Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Are you getting married soon or have you been living in a common law relationship for at least one year with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident? Are you thinking about submitting a family class sponsorship application? One of the most common misconceptions out there is that getting married to a Canadian automatically confers the same status on the foreign national or immigrant spouse. This is not the case and in fact there is a process that is not exactly fast in order to obtain permanent residence to begin with, and then apply for citizenship at a later date when eligibility for citizenship has been met.
Lets jump right into it and discuss the merits of a spousal sponsorship application, the timeline and some tips on how to get your sponsorship approved. After all, being married does not guarantee that you will be approved or that it is sufficient evidence to prove that your relationship is legitimate and not entered into to confer economic or other benefit.
Ensure you complete the latest version of the application forms. If you start the application in September and finish collecting all documentation and are ready to submit in November, for example, by that time the forms you started preparing most likely will be outdated. In this case, you must download the newest forms and redo all that have changed ensuring to sign and prepare for filing only the latest version of the forms. It is for this reason that we usually work on evidence and proof including employment letters, photos, letters of support from family and friends, explanation letters and our cover letter first and then fill up forms last, around the time when we are ready to file.
Do not fall short on your evidence of a genuine relationship. As mentioned previously, being married is not automatically enough to prove that your relationship is genuine. Even being together for many years or having children together is not proof of the relationship being genuine. To be successful and for the application to ultimately be approved, one must focus on evidence of living together, spending time together, visiting each other (if you do not live together), being in constant contact, having support from family and friends and being in line with the customs and traditions of each spouse to name a few.
Identify the weaknesses of your application and discuss them upfront in an explanation letter. If you know that you have been together for a short time and don't have proof of living together, address that in an open way and in a way that makes logical sense within the cultural or religious auspices of where you live. A lack of evidence is not detrimental to an application but it must be contextualized and explained. If you leave something open to interpretation, it can be interpreted in a way that is adverse to your case and can cause delay in the process or a refusal. The officer may ask for additional documents hence the delay aspect or they can refuse especially if there is no merit to the claims made by the applicant.
Pay your fees online, pay the correct amount, and print the receipt. Do not forget to put the receipt into the application package. The amount of fees depends on how many family members are part of the sponsorship application, whether biometrics fees are applicable and whether you choose to pay the Right of Permanent Residence Fee upfront or at a later date.
Pay attention to details mentioned in the application checklist. For instance, a letter of employment must be original (not a copy). Include the latest Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency if your sponsor is currently working in Canada. Just because it is the beginning of the year and the previous year's return was not filed yet or results not received yet does not mean you can skip this part. You simply put the latest available and mention in your explanation letter that further evidence can be provided at a later date. Ensure you deal with the criminal record checks very throughly. Don't miss any countries where a record check may be applicable, ensure they are a federal police clearance not a local one and ensure you send the original document not a copy along with any accompanying translations.
When deciding to apply to sponsor your spouse to Canada, you may want to carefully wager the pros and cons of doing an in-Canada application or an overseas application. In-Canada applicants may be eligible for an open work permit while they await permanent residence. Meanwhile overseas applicants are not eligible for an open work permit but they do have an appeal right if the case is refused. Even if the immigrant spouse is living in Canada, they can still file an overseas sponsorship application but they may also be called for an interview overseas in that manner.
The timeline for assessment of the family class sponsorship application after it has been filed is promised to be 12 months by IRCC. However, in our experience recently, they are usually processed faster and this is amazing considering the history of past sponsorship applicants who waiting 2 or more years for a decision.