Some applicants in sponsorship cases often ask me: what is a spouse? Why not say “wife” or “husband”? My answer is that because, as a Canadian or permanent resident, you can sponsor not only a partner with whom you are officially married, but also a partner with whom you have established a committed marriage-like bond without officially registering your relationship. Therefore, Canada Immigration refers to all who can be sponsored by their partner as a “spouse”. Spouses however cannot be confused with girlfriends, boyfriends or fiancées.


Under “spousal category” a Canadian can sponsor into Canada: wife /husband, common-law-spouse and conjugal spouse.


If you sponsor a wife or husband, you must produce a Marriage Certificate as proof of your relationship. If you sponsor a common-law –spouse you have to prove that you have lived together as couples for at least 12 months in a committed, marriage-like relationship meaning that you probably have joint assets together, a joint bank account and anything that demonstrates that you are interdependent; sharing your financial responsibilities, and are emotionally and physically attached. Some situations may be unique and cannot easily fit into standards which is OK, if you can show that you are commitment to each other as spouses. It is important in those situations to prove your relationship as genuine and not entered solely for the purpose of obtaining of immigration status in Canada. An example of a nonstandard situation is a young couple who don’t have much money to operate a joint bank account, or have two cars with both names on them, or life insurance where they put one another as beneficiaries. In these types of situations, other evidence can be produced as proof of genuine (bona fide) commitment. Statements of close friends and family, photographs together, trips’ tickets. The list is not exhaustive. The applicants under this category of immigration (called “the Sponsor” and “the Applicant”) should know that it is their case they have to prove to the immigration authorities and that because of this they must gather all evidence possible and present it in the most believable way possible. In the legal world it is called the “burden of proof” or “onus”. In any immigration application the onus is on the applicants, not the immigration officials.


What if a couple does not live together, either as a married couple or common-law-spouses? They might fall under the definition of “conjugal partners” or “conjugal spouses” if there are elements present in their cases such as

  • A significant degree of attachment, both physical and emotional;
  • An exclusive relationship;
  • A mutual and continuing commitment to a shared life together; and
  • Emotional and financial interdependency.

Spouses who claim to be in conjugal relationship, must demonstrate that they are committed to share life together, they are having one partner exclusively, they are physically, emotionally and financially interdependent; their relationships are of a permanent, long-term character and that they present themselves in public as a couple. If there are children in the relationship, they must demonstrate they provide mutual care for them.


Exclusive relationship means that couples are committed to each other and are not spouses of somebody else’s. It does not mean however that some couples who are in conjugal relationship must be formally free from other marriages. If they already live separately from their former spouses, but not yet divorced, they can be considered conjugal partners in their new relationship.


Conjugal partners in light of immigration laws are couples who are unable to live together continuously for a period of one year to be qualified under common-law-partners because of immigration obstacles, yet they are committed to each other as couples. In most cases, they are unable to get married and qualify as a wife or husband (again, usually because of an immigration impediment). However, a Canadian can sponsor his/her conjugal partner, if they demonstrate bona fide relationship for a period of no less than 12 months.


Spousal relationships from the prospective of Canadian Immigration (Conjugal relationship, common-law-spouses, excluded relationships)

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