In September 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada implemented a mandatory online application process for Canada spousal sponsorship applications. A spousal sponsorship is possible when a Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident is married to a foreign national, and the family intends on living in Canada. The Canadian partner is able to sponsor the foreign spouse, and any dependent child, to become a Canadian permanent resident.
This post is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion of the spousal sponsorship program, but rather an examination of what has changed with the transition to the online application process. We have other posts that will give you valuable background information if you are looking for the basics about Canadian spousal sponsorship. There are also some differences between a spousal sponsorship application and a common law partner sponsorship, so we have created a separate article for online common law partner applications for permanent residence.
Who Can Sponsor a Spouse under Canada’s Immigration law
A Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor their foreign spouse or common law partner, plus any dependent children of that foreign spouse, to obtain permanent residence in Canada. A Canadian citizen can initiate the spousal sponsorship process from anywhere in the world, as long as they agree to move back to Canada once the spousal sponsorship process is finished. Permanent residents can only initiate the spousal sponsorship process if they are living in Canada. Both Canadian citizens and permanent residents must be willing to provide financial support to their family members as part of the spousal sponsorship process.
Document Checklist for Spousal Sponsorship
The new online spousal sponsorship application uses the same document checklist as the old paper application, but the required forms are in two different formats. There are a handful of pdf forms that you need to download, complete, sign and the upload to your application. Other forms are completed in online format as part of the application. As a first step to preparing your application, ensure that you print off and thoroughly study the document checklist, so that you know what components you will need to include in order for your application to be accepted for processing. Each family situation is different and therefore each application will require different components to be considered complete.
After you have studied the document checklist, it’s time to set up your online account and get started creating the framework for your sponsorship application. This is where you will need to choose which kind of sponsorship application you are submitting – inland (in Canada class) or overseas (family class). If you need to review the differences between the two classes, please see our blog post related to that topic.
When you first log in to your online account, you will see a home screen listing every form that IRCC has available to the public. It’s up to you to decide which forms are required for your application (check the document checklist) and ensure that you complete them properly. Again, some of the listed forms are digital forms online and some you need to complete as a pdf and upload them into the proper slot in the online system. Yes, it’s confusing. We agree. One item to note is that, for the online application process, you must complete the IMM 5562 Travel History form online, even though it is not currently listed on the paper document checklist.
Once you have addressed the forms needed for your sponsorship application, it’s time to start uploading all the supporting documents. There is a drop down menu located part of the way down the home screen where you can choose the category of document you want to upload, and then attach it to your application. IRCC has a specific way they want you to name the files that you upload, so ensure that you pay attention to that request. It’s important to make sure that you upload every single document needed for your file, otherwise your sponsorship application will be returned to you as incomplete. The processing fee receipt upload happens in its own section of the home screen. Government processing fees for a family sponsorship application are as follows:
- $565 for the principal applicant
- $155 for any dependent child
- $85 per person for biometrics fee (anyone 14 years old or older, max $170 per family unit)
- $515 Right of Permanent Residence fee for principal applicant
There are several changes to the overall Canada spousal sponsorship application process, including:
Police Clearances for Spousal Sponsorship
All police clearances are now mandatory to include with the sponsorship application from the start. Previously, applicants needed to include only the police clearance where they were currently living and for the country where they had lived the longest; and then IRCC would request the remaining clearance, if any, during processing. Mistakes with police clearances are a very common reason that a spousal sponsorship file would be returned, and the rules are a bit complicated, so ensure you know exactly what you need for your sponsorship application.
Digital Signature for Spousal Sponsorship
There are two different sets of digital signatures required in your sponsorship application package. The pdf forms need to be digitally signed before you upload them to your application. IRCC has said that simply typing your name into the signature field is acceptable as a digital signature.
The second set of signatures is from the principal applicant, or sponsored spouse. Once the online application is completed, the principal applicant needs to digitally sign the Schedule A as well as sign off on the entire application. Ensure that you type your name exactly as it appears on the passport you are using for your application, or it may not be accepted as a digital signature. It’s also very important that it is actually the principal applicant who affixes these signatures, as it would be misrepresentation for anyone else (including the sponsor) to sign on behalf of the principal applicant. It is entirely possible that IRCC uses location tracking to ensure that digital signatures have been placed by the proper person, so don’t take a chance with having your spousal sponsorship application refused or your own permanent resident status put into jeopardy because you sign the application fraudulently.
Open work permit application for Spousal Sponsorship
Under the paper spousal sponsorship application, it was possible to include an application for an open work permit together with the permanent residence package, and the work permit holder would gain maintained status as long as the application was submitted before the expiry of their work permit. With the new online system, only the permanent residence application is submitted online through the PR application portal. Once you receive an email confirming that your permanent residence application has been accepted for processing, and giving you the sponsorship file number, then the principal applicant can apply online for an open work permit through the mystic portal. It’s a different online account than the one where the sponsorship application was submitted.
There is also specific code to include in the open work permit application form, to ensure that IRCC can sort your application into the processing stream for spousal sponsorship applicants, which is usually faster than the regular processing stream.
In some cases, for inland spousal sponsorship applications, you may find that you do not have enough time to receive an AOR for the spousal sponsorship before the foreign partner’s work permit will expire. Whatever you do, do not let your foreign partner’s work permit just expire. Contact our office to discuss your options, because it’s important that legal immigration status is maintained during the processing.
What Happens after Submitting an Online Canada Spousal Sponsorship?
As soon as you submit the online spousal sponsorship application, you will receive an email telling you that it has been submitted. At this point, you will no longer be able to access the information you provided in your application, so ensure that you keep screen shots as a record of what you have submitted. After a period of time passes, if your spousal sponsorship application was perfectly prepared, you will receive a second email that states IRCC has accepted the application for processing and gives you a file number. This is the email that is common referred to as the AOR (Acknowledgement of Receipt), and it’s the one you need in order to apply for the open work permit. If your application package was not perfect, then you will receive a message stating that it is being returned as incomplete and you will need to start over preparing your application for re-submission.
After you have confirmation that your spousal sponsorship application has been accepted for processing, expect to receive requests to submit biometrics, to take a medical exam, to pay the Right of Permanent Residence fee (if it was not paid with the sponsorship fee at the start), and then the instructions to finalize the landing process. Once the Confirmation of Permanent Residence has been signed by a Canadian Immigration officer, your family members officially have Canadian permanent residence status.
Online Spousal Sponsorship Processing Times
At the time of writing this article, we are only 4 months into the new online application process for spousal sponsorship. Processing times have been very quick to date, with AOR’s usually received within 7-14 days and inland spousal sponsorship applications being finalized within 8 to 12 weeks. This is unusually fast for a Canadian immigration process, so it remains to be seen whether this faster processing continues as a hallmark of the new online spousal sponsorship application process, or whether things return to the usual 12 month application processing standard over time.
Work with Us
The Way Immigration has successfully represented thousands of spousal sponsorships since 2008. Contact our office to relive yourself of the stress and uncertainty you are facing trying to sort this process out by yourself, online. The most common phrase we hear from our clients is that they feel so much better, even just a few minutes into a conversation with one of our team members. Don’t lose sleep, don’t fight with your partner – we can make this simple and stress free.