Individuals sponsored to come to Canada by their spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner are granted conditional permanent resident status with certain conditions and obligations attached depending on the status of their relationship at the time of sponsorship. These conditions are:
- 5 year ban on sponsoring a new spouse, common-law or conjugal partner;
- Requirement to remain in a conjugal relationship for 2 years following the acquisition of permanent resident status.
These conditions were adopted to limit the possibility of abuse or fraud in the spousal sponsorship process.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents have the right to sponsor their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner to come to Canada. This right is, however, limited for individuals who were themselves sponsored in that category. These individuals cannot sponsor a new spouse or partner until a period of 5 years has elapsed from the day they landed in Canada, becoming permanent residents. This condition applies regardless of whether the person obtains Canadian citizenship in the interim.
The 5 year ban does not apply to non-spousal or partner sponsorships. As such, individuals who were sponsored as a spouse or partner can, even in the 5 year period following the beginning of their permanent residence, sponsor other members of the family class.
Under certain circumstances, a sponsored spouse, common-law or conjugal partner is granted permanent resident status which can be revoked if they do not cohabitate in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for a continuous period of 2 years following their acquisition of status. If an individual’s permanent resident status if revoked, any person who was in turn sponsored to come to Canada by that individual will also lose their status.
Permanent residents to whom the 2 year conjugal relationship requirement applies can have their status revoked even if non-compliance is discovered only after the initial two year period in question.
A sponsored individual is subject to the requirement if:
- As of the day their sponsor filed a sponsorship application, they had been married, in a common-law or conjugal relationship for two years or less, AND:
- At that time had no child together.
Married couples who file an application for sponsorship within two years of the date of their marriage are subject to this condition, even if they had a relationship prior to the marriage.
Live in a Conjugal Relationship
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) defines this as a financially, socially, emotionally and physically interdependent relationship. Individuals in a conjugal relationship will have made a serious commitment to one another.
Continuous Cohabitation for a period of 2 years
CIC’s interpretation of “cohabitation” is of two people who have combined their affaires together and live in one dwelling. The interpretation allows for short periods of separation caused by work, business travel or other obligations however these periods must be temporary and short. Various periods of cohabitation separated by periods apart cannot be combined to meet the 2 year requirement.
Exceptions: Death and Abuse or Neglect
Individuals who are subject to the 2 year conjugal cohabitation requirement can see this requirement lifted in two circumstances:
- Death of their sponsoring spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner;
- End of conjugal relationship due to abuse or neglect;
In the event of the sponsor’s death during the 2 year conditional period, the sponsored person will have to provide evidence of the death to CIC in the form of a death certificate or attestation from the funeral home. They will also have to provide evidence that they continued to live with their sponsor in a conjugal relationship until the time of death in order for the condition to be lifted.
The two year condition can also be lifted if it is shown that the permanent resident lived in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor until that cohabitation became impossible due to abuse or neglect. The abuse in question can be physical, sexual, psychological or financial. Neglect refers to the failure to provide the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, medical care or shelter.
Situations which can lead to lifting of condition are those where the author of the abuse is the sponsor or their relatives and where the victim is the sponsored person, their child, a child of the sponsor or a relative who habitually lives with them. In such situations, the permanent resident can ask CIC to be exempt from the two year conjugal cohabitation condition.