Special Immigration Categories


Citizens and permanent residents of Canada may sponsor their relatives who are members of the family class as defined in the Immigration Regulations.

Members of the family class include:

  • your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner
  • dependent child, including an adopted child whose adoption took place outside Canada and at the time of the adoption you were living exclusively outside Canada or had not yet become a permanent resident of Canada
  • children adopted outside of Canada or intended to be adopted in Canada
  • Note: Canada’s citizenship law was amended to allow Canadian citizens who adopt a child from a foreign country the option of applying for Canadian citizenship for their adopted child without first having to apply for permanent residence.
  • parents
  • grandparents
  • brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, grandsons or granddaughters who are orphaned, under 18 years of age and not a spouse or common-law partner
  • any other family member if there is no spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew who is a Canadian citizen, registered Indian or permanent resident or whom you may sponsor.


You can sponsor a person as your spouse if that person is married to you and the marriage is a legally valid civil marriage.

You can sponsor a person as your common-law partner if

  • you and that other person have cohabited in a conjugal relationship for a period of at least one year, and
  • your relationship with that person is continuing, even though you are temporarily living apart.

You can sponsor a person as a conjugal partner if

  • that person is residing outside Canada (that is, has, for legal purposes, a fixed, permanent and principal home outside Canada), and
  • you have maintained a conjugal relationship with that person for at least one year, that is you have been in a committed and mutually interdependent relationship of some permanence where you have combined your affairs to the extent possible.

The conjugal partner category is intended for partners of Canadian sponsors who would ordinarily apply as

  • common-law partners but cannot meet the definition, that is were not able to live together continuously for one year with their sponsor, or
  • spouses, but marriage to their sponsor is usually not an available option to them,usually because of marital status, combined with an immigration barrier (for example, rules preventing partner and sponsor of long stays in one another’s countries).

If your sponsorship is successful, your conjugal partner becomes a permanent resident of Canada but cannot exercise any rights or privileges associated with common-law status until you have cohabited for at least one year.

Note: There is no provision for fiancé(e)s in Canada’s immigration legislation. If you are the fiancé(e) of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you must marry before the immigration process takes place. Conjugal partners are not fiancé(e)s and are not fiancé-like (that is, intending to live together and begin a conjugal relationship).


You cannot sponsor a person as your spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner if

  • you are a permanent resident or a naturalized citizen of Canada and at the time you made your application for permanent residence, that person was a non-accompanying family member, former spouse or common-law partner and was not examined; or
  • you previously sponsored another spouse, a common-law partner or a conjugal partner and three years have not passed since that spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner became a permanent resident.
  • you were previously sponsored as a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner and became a permanent resident of Canada less than 5 years ago,

Further, you cannot sponsor a person as your spouse

  • if you or this person were the spouse of another person at the time of your marriage, or
  • if you have lived separate and apart from this person for at least one year and A. you are the common-law or conjugal partner of another person, or B. the person you want to sponsor is the common-law partner of another person or the conjugal partner of another sponsor.


Your child or the child of your spouse or common-law partner is considered a dependent child if:

  • The child is under the age of 19 and is single (not married and not in a common-law relationship), or
  • The child is 19 years of age or older and has been financially dependent on a parent since before the age of 19 due to a physical or mental condition.


On February 18, 2005, the Minister of Immigration announced a new public policy under which legal immigration status is no longer a requirement for spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Canada, who wish to apply for permanent resident status provided that they have an eligible sponsor. However, all other eligibility requirements continue to apply. In addition, to be able to continue to work and study in Canada, an application for extension must be received by CIC before the work or study permit has expired.


When you sponsor persons who are members of the family class, you must sign an undertaking with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (or with the Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles (MICC) if you live in Quebec) promising to provide financial support for their basic requirements and those of their family members immigrating to Canada with them. The undertaking ensures these persons and their family members do not have to apply for social assistance. Its length varies according to their age and/or their relationship to you. Your obligations as a sponsor begin as soon as the person you are sponsoring and, if applicable, his or her family members arrive in Canada. The following table shows when your obligations end.

Your family member isYour obligations end
spouse or your common-law or conjugal partnerthree years after that person becomes a permanent resident
dependent child and is under 19 years of age on the day he or she becomes a permanent resident10 years after that child becomes a permanent resident or on the day that child reaches age 22, whichever comes first.
dependent child and is 19 years of age or over on the day he or she becomes a permanent residentthree years after the child becomes a permanent resident
any other person (e.g., your father, mother, your grandparents or a dependent child of your parents)twenty years after that person becomes a permanent resident

If payments from a federal, provincial or municipal assistance program are made during the validity period of the undertaking to the person you are sponsoring or his or her family members, you

  • will be considered to be in default of your obligations,
  • may have to repay to the government concerned any benefits they received, and
  • will not be allowed to sponsor other members of the family class until you have reimbursed the amount of these payments to the government concerned.


You may be eligible to sponsor if:

  • the person you want to sponsor is a member of the family class;
  • you are 18 years of age or older;
  • you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • you reside in Canada;Canadian citizens not residing in Canada may sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner and/or dependent children who have no dependent children of their own. Canadians travelling abroad as tourists are not considered to be residing outside Canada. Sponsors not residing in Canada must provide evidence that they reside exclusively outside Canada on the date of giving the undertaking and will reside in Canada at the time their sponsored spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner and/or children become permanent residents of Canada. Evidence that they will reside in Canada may include one or more of the following:
    • letter from an employer;
    • letter of acceptance to a Canadian educational institution;
    • proof of having rented/bought a dwelling in Canada;
    • reasonable plans for re-establishing in Canada or severing ties to the other country.
  • you sign an undertaking promising to provide for the basic requirements of the person being sponsored and, if applicable, his or her family members;
  • you and the person being sponsored sign an agreement that confirms that each of you understands your mutual obligations and responsibilities;
  • you have an income that is at least equal to the minimum necessary income, the amount of which is published yearly by the Canadian government.


You are not eligible to sponsor if you are in default of a previous sponsorship undertaking, of an immigration loan, of court ordered support payment obligations or of a performance bond (an amount you agreed to pay as a guarantee of performance of an obligation under the immigration legislation).

Also, you cannot sponsor a person for whom you have submitted a previous sponsorship application and no final determination has been made with respect to that application.

Additionally, you are ineligible to sponsor if:

  • you are in prison;
  • you are an undischarged bankrupt;
  • you are in receipt of social assistance for a reason other than disability;
  • you were convicted of a sexual offence or an offence against the person with respect to
    • one of your family members or relatives,
    • one of your spouse’s or common-law partner’s family members or relatives, or
    • your conjugal partner or one of your conjugal partner’s family members or relatives, unless you were granted a pardon or five years have passed after the expiration of the sentence imposed on you;
  • you were adopted outside Canada and subsequently obtained a revocation of your adoption for the purpose of sponsoring an application for permanent residence by your biological parent;
  • you are subject to a removal order; or have been convicted of a serious criminal offence, have provided false information to Immigration, or have not met conditions of entry.

Exclusion from the Family Class

All family members of a potential immigrant, whether accompanying or not, must undergo a medical immigration examination. If you previously made an application for permanent residence and became a permanent resident of Canada, your family members who were not examined in accordance with Canadian Immigration Regulations at the time you made your application, are excluded from the family class and you may not sponsor them.

For more detailed information on sponsorship applications please feel free to contact our office or complete our online assessment questionnaire:  On-line Assessment Questionnaire

Last updated: 18.03.2016