One of the most important functions of Canada’s immigration system is to reunite families and keep them together, as newcomers seek to build a new life in a new country.
In fact, next to economic immigration, family sponsorships are the second biggest category of new permanent residents to Canada.
Read on to learn how you can potentially sponsor your parents, grandparents, spouse, children, and other family members. You can use the government’s Come to Canada tool to determine your family member’s eligibility to come to Canada.
Who can sponsor their family?
You can sponsor certain relatives to come to Canada if you’re at least 18 years old and a:
- Canadian citizen; or
- person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act; or
- permanent resident of Canada.
Additionally, other eligibility requirements can apply depending on which program you are applying under.
Spouses, common-law, and conjugal partners
If you would like to sponsor your spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, you can pursue a Spousal Sponsorship.
The foreign national to be sponsored should either be legally married to the sponsor or be living with the sponsor for at least 12 months in a marriage-like relationship, qualifying as a common-law (or further as a conjugal) partner. This encompasses both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.
The sponsor is expected to provide financial support to the sponsored person for three years, and must not receive social assistance other than disability, nor have previously declared bankruptcy. Other conditions may apply depending on the specific case.
This kind of sponsorship can also vary between in-land and outland sponsorship. Both serve the same purpose; however, they differ in terms of where both parties must reside during the application process.
For Outland Sponsorship, the foreign spouse or partner usually resides abroad while the Canadian sponsor lives in Canada. The sponsored individual may freely travel to and from Canada if they hold a visa-free passport or have obtained a Canadian visa. However, the Canadian sponsor is required to stay in Canada during the application process. Outland sponsorship applications are processed in the visa office linked to the sponsored spouse’s home country or the country where they have been residing for at least one year.
On the other hand, for Inland Sponsorship, both spouses must live together in Canada during the entire application process. The foreign spouse or partner must already have temporary resident status in Canada, either as a worker, student, or visitor. These applications are filed within Canada (hence the name). Additionally, foreign spouses with temporary resident status may potentially be eligible to apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP) while their sponsorship application is being processed. This strategy is to prevent financial strain due to potentially extensive processing times.
To learn more about spousal sponsorships, click here.
If you would like to sponsor your child (or other dependents), you can pursue a dependent child sponsorship. This applies to both biological and adopted children.
To be eligible, the sponsor must be at least 18 years old, live in Canada, and be willing to support the dependent for a period of 10 years or until the child turns 25, whichever comes first. The child must be under 22 and not married or in a common-law relationship. If the child is over 22, they must have been continuously studying, disabled, or dependent on the sponsor due to other factors since before they turned 22.
Parents are encouraged to apply for sponsorship before the child turns 22 to avoid disqualification due to age. This process (like most family-class sponsorships) involves two steps: submitting a sponsorship profile to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and once approved, applying for permanent residence on behalf of your dependent child.
To learn more about sponsoring your dependent child for permanent residence (PR), click here.
Parents and grandparents
One of Canada’s most popular immigration pathways for family sponsorships, the Parents and Grandparents program (PGP), is an annual program that opens once a year—allowing Canadian citizens, and permanent residents to sponsor their parents or grandparents for PR in Canada. The program works through a lottery-based system, where eligible sponsors can complete an “interest to sponsor” form and be placed in a candidate pool. If an application is selected, they are required to apply on behalf of the person they are sponsoring. This process also involves an undertaking by the sponsor, committing to provide for medical, food, housing, and any other relevant expenses for the person they are sponsoring.
The PGP allows for parents and grandparents to become permanent residents of Canada. This provides them with an opportunity to join their families in Canada and avail all of the social benefits accorded to permanent residents. However, the processing time in this pathway may be substantial; typically several years.
In addition to the PGP, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can also explore Canada’s Super Visa program. The Super Visa is a multiple-entry visa for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, to stay in Canada for up to five years at a time without the need for visa renewal. The Super Visa can be valid for up to ten years, offering a practical solution for families who live far apart. In comparison to the PGP, the Super Visa provides a quicker, more flexible avenue for family visitation.
The Super Visa has much quicker processing times, with most applications being processed within weeks. This enables families to be together more quickly than through the PGP. However, the Super Visa—unlike the PGP—does not offer a path to PR, instead issuing sponsored individuals with visitor visas that allow for prolonged stays in Canada, and which can be renewed relatively easily.
Brother, sister, nephew, niece and grandchildren
In addition to the above, there are also special cases in which a Canadian permanent resident or citizen may sponsor siblings, nephews, nieces, or grandchildren.
Sponsoring an orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece or grandchild is allowed on the condition that:
- they have a blood relation or adopted connection with you;
- both of their parents are deceased;
- they are below the age of 18; and
- they are without a spouse (without being married or in a common-law or conjugal partnership).
- Sponsorship of your brother, sister, nephew, niece or grandchild is not permissible if:
- either of their parents are still living;
- the whereabouts of their parents are unknown;
- they have been abandoned by their parents;
- care is provided by a person other than their parents, with one or both parents still alive; and
- a parent of theirs is incarcerated or otherwise detained.
Any other relative
In addition, under certain conditions, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor any member of their family related by blood, or adoption. In these cases, the sponsor must not have any other living relative they could potentially sponsor, such as a:
- domestic partner;
- conjugal partner;
- child or children;
- mother or father;
- grandmother or grandfather;
- orphaned siblings;
- orphaned nieces or nephews; or
- orphaned grandchildren.
Additionally, the potential sponsor must not have any other relatives (aunt, uncle or any other mentioned relative), who is either a:
- Canadian citizen;
- Canadian permanent resident; or
- registered Indian according to the Indian Act.
Should the relative you want to sponsor have a spouse, partner or dependent children who are looking to accompany them to Canada, you must incorporate them within the same sponsorship application.