Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) views family reunification as a foundational pillar in Canadian immigration. When individuals seek to bring their spouse or partner to Canada through family class sponsorship, IRCC must ensure the relationship’s legitimacy.
The reason behind these stringent assessments is the possibility of foreign nationals attempting to enter into fraudulent relationships with Canadian citizens or permanent residents solely to gain Canadian permanent resident status. While the sponsor genuinely believes in the authenticity and commitment of the marriage or partnership, the foreign national might have ulterior motives. Such situations can have both emotional and financial ramifications for the sponsor.
Adding to the complexity, sponsors must sign an undertaking to provide financial support to their partner for three years starting from the day the partner attains permanent resident status. This commitment remains binding even if the relationship dissolves during this period.
In summary, IRCC’s rigorous evaluation of relationships in spousal sponsorship applications safeguards the integrity of Canadian immigration and prevents potential exploitation of the system.
Canadian citizens or permanent residents might also endeavor to establish a transactional association, faking a relationship with a foreign national in return for compensation.
Demonstrating the authenticity of a genuine relationship requires submitting various documents when sponsoring a spouse or partner. In cases where an immigration officer requires further confirmation, the couple might be summoned for an interview at an IRCC office. This interview could involve separate discussions with both the sponsor and the applicant.
Should an officer remain unconvinced about the relationship’s legitimacy, the foreign national will not meet the criteria for sponsorship eligibility.
Validating the Authenticity of a Relationship
The department requests documentation from all couples, regardless of gender, including same-sex couples, as evidence of the authentic nature of their relationship. The documents required can differ based on whether the couple is legally married or in a common-law partnership in Canada.
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A married couple needs to provide several official documents, including:
- The application package includes a completed Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation questionnaire (IMM 5532).
- Marriage certificate.
- Proof of marriage registration with a government authority (local, provincial, state, or country).
- Evidence of divorce if either the applicant or spouse was previously married.
- Long-form birth certificates or adoption records with parents’ names if the principal applicant and sponsor share children.
- Wedding invitations and photographs.
- When the foreign national’s country doesn’t recognize a same-sex couple’s marriage, they should apply under the common-law relationship category. Due to visa constraints, they can consider using them as conjugal partners if living together isn’t feasible.
In Canada, a common-law relationship is when an unmarried couple lives together in a conjugal partnership for at least one year. They must submit the same documentation as married couples (minus wedding photos and invitations), as well as the following:
- documentary evidence of financial support between the principal applicant and sponsor, and/or shared expenses; and
- Friends and/or family recognizing the relationship can provide additional evidence (e.g., letters, social media information) showing a public connection.
Further, for married and common-law relationships, a sponsor and principal applicant are expected to provide items from at least two of the following documents.
- proof of joint ownership of residential property.
- rental agreement showing both the sponsor and principal applicant as occupants of a rental property
- proof of joint utility accounts (e.g., electricity, gas, telephone, internet), common credit card accounts, or mutual bank accounts
- vehicle insurance showing that both the principal applicant and sponsor have been declared to the insurance company as residents of the insured’s address
- copies of government-issued documents for the principal applicant and sponsor showing the same address (e.g.: driver’s licenses)
- other documents issued to the principal applicant and sponsor showing the same address, whether the accounts are held jointly or not (e.g. cell phone bills, pay stubs, tax forms, bank or credit card statements, insurance policies)
Couples must provide a detailed written explanation if they cannot provide at least two of these documents.
To establish cohabitation as conjugal partners in Canada, couples can provide:
- Joint bank accounts or credit cards.
- Shared ownership of a residential property.
- Joint residential leases.
- Collective rental receipts.
- Mutual utility accounts (electricity, gas, telephone).
- Collaboration in managing household expenses.
- Proof of joint purchases, particularly for household items.
- Correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address.
- Essential documents for both parties displaying identical addresses, like identification, driver’s licenses, and insurance policies.
- Shared responsibility for household chores and management.
- Phone call records.
If the couple doesn’t cohabit in Canada, they should demonstrate previous cohabitation of at least one year by:
- Providing evidence of communication through letters, printed text messages, emails, social media discussions, or related records, totaling a maximum of 10 pages.
- Presenting proof of visits by the Canadian citizen or permanent resident through flight tickets, boarding passes, and passport copies with stamps. In cases of unfeasible visits, the sponsored individual must explain in the IMM 5532 questionnaire (Part C, question 4).
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