Near, far, wherever you are— Canadians can still sponsor common-law partners for permanent residence
Canada’s travel restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus do not extend to immediate family members, including common-law partners. For the purposes of immigration, Canada defines a common-law partnership as two people who have lived together for one year in what the government calls a “conjugal relationship,” or a “marriage-like” relationship. Canadian citizens and permanent residents may be eligible to sponsor their common-law partners for Canadian immigration. Couples can prove that they lived together for at least one year by providing a lease or mortgage in both names. If that is not possible, they may also use utility bills, bank statements, credit card bills, phone bills, drivers licenses, or any document that would show they have lived together for 12 consecutive months.
With coronavirus measures in place, partners who are travelling to Canada may use these and other documents to prove their relationship status at the Port of Entry. Special measures spurred by the coronavirus outbreak will affect couples differently depending on their application, and whether they are applying for Inland or Outland sponsorship. The difference between Inland and Outland sponsorship Despite how it may sound, both Inland and Outland sponsorship applications can be made within Canada. Outland sponsorship means the application is being processed through the visa office that serves as the foreign national’s country of origin. Outland applicants may be permitted to travel to and from Canada, however, they must adhere to the mandatory rules for travellers. Canada is also advising everyone to avoid leaving the country for non-essential travel. Inland sponsorship is when both partners are together in Canada. The foreign common-law partner has temporary status in Canada as a worker, student, or visitor. Keeping legal status in Canada while waiting for application results The Open Work Permit Pilot Program for Inland common-law partners and spouses allows partners to work anywhere for any employer in Canada while their applications are being processed. This pilot will be available until at least July 31, 2020. In order to be eligible for this open work permit the following criteria must be met:
the application for permanent residence through common-law or spousal sponsorship must be in processing;
both partners must reside at the same address;
both partners must meet eligibility criteria under the spousal or common-law sponsorship program; and
the applicant must have a valid temporary resident status as a student, worker, or visitor.
Common-law partners who need to extend their temporary resident status may apply online. If they have stopped working or studying they may be eligible for a visitor visa. If they are still working or studying they may be able to extend their permit. Visitor visa holders can also apply to extend their stay. Incomplete applications may be accepted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may accept incomplete applications provided that the documents are missing due to COVID-19 service disruptions. Couples who are filing new common-law sponsorship applications, but are unable to provide the required supporting documentation must submit a detailed letter explaining the delays. Incomplete applications will be kept and reviewed in 90 days. If the application is still incomplete in 60 days, IRCC officers are instructed to request the missing documents with an additional 90-day deadline.
By Shelby Thevenot