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Thinking of Sponsoring a Spouse to Come to Canada? Important Changes You Should Know

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Thinking of Sponsoring a Spouse to Come to Canada? Important Changes You Should Know

The federal Minister of Immigration has recently introduced a series of important changes to the spousal sponsorship requirements and process. These changed are intended to strengthen the integrity of the Canadian immigration system, by clarifying the regulations relating to sponsorship and by deterring fraudulent “relationships of convenience” (by which two people marry in order for one of them to obtain permanent residence in Canada).

Here is a brief summary of what you need to know:

Background on Sponsorship

Any individual who wishes to sponsor a spouse, conjugal partner or common law partner to come to Canada as a permanent resident must apply pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), which allows such sponsorship of individuals who are part of either the “family” class or “spouse or common law partner in Canada” class. Prior to the recent changes, the regulations merely required that the sponsoring party be ether a Permanent Resident or a Canadian Citizen.

Changes to Spousal Sponsorship Rules

The first change, effective March 2, 2012, affects only those spouses who have themselves been sponsored to be in Canada in the first place (as a spouse, common law partner, or conjugal partner). The amendments impose a new five-year sponsorship bar for such individuals: – in other words, a person who has been previously sponsored is prohibited from sponsoring a new spouse or partner for the first five years or his or her permanent residency. This measure is intended to prevent such individuals from divorcing their original sponsors and then getting married (and sponsoring) someone else to come to Canada.

Conditional Residency

The second change came into effect on October 25, 2012. It involves the introduction of a conditional residency requirement for certain spouses. In particular, those spouses, common law partners, and common law partners who have been in a relationship for two years or less must satisfy a two-year conditional permanent residency requirement, i.e. they must live with the sponsoring spouse in a conjugal relationship for a continuous period of at least two years after the day on which they became permanent residents.

Those who breach the residency condition may be declared inadmissible to Canada, and may be subject to removal. The condition is automatically removed after the two years has lapsed (unless there is an investigation by Citizenship and Immigration Canada into whether the conditions have been satisfied).

There are exemptions to these requirements in two cases: 1) where the couple has lived together for less than two years but have a child together; and 2) where the sponsored spouse can demonstrate that he or she has suffered neglect or abuse (which can be physical assault, forcible confinement, sexual assault, psychological threats or intimidation, and fraud or extortion).