Canada is a welcoming place for new immigrants, and it shows; immigration accounts for about two-thirds of Canada’s population growth. As our population continues to age and fertility rates remain low, immigration should continue to be a key driver of population growth.
The Canadian government has separated applications for immigration into several classes. The Family class works to keep families together by allowing eligible Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their relatives as immigrants to Canada. Eligible relatives include children, parents, grandparents, and spouses or common-law partners.
You can sponsor your spouse or common-law partner if:
- You are over 18
- You are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
- The person you wish to sponsor meets the government’s qualifications
- You plan to continue residing in Canada
- You can prove you are able to support your partner financially
The Definition of “Common Law” in Ontario
For the purpose of immigration, a couple is defined as “common-law” if they’ve lived together in a conjugal relationship continuously for at least one year. It is the applicant’s responsibility to show that they’ve met these qualifications.
To do this, both the sponsor and the common-law partner will need to submit a Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation form. You’ll also need to show evidence that you have lived together for one year or more. This evidence may include:
- The deed a residential property that shows joint ownership
- Joint leases or rental agreements
- Bills for shared utility accounts (gas, electricity, telephone)
- Documents for each of you showing the same address (driver’s licenses, insurance policies)
- Identification documents
This is not a complete list, and you don’t have to provide every item here. Look at this document checklist to learn what you should submit with your application.
The Immigration Process for Common-Law Partners in Canada
Be careful about taking advice from friends who have gone through the Canadian immigration process, even if they came in under the family class, since the spousal sponsorship application process was changed in 2016. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has created a helpful infographic to help you understand the new process.
Immigration can be a lengthy process, and even though sponsorship under the family class is a high priority for the Canadian government, it can still take months or even years to complete. However, Canada’s immigration program is a well-traveled path, and as such has very clear and well-structured guidelines. The process may be slow, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Understanding Ontario’s Common Law Requirements Once You’re Here
After you and your partner have completed the immigration process, it’s important to understand what the common law guidelines are here in Ontario, since they may be different from the laws in your country of origin. Common-law partnerships have many of the same rights and privileges as legally married couples, but there are some crucial differences. For example, if you and your common-law partner split up, one of you could be required to pay alimony, even though you were never legally married. On the other hand, common-law partnerships do not guarantee any property rights, which could become an issue in the event of a breakup or one partner’s death.
For these reasons, it’s a very good idea to consult a lawyer to learn exactly what your rights are and to draw up some legal documents to protect your relationship. You don’t have to get married if you’d rather not; however, you should make sure your wills are up to date and draw up a cohabitation agreement. This document does not legally bind you to your partner, but it does solidify things like division of property and finances.
Also, keep in mind that if you’ve sponsored your partner as an immigrant to Canada, you are financially responsible for that person even if you break up. If your ex, as a new immigrant, receives any social assistance benefits, you will be required to reimburse the government for that amount.
Contact Galbraith Family Law for Expert Advice
Are you sponsoring a common-law partner as an immigrant to Canada? Call the lawyers at Galbraith Family Law to discuss the details of a common-law partnership and to set up a cohabitation agreement. Call (289) 802-2433 in the Newmarket area or (705) 302-1102 in Barrie. You can also send a message through our website.