age
You must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
You must live in Canada, or plan on returning to Canada once your partner, spouse or child becomes a permanent resident
You must be able and willing to provide for your loved one(s) their financial security for a three year period
Income Requirements for Sponsorship Eligibility
Most sponsors won’t need to meet an income requirement to sponsor a spouse, partner, or child. However, you must provide proof that you have enough funds to meet basic income requirements if you plan to sponsor a dependent child with at least one child of their own. Proof of income is another requirement to sponsor a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner with a dependent child who has at least one child of their own.
The Canadian government uses a financial evaluation known as Form IMM 1283 to assess a sponsor’s financials. You must complete and submit the document with your application packet. Form IMM 1283’s instructions will tell you how much you’d have to make to meet basic income requirements.
Sponsorship is a big commitment, and the agreement itself is a 32-page document. So make sure you fully understand what it means before deciding whether or not to do it. As part of the process, both the sponsor and sponsee will need to sign a sponsorship agreement. This agreement serves as a binding legal document and states that the sponsor will provide financial support to the sponsee.
Financial support is often not needed if the immigrant can find employment in Canada quickly, it offers an important safety net for recent immigrants. While Canada welcomes immigrants, the country must also take crucial steps to ensure that the government does not have to bear the burden of the costs. The sponsorship agreement ensures that someone will support the applicant even if they face difficulty finding employment.
For certain sponsorship cases, the applicant may also need to complete an income check. This rule generally applies when the sponsee has dependent children of their own, although parents and grandparents also trigger the requirement. If the government requires this income check, the sponsor's income will need to match or exceed the nation's Low Income Cut-Off. As long as the sponsor meets the requirements, the application then proceeds as normal.
Important Note Regarding Quebec
This guide may not apply to immigrants planning to live in the province of Quebec. Since Quebec maintains separate immigration policies from the rest of Canada, it makes immigration to Quebec an intricate proposition. For this reason, this guide will focus exclusively on the Family Class Immigration System in the rest of Canada. If you plan to apply for immigration in Quebec, we recommend finding a guide about this specific process.
Quebec residents do not have to complete Form IMM 1283. Instead, the Quebec ministry regulating immigration will assess your income.
Who Is Not Eligible to Sponsor?
Certain conditions can render a citizen ineligible to sponsor an application for permanent residence. You cannot apply to become a sponsor if you cannot meet the basic eligibility requirements. Temporary residents in Canada under a study, visitor, or work permit are also ineligible, as are people waiting for their own permanent resident application approval. You cannot sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner if a previous spouse sponsored you to help you earn permanent residency in Canada less than five years ago. Also, you cannot be financially responsible for an earlier spouse or partner due to an old sponsorship. Other conditions for ineligibility are:
Those who are in prison
Those who have been convicted of any violent crime, or any domestic event involving a relative or a sexual offence. Details on this vary depending on the circumstances of the case
Having sponsored another relative in the past and did not meet the terms of the sponsorship agreement
Defaulting on an immigration loan, either through paying back, late or missed payments
Being in receipt of any social assisted funds, other than disability
Not yet released from bankruptcy status
Not paying child support or alimony payments
Who Can Be Sponsored?
The two categories for family class immigration sponsorship are "spouses, partners, and children" and "parents and grandparents." While these groups always remain covered, other secondary factors can make other people eligible. For example, if a Canadian citizen has no immediate family members that would be eligible for sponsorship, a family member such as a sibling or a nephew may be acceptable.
Types of Family Sponsorship
There are six categories of Family Sponsorship. All of the following categories require the same eligibility and application agreement processes. Here is who is eligible for sponsorship:
Your common law partner
Your conjugal partner
Your adopted child(ren)
Your parents or grandparents
How to Apply for Family Sponsorship
Applying for family sponsorship generally takes a few steps. First, you will check your eligibility to be a sponsor. If you meet the qualifications, you can get the application package that includes the list of required documents for you and the person you wish to sponsor and instructions on filling them out.
You will have application fees to pay, including processing fees for you and your relative, the right of permanent residence fee, and a biometrics fee. Third-party expenses for medical exams and police certificates may also be necessary.
After paying your required fees, you can follow the mailing instructions in your packet to submit your application. The paperwork will go to a designated Case Processing Centre based on your location. Let’s take a closer look at the steps:
Step 1: Ensure Eligibility
The first step toward family class immigration in Canada requires reviewing the eligibility requirements. By reading the above sections of this guide, you've already made an excellent start. Still, before filing your application, make sure to review all the relevant rules to ensure you and your family members meet all the eligibility requirements for the program.
The primary factors that impact eligibility include income level and the relationship between the sponsor and sponsee. It's important to remember that the government designed the family class immigration system to enable Canadian citizens to reunite with immediate family members. Because of this focus, eligible individuals typically must be a spouse or conjugal partner, child, or parent. Exceptions to this rule exist in cases where no immediate family is present, but this circumstance rarely arises.
Step 2: Gather Your Documents
It is imperative that all of the requested documents be provided during the application process. The Government of Canada provides a very handy document checklist to keep you organized. There may be some extenuating reasons why a required document cannot be submitted however a detailed explanation must be provided in writing as to why. Otherwise your application may be denied.
Please note: Covid-19 caused a backlog of mailed applications. All incomplete applications will be emailed back to the recipient provided that the Government has created a digitized copy.
Remember to keep note of the email address you provided and be sure to check it when:
When you are awaiting a decision on your application
When you may have documents or forms missing.
Use the previously mentioned document checklist to ensure that you are submitting all the correct documents. Select the checkbox that applies to your situation. If you are submitting documents that are in any other language other than French or English, the following must be provided along with your application (if your document checklist specifies otherwise, you do not have to submit it):
An official translation
A signed affidavit from the individual who translated the document
Certified, original copy of the document
Step 3: Filing Application and Filling Out Your Forms
Once you feel confident that you and your family members are eligible for family class immigration in Canada, it's time to file your applications. When applying, be sure to fill out each form completely and ensure all information is accurate and correct. Any mistakes or exclusions will result in the government returning your application to you for corrections, which can significantly delay the process, so take your time with each facet of the application. Sending the application to the correct Case Processing Centre (CPC) address also proves crucial, so check for current information before filing. Be sure to visit this link to find the correct one. It's important to note that the Canadian citizen must file the sponsorship application simultaneously with the family members' applications for permanent residency. Let’s take a look at what those forms are now for both the sponsor and sponsee.
Forms to Fill Out and Sign for Sponsors (if applicable)
Your document checklist will be a guideline for which of these forms apply to your situation.
It is important to note here that if you are 18 years of age and under, you must obtain your parent or legal guardians signature.
Validating Your Forms
The following forms have a “validate” button.
eIMM 5669 (Schedule A)
IMM 0008 (Generic Application Form for Canada)
IMM 1344 (Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking)
It is highly recommended to use a computer to fill out all of your forms. Doing so electronically ensures that all questions are answered and nothing is missed. If it is not possible to fill out your forms digitally, you must provide a written explanation as to why.
Once your forms are completed and validated, the system will produce bar codes. These barcodes must be placed below your checklist.
Step 4: Pay the Necessary Fees
Now that all of the necessary forms have been completed it is time to pay the fees. Please note that if your application is not accepted and you do not become a permanent resident, any and all fees will be reimbursed. It is recommended that the permanent resident fee be paid immediately. There is the option of paying it later on in the process however delaying payment may cause a delay in processing. Please see the table below to determine which fees apply to you. All amounts are quoted in Canadian dollars.
Sponsoring your spouse/partner
$1,080 Right of Permanent Resident Fee - $515, Principal Applicant Processing Fee - $490, Sponsorship Fee - $75
Sponsoring your spouse/partner without right of permanent residence fee
$155 (per child) Including any dependent children who have dependent child(ren) on their application - $155
$85 (per person) $170 (2 or more people)
Application Fee Methods of Payment
The following items are required for successful submission of your application fees. Please visit Online Payment and follow the instructions.
Credit Card, VISA Debit or VISA Mastercard
Access to a printer. This is in order to print your receipt - it is your proof of payment
A valid email address
Step 5: Review Your Application to Avoid Most Common Errors
Reviewing your application for accuracy is critical. If all required forms are not provided, the entire package will be sent back without being considered for processing and will not have a place in the procession queue.
All sponsors, in every category must:
Not use any type of staple, folders, albums or binders to submit their applications. Only paper clips are accepted and elastic bands for photos.
Provide original required documents and not copies.
Review requirements from your specific country before submitting
Complete all required sections of the forms that apply to you only
Ensure that all signature blocks are completed
Ensure that any address provided is written in full form and not abbreviated. I.e, ‘Street’, not St.
Step 6: Submit Your Application
For your own records, it is strongly recommended to make your own copy of your entire application package. You may need this information for reference purposes. There is a preferred order in which you should organize your application. They are:
Place the checklist on top of your application. This ensures that your submission is processed as quickly as possible.
If the individual you are sponsoring is also applying for an open work permit, place that second after your checklist.
The order of the entire package should be as follows:
Open work permit (and all applicable supporting documents)
All relevant barcode pages
All supporting document in the order they appear on the document checklist
How to Submit Your Application by Mail
There are specific addresses you must send your application package to, depending on the type of submission you are making.
If you are applying for dependent children, conjugal/common-law/spouse, send your application to:
CPC Sydney P.O. Box 9500 Sydney, NS B1P 0H5
If you are applying for a common-law partner or spouse who currently reside in Canada, under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, send your application to:
CPC Mississauga P.O. Box 5040, Station B Mississauga, ON L4Y 4H0
How to Submit Your Application by Courier
If you are applying for dependent children, conjugal/common-law/spouse, courier your application to:
CPC Sydney 49 Dorchester Street Sydney, NS B1P 5Z2
* This option is applicable for those who are applying for their spouse/common-law partner, and their partner resides here in Canada, but are using the overseas method.
If you are applying for a common-law partner or spouse who currently reside in Canada, under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, courier your application to:
CPC Mississauga 2 Robert Speck Parkway, Suite 300 Mississauga, ON L4Z 1H8
Step 7: Wait for Review
Once the applicant files all required forms, it will take time for the IRCC to process and review the information. Unfortunately, this process can take a long time, and the timing can vary depending on the nature of the relationship between the sponsor and sponsee. In addition, the location of the sponsee can also impact the length of the review process, so check this helpful tool to find out how long you should expect to wait.
Step 8: Signing Sponsorship Undertaking
Once the Canadian government accepts the application, it then requires the sponsor and sponsee to sign a sponsorship undertaking. This document, IM 1344, turns legal responsibility for the sponsee over to the sponsor. This responsibility means, in part, that the sponsor must repay any government assistance received by the sponsee during their time in Canada.
Divorce or other relationship status change does not change this responsibility, which means that the sponsor is financially responsible for the sponsee even if the parties cease contact entirely. Therefore, sponsorship reflects a meaningful commitment, so fully consider this decision before signing.
These undertakings serve as a second layer of protection for the Canadian government. While these undertakings are temporary, they place significant responsibility on the sponsor. For this reason, it is crucial to sponsor people you deem trustworthy and reliable. If the sponsee cannot support themselves, the sponsor must provide for the sponsee's basic needs.
Details of Sponsorship Undertakings
The most significant commitment involved with sponsorship, the undertaking, consists of a binding legal document that both the sponsor and sponsee must sign before proceeding with family class immigration in Canada. Sponsorship undertakings protect the Canadian government from spending excess money on services for recent immigrants, requiring the sponsor to repay any government benefits the sponsee receives.
This agreement places full responsibility for the sponsee's wellbeing upon the sponsor, which is a significant commitment. These needs include most basic necessities, including food, water, clothing, and shelter. The undertaking also covers specified health care services not covered by Canada's public health care plan. Generally, a sponsor should be prepared to provide all necessities for the sponsee if they cannot support themselves.
However, the undertaking also requires the sponsee to commit to making a consistent effort to support themselves, which provides some protection to sponsors. In applications involving children, someone with power of attorney can sign for them, but the expectation of financial support becomes far more substantial. However, sponsorship undertakings are less impactful in cases in which the sponsee is the offspring of the sponsor, as the parent-child relationship already implies most of the legal responsibilities afforded by these agreements.
The length of time the sponsorship undertaking stays in effect directly depends on the relationship between sponsor and sponsee. For example, the sponsorship undertaking for a spouse or conjugal partner lasts only three years. In comparison, it lasts twenty years for a parent or grandparent. Longer sponsorship undertakings involve more significant commitments, so check current information for the specific type of sponsorship you are considering.
With a signed undertaking and after the sponsee becomes a permanent resident, the undertaking is binding and cannot be withdrawn. The government does not consider changes in circumstances to be grounds for voiding an undertaking, so even divorced sponsors must still support their sponsee.
Problems That Can Delay the Process
IRCC may suspend the processing of an application for family class immigration if the sponsor faces legal trouble. While citizenship revocation proves particularly problematic, an accusation of any serious crime or offence can delay the proceedings. The applicant must settle these matters before the government can re-assess sponsorship eligibility, so any legal trouble can slow the proceedings.
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While this guide has already provided a lot of information regarding family class immigration in Canada, some situations may require slightly different approaches. Families can be complicated, and not everyone falls into simple categories. The following section will cover some special circumstances that can affect the process.
Adding New Family Members During Processing
Several events can lead to applicants needing to add family members to their application. These circumstances include the birth of a new child or a marriage, and the sponsor must provide notification when these changes occur. As long as the change does not impact FCI eligibility, IRCC will continue processing the application normally.
However, adding a family member to an application can slow the process in a few ways. First, the applicant must pay the associated fee for adding a person to the application and submitting any required verification documents. Additionally, if the CPC has concerns that the addition may impact the applicant's ability to meet the minimum necessary income (MNI), they may conduct a second financial assessment.
The CPC does not require this reassessment, so they will only investigate if they have concerns about the MNI. Conversely, this rule can favour applicants who previously fell short of the MNI. For example, in cases where the CPC has rejected an application based on income grounds, but a divorce or passing shrunk the family, the applicant can also request a reassessment.
Adopted Children or Planned Adoptions
For Canadian citizens planning to adopt a child, options may be available to acquire citizenship for the child without first pursuing permanent residency. However, to utilize this option, parents must first begin adoption proceedings with the relevant provincial authorities before submitting a sponsorship application to the CPC.
This sponsorship application is similar to other types of sponsorships discussed above. Still, it bypasses the permanent residency step entirely, allowing children adopted from abroad to begin their lives in Canada as full-fledged citizens. Parents must then keep the CPC updated on developments with the case, such as providing the name and information of children who were unnamed when the parent applied.
Adoption can be a complex process, so it's vital to stay in communication with the CPC if anything changes. For example, if the child initially intended for adoption is no longer available and the adoption agency finds a new candidate, the applicant must notify the CPC as soon as possible. As long as the CPC receives this notification quickly, they can adjust the application and continue processing without requiring additional fees.
By reading this guide, you can learn a lot about family class immigration in Canada. However, immigration reform legislation can change these rules dramatically, so be sure to stay updated on political developments in the nation that relate to immigration. Because things can change rapidly in the immigration process, make sure to do extensive research before starting.
While the immigration process can be complex and stressful, it's definitely worth it. Canada has a lot to offer and makes an incredible place to start or grow a family. From the beautiful cities to the friendly citizens, Canada is a country genuinely worth the effort of navigating the immigration process.
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