Who is the principal applicant in Canadian immigration?

Principal Applicant in immigration to Canada

Hanna, a Hungarian citizen, is applying for immigration to Canada. She has a common-law partner and two children. Immigration forms seem confusing, though. For example, Hanna doesn’t understand who she must enter as the principal applicant. Therefore, she visits settler.ca for guidance.

Principal applicants in citizenship applications

A typical citizenship application does not have a principal applicant (PA). IRCC assesses every applicant independently against the citizenship requirements. However, permanent resident minors could become citizens only if one of the following applies to them:

  • One of their parents is a Canadian citizen, or
  • one of the parents is applying for citizenship simultaneously.

If the latter applies, we could consider the parents as principal applicants because the child’s citizenship depends on them. However, we do not necessarily use this terminology for citizenship applications.

The definition of the principal applicant in Canadian immigration

Only one could be the principal applicant when a family applies for permanent residence. Consider the following when choosing the PA:

  • Only the person who meets the immigration requirements could be the PA.
  • In a family, children may not be the principal applicants. However, if they are applying independently, then they can. For example, if you are sponsoring your adopted children, one of them becomes the principal applicant.
  • If two family members meet the minimum requirements, choose the one as the PA who
    • receives more points in a point-based system (such as Express Entry),
    • can present all the necessary documents, or
    • faces fewer complexities in terms of their life history.

In PR applications, the inadmissibility of a family member could make the rest of them inadmissible. Even non-accompanying family members could make the immigrating ones inadmissible. Therefore, switching PA could not resolve inadmissibility issues. The last point I made in the previous list is just for the fact that the PA is more under scrutiny. The wise choice of PA could enhance the processing time.

Principal applicants in temporary resident applications

Temporary resident applications could include any of the following:

In these applications, we could have groups of applicants (e.g., a family or a group of artists). While we do not have a principal applicant per se, there are situations where the role of a group member becomes significant. Consequently, we could consider that person as the PA. Here is an example:

In this scenario, the IMP C11 applicant plays the role of the principal applicant, as the permits for other family members depend on the outcome of this application. I emphasize calling this person the PA is a bit of a stretch but makes sense. Furthermore, the inadmissibility of one family member does not affect the other persons for the most part. I have another article that discusses this issue in more detail.

Refugee claimants and people who seek protection

When filing a refugee or protection application, the authorities consider each application separately. Nonetheless, it is common for RPD to group claimants and consider one of them as the main one. While the term principal applicant is not customary, you could feel the main weight is on that person’s claim. However, I’ve had cases where the “non-PA” claimant played the leading role in approving the claim.

After receiving the protection and applying for PR, we will have a principal applicant. If all the applicants are inside Canada, then one of them becomes the PA. However, if some family members are outside Canada, one applicant inside Canada and one outside Canada will be principal applicants. Nonetheless, the approval of all outside-Canada applicants depends on the protected family members in Canada and their own admissibility.

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    Al ParsaiAl Parsai, LLM, MA, RCIC-IRB
    Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
    Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
    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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