If you are a Canadian permanent resident or citizen with a family member who wants to immigrate to Canada, you may be able to help them become a permanent resident. The Family Class Sponsorship Program reunites families by enabling adult permanent residents or citizens to sponsor a relative for immigration to Canada. To be eligible, the person seeking sponsorship must be a:
- Spouse, common-law or conjugal partner
- Dependent child
- Sibling, nephew, niece, or grandchild under 18 years who is unmarried and whose parents are deceased
- The person sponsored must live outside Canada, unless they are residing legally in Canada temporarily, for example with a work or study permit.
If you cannot qualify for any of the Family Sponsorship options, there are other immigration methods you should explore.
What is a Spouse/Partner?
Individuals under these categories are eligible for sponsorship:
- Spouse: legally valid marriage in country of origin and under Canadian law
- Common-law partner: At least 1 year of uninterrupted cohabitation in a conjugal relationship
- Conjugal partner: Conjugal relationship for at least 12 months (permanence and commitment similar to marriage or common-law) where couple is prevented from living together due to immigration barriers, religious reasons, sexual orientation or marital status (e.g. married to someone else, where divorce is not possible in country of origin)
- Same-sex relationships: considered valid for immigration purposes under these categories
What is a Dependent Child?
A child of the sponsor, or a child of the sponsor’s spouse or common-law partner, can be considered a dependent child if they are under age 22 and don’t have a spouse or common-law partner of their own. Children over age 22 can be dependents if they relied on their parents for financial support before age 22, and are unable to financially support themselves due to a mental or physical condition.
Children in sole custody of a previous spouse are still considered dependent children, and must be declared on the sponsorship application. If a dependent child being sponsored has one or more dependent children of their own, then the sponsor must prove their financial capacity by meeting a low income cut-off.
Who can Sponsor?
A sponsor must be an adult Canadian permanent resident or citizen over the age of 18. A sponsor must reside in Canada, unless they are a citizen currently living abroad and planning to reside in Canada once the sponsored individual arrives.
An individual may not sponsor if they:
- Are in prison
- Are subject to a removal order
- Are in the process of bankruptcy
- Receive social assistance from the government (except for disability)
- Have been convicted of (or attempted/threatened to commit) an offence of a violent or sexual nature, or resulting in bodily harm of a family member
- Have failed to pay child support payments
- Have failed to pay back immigration loans, or have made late or missed payments
- Have sponsored a family member in the past and failed to meet the terms
- Have sponsored a previous spouse or partner who has not been a permanent resident for more than 3 years
- Were themselves sponsored and became a permanent resident less than 5 years ago
- Other Requirements
Family Sponsorship Agreement
Notably, the sponsor must agree to financially support their family member in the case that their relative cannot provide for their own needs. This is to ensure that the new permanent resident will not require government assistance. The length of this financial obligation depends on the individual being sponsored:
- Spouse, common-law, or conjugal partner: 3 years
- Dependent child: 10 years OR when the child reaches age 22 (whichever comes first); 3 years for a dependent child over age 22.
- Parent or grandparent: 20 years
Note that this financial obligation does not disappear if the sponsored person becomes a citizen, divorces or separates from the sponsor, or moves away from Canada.
The sponsored individual is required to submit the results of a medical exam at the time of application, including biometrics for applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Applicants and each family member over age 18 must submit police certificates from the country where they have lived most of their life, in addition to any country where they resided for more than 6 months.
Quebec Family Sponsorship Requirements
The province of Quebec requires additional criteria for family sponsorship, after federal requirements are met. After applying for sponsorship, potential sponsors who live in Quebec will receive an email or letter with instructions to submit a special agreement to the Quebec government.
Fees to Immigrate Under Family Sponsorship
The Canadian government requires payment of sponsorship and processing fees for Family Class applications. There are many different catagories of fees for each type of sponsorship. Below are the fees for each type of Sponsorship application:
- Spouse, partner or children Immigration Sponsorship Fees
- Parents and Grandparent Immigration Sponsorship Fees
- Adopted Children and Other Relatives Immigration Sponsorship Fees
Additionally, there is a “Right of Permanent Residence Fee” for every sponsored relative who is not a dependent child – this is the only fee that will be refunded if the application is withdrawn or refused.
Other Options for Immigration
If an individual does not meet the requirements listed above and as a result does not qualify for Family Class Sponsorship, they may still be eligible to immigrate through the Express Entry system if they have experience or skill in a specific trade or occupation.
A number of provinces also offer family sponsorship through Provincial Nominee Programs; some have fewer requirements and allow sponsorship for more distant relatives.
To sponsor an adopted child, applications cannot be processed directly through the Family Class Sponsorship program. Adoptions are the responsibility of Canadian provinces and territories, so interested sponsors should inquire on their province or territory’s website before applying to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.