A Canadian or permanent resident of Canada can sponsor their spouses to Canada meaning that they can be accepted in Canada as permanent residents. Many are confused in thinking that, if they are Canadians or permanent residents (PR) their foreign spouses are automatically entitled to receive an immigration status in Canada. I was repeating to my clients for many times that immigration is not a right, but a privilege. What does it mean in practical terms? It means that the applicants, not the government have to persuade that their applications warrant the positive result. The applicants must do due diligence in presenting their case the best way possible. For example, it is not enough to submit in your package for sponsorship application a marriage certificate and a few photos of you and your spouse together. I recall one amazing case of a Canadian singer sponsoring his Australian spouse who was a journalist. They supplied me for further submission before the government a beautiful story of their love journey and the story was accompanied by photographs with a detailed explanation of when, where and why. That couple were not even invited for a personal interview as the case officer who examined their case was more than satisfied of a genuineness of their marriage. Some, however, are of the opinion that our immigration officials must grant them (foreign spouses) permanent residence only by virtue of being a spouse of a Canadian. It’s a wrong approach.
Our immigration department re-structured their approach in processing sponsorship applications (the types of applications that filed “from within Canada”) recently. If in the past an applicant had to wait until their sponsor was approved for sponsoring (it’s called “approval-in-principal) for filing for an open work permit, it became possible now to apply for a work permit right away, simultaneously with the sponsorship application. It is some conditions for that though. The applicant must possess a valid temporary visa, in other words, be legally in Canada. If however a spouse does not want to work or study while waiting for their application to be finalized, they may remain in Canada without having a legal immigration status (be out of status). However, and it’s always however in legal world, out of status does not mean that the applicant can be a subject to a removal order. I will give you some sample: if your spouse you want to sponsor to Canada is a failed refugee claimant, then they are considered under a removal order and therefore they are not only ineligible for an open work permit, but they also cannot apply for a permanent residency in Canada under spousal stream from within Canada. A Canadian sponsor must launch a spousal application of this kind from outside of Canada.
When a Canadian sponsor applies to sponsor their spouse, both parties must sign an undertaking to the government. The sponsor is of a greater obligation than the applicant. They must promise that their foreign spouse during the time of the undertaking duration won’t apply for a governmental social assistance, even if the spouses separate after the applicant became a permanent resident. The applicant too must promise that they will do everything to refrain from social assistance. However, in practice, if the applicant receives money from the Canadian government, nobody will go after them for reimbursement. The government will go after the Canadian sponsor. The current time for spousal responsibility is three years.
Not every Canadian or permanent resident can sponsor a foreign spouse to Canada. A sponsor must not fail to pay certain debts before the government such as immigration loans, performance bonds or family support payments, which were ordered by family courts. Sponsors who failed to provide for the basic needs of their spouses whom they previously sponsored to Canada are ineligible to sponsor their current spouses. It is a common mistake, even among some lawyers, to think that sponsors who are on disability benefits are ineligible to sponsor. They are eligible unless they are on welfare assistance, which is different from disability benefits. Other eligibility requirements are in place such as sponsors must not be under removal order, be incarcerated (serving a criminal sentence) or being an undischarged bankrupts. Some specific criminal offence and convictions must ban sponsors from eligibility,- a violent or sexual offence against a previous partner or relative. It was not that long ago that the government restricted sponsors from sponsoring spouses all over again, to prevent marriage fraud. There is now a waiting period for a sponsor of a previous spouse and those foreign spouses who were sponsored to Canada. For sponsors it is 3 years and for the sponsored persons 5 years. The applicants too have some restrictions on immigrating to Canada under spousal category. They must not be an inadmissible class to Canada.
If something described above made either or both, the sponsor and the applicant ineligible to launch a sponsorship application, there are some ways to bring your foreign spouse to Canada. It is humanitarian and compassionate considerations. Not everyone is qualified and each situation is unique.