Are you and your partner hoping to live together permanently in Canada someday? Have you and your partner already been living together for more than a year? If so, you may qualify as a common-law partnership. If you legally qualify as common-law partners, you may be eligible to apply for spousal sponsorship as common law partners, and achieve your dreams of living together permanently. Oftentimes, people believe that because they are not legally married, they do not have the option of applying for spousal sponsorship, however, this is not the case. As mentioned, if you meet the requirements of a legal common-law relationship, you may be eligible to sponsor your significant other, and help them achieve permanent residency. This article will help you understand the legal requirements of a common law relationship, and what you can expect the process of sponsoring a common-law partner to look like.
To officially be considered to be in a common-law relationship, you and your partner must have been living together for at least one full year, and be engaged in a conjugal relationship. To be living together and have both you and your partners affairs taken care of together, is considered cohabitating. Cohabitation is the legal requirement of a common law relationship. You cannot claim legal common law status if you and your partner have lived together intermittently for periods of time which add up to one year. The key is that you have lived together continuously for a full year. If you must spend time living apart, it must be short and justified by the circumstances; such as a family or business obligation. The relationship between you and your partner must also meet the standards of a legal marriage. For example, your relationship must be monogamous, and both individuals must be over the age of 18. If you and your partner began living together before either of you turned 18, the one year period you must live together does not begin until you are both 18 years old.
1. Individuals who are still legally married.
It is important to be able to recognize whether or not your relationship qualifies legally, and while this seems fairly straight forward, there are some scenarios which make it slightly more difficult to understand the status of your relationship. For example, if one of the individuals in the relationship is still legally married to another individual. In this case, you may still qualify as a common-law partnership. If the individual who is still legally married has been formally separated from their spouse for at least one year, and during this time you have been living with your significant other engaged in a conjugal relationship, your status as legally married does not affect your status as a partner in a legal common law relationship. However, if the individual in the marriage is still engaging in a conjugal relationship with their spouse, the common law relationship will not be legally recognized.
2. Individuals who have been in a legal common law relationship in the past.
Somewhat similar to this, it may be the case that one of the two partners has been in a legal common law relationship in the past. This also does not stop you from having your current relationship recognized as a legal common law relationship, but it will require you to prove to an immigration officer that your previous relationship has ended over a year ago, and during this time you have been cohabitating with your current partner.
The Canadian government understands that sometimes it is the case that partners cannot live together due to circumstances out of their control. If it is the case for you that you as a sponsor live in Canada, and your partner must live abroad, and you had previously lived together for 12 consecutive months, the break in cohabitation does not do away with your common law status. For example, if one individual must leave due to the death or illness of a family member, or as the result of war within their country, they may do so and still be considered to be in a common law relationship, so long as both individuals intend to begin cohabitating again as soon as possible. Canadian immigration officers expect that if this is our circumstance, you can provide evidence of an on-going relationship and intent to stay together.
As a result of not having an official marriage certificate to prove the existence of your relationship, it is expected that you and your partner can prove that you have cohabitated for at least one year. Simply stating that this is the case is not enough for Canadian immigration officers to consider your common law relationship legal. Therefore, you will need to provide evidence of your cohabitation. This can be done in a variety of ways, not limited to but including the following:
· a mortgage or lease on which both individuals are mentioned as tenants,
· official documents which show the same address for both partners such as a government-issued identification document, driver’s license, or insurance policy,
· a bank statement or a letter from a financial institution showing the partners have joint bank accounts or shared credit cards,
· proof of share utilities, using the bills.
If you cannot provide any of these documents, it is important to submit a detailed explanation as to why you could not do so. While it is not essential that you provide all of the above documents, a more comprehensive application will help the immigration officer reviewing your case believe that your relationship is in fact genuine. It is more important than anything else that you prove to the immigration officer that your partnership is genuine, as individuals often attempt to sponsor a spouse for the sole purpose of helping them achieve permanent residency. While the Canadian government prioritizes reuniting families in Canada, they are aware spousal sponsorship program is often taken advantage of, and ultimately do their best to avoid this occurrence.
Once you have established you and your partner can apply for common law sponsorship, it is time to make sure the application is completed successfully. There are things that both the sponsor and the principal applicant must do, these are as follows.
The sponsor must ensure they are eligible to be a sponsor. This means you must be at least 18 years old, and have permanent residency status in Canada, or be a Canadian citizen. If you are a permanent resident, you must be living in Canada to apply for spousal sponsorship. Likewise, being detained in a jail or prison disqualifies you as a sponsor, as does having any outstanding family support payments or immigration debt. Also, if you have defaulted from a previous sponsorship or are receiving any kind of social assistance other than disability assistance, you are most likely ineligible to sponsor. Furthermore, in your application to sponsor an individual, you must state that you are taking on the financial responsibility of helping your significant other become established within Canada. Stating that you are taking on the financial responsibilities of the principal applicant means you assume the responsibility of ensuring they have the basic necessities of life. This includes food, clothing and shelter for a minimum of three years.
Please note, if you are refused as a sponsor, the individual you wished to sponsor is still eligible to apply for permanent residency in Canada. Though, they will have to go through the same process as others who apply for permanent residency.
To be eligible as a principal applicant, you must be considered an admissible traveler to Canada. There are a variety of reasons you could be inadmissible to Canada, which includes but is not limited to having a criminal record, having a health issue, misrepresenting yourself to the Canadian government in the past, or having an inadmissible family member. Sometimes individuals are surprised to find they are inadmissible to Canada. If you are unsure about the status of your admissibility, feel free to contact Akrami & Associates, as the immigration professionals here have an abundance of experience assessing individual situations and helping clients understand the best way to go about entering Canada.
It is very important to ensure that all documents are completing thoroughly, signed, and included in the application. When you submit your application, you should expect to pay a $75 fee which accounts for the processing of the application to sponsor another individual. In addition to this, there is a $475 fee for the processing of the principal applicant application for permanent residency. Therefore, the total fee which will be submitted is $550. It is important to understand that despite paying two separate fees, the application to sponsor and the principal applicant’s application must be submitted together. On the application, you will have the option to have Canadian immigration services stop processing the application if you are refused as a sponsor. If you choose this option and you are refused as a sponsor, all fees except the initial $75 will be returned. If you do not select this option, the application will continue to be processed and a final decision will be given once it is complete. It is not always the case that an ineligible sponsor cannot sponsor their significant other, though, you must have also applied for humanitarian and compassionate consideration to have the immigration officer overlook your ineligibility. If you believe you will be refused as a sponsor and would like help understanding how to include humanitarian and compassionate consideration in your application to sponsor, please contact Akrami and Associates. Including this in an application is very specific to the individual’s circumstance, and we would be happy to assess yours and provide guidance on the best way to be deemed eligible to sponsor your significant other.
Overall, the application to sponsor a spouse can be very confusing and difficult to complete on your own, as each one is very specific to the relationship you and your partner have. To avoid delays in processing times, and to avoid having your application refused altogether, it is important to understand all elements of the application, and have them completed correctly. Talking to immigration professionals about any questions or concerns can help ease the stress of applying for common law sponsorship. Here, at Akrami & Associates, we work and have experience with many different immigration issues. We have helped many of our clients reunite with their Common-Law partners in Canada permanently and they are now enjoying their lives together. If you believe that you may be eligible to apply for a Common-Law Sponsorship, please feel free to contact Akrami & Associates at our office at 416-477-2545 for more information or if you would like to book a consultation with an immigration professional for more advice.
With Akrami & Associates, there is always a way!