Immigration to Canada: Spouse, Conjugal and Common-law Partner

The Canadian immigration laws and regulations consider three groups of people to be in marital relationship. The relationship is valid between two persons who are of opposite or the same sexes.


Spouses are two persons that are legally married according to the local laws or rather where they have got married. Spouses hold a document usually called a “marriage certificate” which explains the details of the marriage such as the date it has become into effect, the location, and its validity.

Conjugal Partners

Conjugal partners are two persons who are committed to each other and in conjugal relationship to each other for at least one full year. Conjugal partners show the characteristics of two married persons, such as:

  • intimate/romantic relationship
  • commitment
  • attending parties together
  • travelling together
  • spending their time together as much as possible
  • being financially related and/or dependent

This list is not exhaustive. Also, none of the items on the list is conclusive.You need to look at the quality of the relationship the two persons present in order to realize whether you can consider them conjugal partners or not. The final conclusion is to some extent subjective. Therefore if you would like to introduce somebody to a visa officer – for the purpose of immigration – as your conjugal partner make sure to offer as much evidence as possible.

Conjugal partners usually do not live together due to valid reasons. For example, if one of them has immigrated to Canada and the other one lives abroad and is not able to travel to Canada because of reasons other than inadmissibility. Some countries prohibit same-sex couples to live together. This could be another valid reason.

Common-law Partners

Common-law partners are conjugal partners who have lived together for at least one full year. If you are in common-law relationship to another person, you need to show that you have shared the same place for living. You also need to show other evidence that helps the visa officer to confirm your conjugal relationship. Joint rent agreements or a house in your both names would definitely be very helpful.

How to Verify a Marital Relationship

If you are legally married a marriage certificate could suffice to verify your relationship. However, when it comes to sponsoring your spouse of if you are in common-law or conjugal relationship then you need to consider as much evidence as possible. Some typical evidences could be:

  • A common biological or adopted child
  • Apartment rental agreement under both names
  • A property deed under both names
  • Joint bank accounts
  • Travel tickets or bookings to the same destination for both
  • Pictures of your wedding reception or ceremony (if applicable)
  • Pictures of the places you have visited or the parties you have attended
  • Life insurance policies that one of you is the beneficiary of the other
  • Any other document that could prove your financial or emotional dependency to each other

None of the above items are inclusive or conclusive. At the end of the day, you need to have all necessary information handy to show the officer that you are really in conjugal relationship with each other. The officer also considers some other factors such as,

  • How you were introduced to each other
  • For how long you knew each other before considering the conjugal relationship
  • Your local traditions and if you have followed them or not
  • Are you from the same background and/or ethnicity

Again, none of the above could definitely verify whether your relationship is acceptable for the purpose of immigration or not. Consider them as some hints for you and the officer only. People have the freedom to choose their lives no matter how odd their decisions appear to the officer or how deviated they are from social norms. A reasonable officer and a group of convincing documents could ease your way to verify your true relationship. (Note to practitioners – focus on R4, R117, and R133)

Relevant article: Can I sponsor my spouse (husband/wife) to immigrate to Canada?

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

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“This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not provide legal advice nor should it be relied upon. If you have specific legal questions you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for official immigration advice contact us.”

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

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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.

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