Spousal Sponsorship in The Zoom Era

A lot has changed in the last year. Country borders have closed, international travel has been largely blocked and gatherings of people have been greatly restricted. All of these limitations have raised many immigration-related questions – especially for couples pursuing spousal sponsorship, when in-person weddings are not possible.

In a previous post, we discussed the requirement for couples to be physically present at weddings that lead to applications of spousal sponsorship. In today’s post, we examine the options that such couples have in more detail:

What Is Spousal Sponsorship?

Spousal sponsorship is a process by which a Canadian citizen can sponsor their non-citizen spouse to become a Canadian permanent resident. In order to do this, there must be proof of a marriage that is recognized in Canada – which can be either through a legal wedding or through a common-law relationship.

Marriage

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) does not recognize so-called “marriages by proxy” as valid marriages for the purposes of spousal sponsorship. This means that a virtual wedding over Zoom or FaceTime – where spouses are geographically separated – don’t count for Canadian immigration purposes.

However, there are certain other documents that can be accepted as proof of a marriage. These include:

  • A marriage certificate
  • Proof of registration of the marriage
  • Proof of shared children between the couple
  • Other types of proof of a wedding

Common-Law Relationship

Canada also recognizes common-law relationships as equivalent proof of marital status – provided they have lived together for at least 12 consecutive months. Applicants can provide proof of such a relationship in the form of:

  • Shared property ownership or lease agreements
  • Shared utility bills
  • Proof of shared address

You and your spouse may also be able to get married in the same geographic location outside of Canada. It’s worth bearing in mind that not all marriages taking place in other countries are recognized by Canada. In any case, it’s your responsibility to prove to the Canadian authorities that your marriage is legal.

During the current health crisis, the situation affecting immigration is fluid – and guidance may be changing. To ensure that your marriage meets the necessary requirements under Canadian law, it may be worthwhile to seek the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer.


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