Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their immediate families for Canadian immigration.

As the sponsor, you need to meet certain eligibility criteria. For instance, you must be at least 18 years old; have Canadian citizenship, permanent residency, or Indian status (under the Indian Act); prove that you are not receiving social assistance, and be able to support your family financially.

There are a couple of other more specific criteria as well. For example, suppose you are a citizen applying to sponsor your family outside Canada. In that case, you must demonstrate that you intend to return once Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) decide on your file. In addition, permanent residents must sponsor their spouses from inside Canada. Finally, several circumstances could make you ineligible for sponsorship, such as not being discharged for bankruptcy.

As for who you can sponsor under this particular program, Canada recognizes three different types of partners: spouses, common-law partners, and conjugal partners. You can also sponsor your dependent children.

Spouses need to be married to their sponsor in an in-person ceremony. Virtual marriages are not recognized for immigration.

Common-law partners need to demonstrate that they have lived together for at least 12 months.

Conjugal partners live outside Canada and have been in a relationship for at least one year. They need to demonstrate that legal or social barriers prevent them from getting married or living together. You cannot sponsor a conjugal partner who is living in Canada.

In all cases, your partner must be over the age of 18. IRCC will check that your partner is admissible by running medical and background security checks. People with criminal convictions are often not allowed to come to Canada, but there may be options to overcome criminal inadmissibility.

The immigration officer handling your file will also want to see that you and your partner are in a genuine relationship. They want to admit people coming to Canada for family reunification and not people who are just getting married for the sole purpose of Canadian immigration.

Dependent children

Children qualify as dependents under age 22 and do not have a spouse or common-law partner. If they are age 22 or older, they may be eligible as dependents if they cannot financially support themselves because of a mental or physical condition. They have depended on their parents for financial support since before age 22.

Your child may still be dependent if they turn age 22 while their application is processed. However, they must continue to meet all the other previously-mentioned requirements until IRCC finishes processing the application.

You can sponsor your own child or your partner and their child. If you are a Canadian citizen, your child may already be a citizen even if they weren’t born in Canada. In this case, you might need to apply for a Proof of Citizenship for your foreign-born child if you have not yet done so. You do not need to sponsor your own child if they are already citizens.

If your own child does not qualify as a citizen, and you want to sponsor them without sponsoring your partner, you can name your child as the principal applicant in the application. You’ll have to demonstrate that the other parent or legal guardian agrees to allow your child to immigrate to Canada.

For those sponsoring their spouse and their dependent child, you will name your partner as the principal applicant and the child as the dependent in the application.

If a dependent child also has a dependent child (your grandchild), they can also be included in the application.

The process for sponsoring adopted children and orphaned family members is different from sponsoring your own child or your partner’s child.

Spousal, common-law, and dependent child immigration process

Two applications are required to sponsor your spouse, partner, or child: your application to become a sponsor and your family’s application for permanent residence. Both the sponsorship and permanent residence applications should be submitted together simultaneously. If you live in Quebec, there is a different sponsorship process.

The first step is to get the application package. The government provides an application guide with specific and up-to-date information and details on how to fill out forms in the complete guide. The documents required for foreign nationals will depend on residency status, where they are applying from, and maybe even travel history.

In addition to the application guides, IRCC offers a documents checklist, which shows you the forms and instructions you need for your application. This list also changes, so it is important to double-check before submitting all the documents. Again, different countries will have different form requirements.

The processing begins once IRCC receives your complete application. If the officer finds that your application is incomplete, they will return it to you, and you will have to submit it again.

IRCC has a 12-month processing standard on spousal sponsorship applications, although it may take longer. Applications for children vary by country.

IRCC asks for biometrics and a medical exam from foreign applicants during the processing period. You will have 30 days to send them in. IRCC may also ask for more information or an in-person interview.

You can track and update your application status online until IRCC decides on your application. Then, IRCC will send you instructions about the final steps the foreign spouse or common-law partner needs to take to become a permanent resident.