What You Need to Know About New Regulations Regarding Spousal, Common-Law, and Conjugal Partners

spousal sponsorship conjugal partner

Canada has announced new changes to immigration laws regarding sponsorship of spouse, common-law and conjugal partners in order to better protect women and at-risk groups. In particular, to protect women against forced marriages for immigration purposes. The changes will apply to all immigration programs, both permanent and temporary.


For any applications made prior to June 10th, it’s important to note the following changes will not apply. If you began your sponsorship application prior to June 10th, the application process will continue under previous regulations.


The first major change is the minimum age of eligibility for spousal or common-law partner sponsorship has been raised from 16 to 18 years. Anyone applying to immigrate to Canada as a spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian permanent resident or citizen must be at least 18. By raising the minimum age of eligibility, the government hopes to reduce the amount of women who are victimized. There are two exceptions: Applicants under 18 who are still dependent on their parents will be considered dependent children and/or de facto family members and can be sponsored as such. Applicants under 18 who are in refugee camps can be considered de facto dependents, or may be considered on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Additionally, marriages by proxy are now considered unsuitable for sponsorship. A proxy marriage is one where either one or both individuals are not physically present for the ceremony, with stand-ins representing those absent. These have been reclassified as “excluded relationships”, making them insufficient for spousal or common-law partner sponsorship. Prior to this, any proxy was considered acceptable for immigration purposes as long as the marriage was valid in the country it took place in.


Again, this is to protect vulnerable women by decreasing the number of forced marriages in Canada. The Canadian government believes that forced marriages are more common with proxy marriages because it is more difficult to ensure that both individuals consent to the marriage when one or both are not physically present.


There are exceptions to this amendment, namely members of the Canadian Armed Forces: if an applicant was not physically present during the marriage ceremony due to service in the Canadian Armed Forces, the marriage may still be considered valid. Additionally, if they qualify as common-law partners, the application will continue to be processed under the relationship status category of common-law partner rather than spouse. There are also humanitarian and compassionate considerations: in certain cases, if someone’s safety is at risk, officers will be flexible with the new regulations, on a case by case basis.


The final amendment is to the five-year sponsorship bar for those who were previously sponsored to come to Canada as a spouse or common-law partner. The changes read as follows: “A sponsor who became a permanent resident or a Canadian Citizen after being sponsored as a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner […] may not sponsor a foreign national […] as a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner, unless the sponsor has been a permanent resident, or a Canadian Citizen, or a combination of the two, for a period of at least five years immediately preceding the day on which a sponsorship application […] is filed by the sponsor in respect of the foreign national.”


The spousal sponsorship application process is now more thorough than ever under these new regulations, and applicants should plan their applications carefully and make sure that their application is complete and accurate.

Need More Information?

This, like any process in immigration runs much more efficiently with the help of an experienced professional.

For more information, and professional immigration advice, contact Niren & Associates today. Our experienced staff has helped thousands of individuals and families ,and we can help you, too! Contact us today for more information about Canadian immigration, or fill out our free immigration assessment to get started right away.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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