Definition of Spouse for the Purpose of Sponsorship to Canada

SpousesMany citizens or permanent residents of Canada enter marital or marriage-like relationships with foreigners and then sponsor them to Canada. A successful sponsorship application helps the foreign applicant become a permanent resident of Canada. Permanent residents of Canada may live and work in our country.

Valid spousal or spouse-like relationships

Canadian immigration legislations accept three kinds of relationships as spousal, namely:

  • Legal marriage – If two people get lawfully married in any region of the world, they are spouses. The marriage must be valid where it takes place. It can be between opposite or same-sex couples.
  • Common-law relationship – Such a relationship is between two people who have a conjugal (marriage-like) relationship for at least 12 consecutive months while living together. Co-habitation is a key factor in a common-law relationship.
  • Conjugal partners – Sometimes people cannot live together for valid reasons, but they have been in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 months. In other words, a conjugal relationship is similar to a common-law relationship without cohabitation.

Conjugal relationship refers to a combination of intimate, emotional and financial dependencies that spouses generally experience.

Invalid relationships

The spousal relationship is not valid if:

  • It is primarily for the purpose of immigration to Canada
  • It is not genuine
  • The foreign national was under the age of 18 years when the marriage was registered
  • Any of the spouses had another spouse at the time of marriage
  • On the date of application for immigration, the spouses have been separated from each other for at least 12 months and either the sponsor or the applicant was in a conjugal relationship with another person.
  • One of the spouses was not present at the marriage ceremony (some exceptions apply)

If the sponsor (i.e. the Canadian citizen or permanent resident) was sponsored by their previous spouse to Canada in the past five years before the current application, they cannot sponsor their new spouse to Canada.

Many other conditions affect sponsorship applications. If you intend to sponsor your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner fill out our assessment form or contact us for more information. You may also book an appointment for official immigration advice.

If you wish to visit or move to Canada or if you have encountered any issues with the immigration authorities, you may fill out our free assessment form or book a consultation session to assess your potential opportunities or offer you immigration, visa, or citizenship advice.

Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada


This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice nor should you rely on it as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (class L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) in Toronto, Canada. He is an adjunct professor at Queen's University Law School and Ashton College. Al, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University, is a member of CICC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.