Family Sponsorship

Eligibility Criteria for Family Sponsorship

The Canadian family sponsorship program is designed to help families reunite in Canada. In order to be eligible to sponsor a family member, potential sponsors must meet specific criteria set by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). First and foremost, sponsors must be 18 years of age or older and be a Canadian citizen, a person registered in Canada as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act, or a permanent resident of Canada.

Sponsors must also demonstrate the financial ability to support the sponsored family member(s) for a set period. This means sponsors will need to satisfy income requirements, which vary depending on the size of the family unit. The Minimum Necessary Income (MNI), determined by the government on an annual basis, serves as a benchmark for this financial evaluation. Notably, residents of Quebec are subject to distinct income requirements, which are determined by the province.

It’s important to note that sponsors cannot be in prison, bankrupt, under a removal order, or charged with a serious offence. In addition, they must not be in receipt of social assistance for reasons other than disability, and they must not have been convicted of certain offenses against relatives, which demonstrate an inability to provide a safe environment for the sponsored person.

There are different types of family members that can be sponsored, and the requirements may vary accordingly. For instance:

  • Spouses, common-law partners, or conjugal partners: The partnership must be genuine and not primarily for the purpose of gaining immigration status in Canada.
  • Dependent children: A dependent child must be under the age of 22 and without a spouse or common-law partner. Children 22 years old or older may qualify if they are unable to financially support themselves due to a physical or mental condition.
  • Parents and grandparents: Sponsors must meet a higher income threshold for at least three consecutive years to show they can support the larger family unit.
  • Adopted children or other relatives: Specific conditions and procedures must be met, and the sponsor must prove their relationship to the sponsored individual.

Sponsors in Canada should be aware that the Family Sponsorship program involves a commitment to provide financial support for the sponsored family member(s) for a period of time. This period is called the sponsorship undertaking and the length of time varies according to the age of the sponsored person and the nature of the relationship.

Meeting the eligibility requirements for family sponsorship is a critical first step in the application process. It ensures that sponsors are sufficiently prepared for the responsibilities associated with bringing family members to Canada, and provides a strong foundation for a successful immigration application.

Application Process for Sponsoring a Relative

Once eligibility criteria are satisfied, the next step in bringing a family member to Canada is to navigate the application process diligently. It begins with the sponsor and sponsored family member(s) gathering the necessary documentation, such as identification documents, proof of relationship, and financial records. Detailed guidelines and checklists on the documents required are provided by the IRCC to assist applicants in preparing their application package accurately.

The application process entails two pivotal applications: the sponsorship application and the permanent residence application for the family member being sponsored. These two applications are usually submitted together and processed at the same time. Sponsors must fill out the sponsorship application forms, which declare their intent and ability to support their family member(s), and the sponsored individuals must complete their own set of forms intended for the permanent residence application.

Throughout the documentation process, attention to detail is essential. For instance:

  • Ensure that all forms are completed without any blanks unless instructed otherwise.
  • Provide accurate and current information to reflect any changes in circumstances.
  • Include clear and legible photocopies of all supporting documents, unless original copies are specified by IRCC.

After the documentation is assembled, the sponsor must pay the required fees, which typically include processing fees, the right of permanent residence fee, and may also include biometrics fees. It is crucial to follow the instructions on paying fees and provide proof of payment with the application.

The application package is then submitted to the appropriate IRCC office as outlined in the guide provided by the Canadian government. The processing times for family sponsorship applications can vary widely depending on the country from which the family member is applying, the type of relationship involved, and the current caseload of the IRCC.

Once the application is received, the IRCC will review it for completeness. If any documents are missing or if further information is needed, the application may be returned or delayed. Should the application be accepted for processing, both the sponsor and the sponsored family member will receive correspondence from the IRCC outlining the next steps, such as the schedule for interviews or requests for additional documents.

During the processing period, sponsors and applicants must update IRCC regarding any change in their personal details, like changes in address, marital status, or the birth of children. Remaining proactive in communicating with IRCC will help maintain the integrity of the application process.

Once the application is approved, the sponsored family member will receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and a visa, if necessary. Prior to their arrival in Canada, it is essential for the sponsored family member to be aware of the conditions in their COPR, such as the need to enter Canada before a certain date.

To facilitate a smooth application process, sponsors should meticulously prepare, remain organized, and stay informed about the application progress. It is important to adhere to the guidelines, follow the processes established by the IRCC, and provide timely updates when required. The success of the sponsorship endeavor greatly depends on the accuracy of the application and the thoroughness of the submission.

Rights and Responsibilities of Sponsors and Sponsored Family Members

Once the sponsorship agreement is in place, sponsors are obliged to fulfill certain financial responsibilities. This commitment is a serious legal contract with the Canadian government, where the sponsor pledges to provide for the basic needs of their sponsored family members. This includes necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare needs that are not covered by public health insurance. Essentially, this commitment ensures that the newcomers do not need to seek financial assistance from the government.

The duration of the sponsorship obligation varies. For instance, the undertaking for sponsoring a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner is for three years from the day the family member becomes a permanent resident. Sponsoring a dependent child requires a 10-year commitment, or until the child turns 25, whichever comes first. When sponsoring parents or grandparents, the duration extends to 20 years from the time they become permanent residents.

For the sponsored family members, gaining permanent resident status under the family class comes with the right to live, work, and study anywhere in Canada. They are also eligible for healthcare and other social benefits. However, they carry the responsibility of striving to support themselves and, upon qualification, may also apply for Canadian citizenship. It’s pertinent for them to understand and comply with Canadian laws and not to become a burden on the Canadian social welfare system.

It is crucial for both parties to fully understand these terms:

  • Sponsors must ensure they remain financially stable to support their relatives, as defaulting on sponsorship obligations can have legal consequences.
  • Sponsored family members must make every reasonable effort to become self-sufficient within the sponsorship period.

Sponsors should also be mindful that circumstances may change over the years. If sponsors face financial difficulties, such as job loss, they are still legally bound to support the sponsored relatives for the duration of the undertaking. Similarly, if a sponsored spouse or partner divorces the sponsor, the sponsor is still financially responsible for the ex-spouse or partner for the duration of the undertaking.

The obligations also cannot be dismissed by either party leaving Canada. If the sponsored individual goes on social assistance, the sponsor could be required to repay the government, and it may impact the sponsor’s ability to sponsor others in the future.

In addition to responsibilities, both sponsors and sponsored family members have legal rights that protect them. For instance, it is the sponsored individuals’ right to be free from abuse or neglect by the sponsor. The Government of Canada takes these matters seriously and offers protection and support to those in abusive situations.

Ultimately, the family sponsorship program is underpinned by mutual responsibilities—a commitment from the sponsor to care for their family members and a commitment from the sponsored family members to make the most of their new life in Canada and abide by Canadian laws. It is a partnership that requires planning, commitment, and dedication to ensuring the welfare of all parties involved.