Family Class Sponsorship

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic discusses the sponsorship of various family members.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor members of their family, defined as member of the Family Class: married, common-law or conjugal spouses, dependent children, parents and grandparents.

The Family Class includes adopted children or children to be adopted in Canada. Although Family Class sponsorship has resumed for parents and grandparents as of January, 2014, it is much more difficult to sponsor them than a spouse or child. A long-term visitor visa, called “Super-Visa”, may be the best way for parents and grandparents to come to Canada temporarily but for up to two years at a time.

The traditional spousal sponsorship is where the sponsor remains in Canada, or undertakes to return to Canada when the spouse’s permanent resident visa is granted. The Spouse in Canada Class allows for the sponsorship of a spouse already in Canada, even when that spouse may not have legal immigration status. This could include a spouse whose work, study or visitor visa has expired, or an unsuccessful refugee claimant. Spousal sponsorships include same-sex relationships. Canada does not recognize polygamous marriages.

The key to a successful spousal sponsorship is a sincere and loving relationship which the spouses can show by photographs, telephone bills, internet messaging print-outs, letters, cards, records of gifts, invoices for wedding or joint travel expenses and testimonials from friends and family.

Unmarried dependent children under the age of 22 may be sponsored by a parent. If dependent children are over 22 years old, they must be unmarried and continuously enrolled in school. For adopted children, it must be shown that the primary purpose of the adoption was to create a parent-child relationship and not for immigration purposes.

To sponsor spouses and dependent children, sponsors must prove their finances but are not required to have any particular amount of money available.

As of 2014, there is very limited sponsorship of parents and grandparents. For sponsors of parents and grandparents, there is a requirement of minimum funds that depends on family size. The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa was recently created to offer long-term visits where sponsorship may be impractical.

It is frequently difficult for spouses from countries requiring a visa to enter Canada to obtain a visitor visa. This is due to the fact that visa officers must be satisfied that visitors will leave Canada at the end of their visit. It may be easier although certainly a longer process to sponsor spouses for permanent residence.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada prioritizes Family Class spousal and dependent children sponsorships but processing times as of January, 2014 range from 12 -18 months outside or inside Canada. It may be useful for the sponsor to visit the spouse during this time and provide proof of the visit to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to show the sincerity of the relationship.

For the Spouse in Canada Class, the spouse may benefit from a work permit prior to the issue of the Permanent Resident visa. If the spouse has become out of status, however, the spouse may be without the ability to work right up to the granting of permanent residence. Health care coverage is discretionary while a Spouse in Canada Class application is in process and depends on the policy of provincial health care plans.