spousal sponsorship processing times

Canada spousal sponsorship update – thousands of spouses reuniting

Canada spousal sponsorship update. The Toronto Star reported that Canadians and their foreign spouses who were separated due to COVID-19 travel restrictions are now being reunited by the thousands.

Canada’s Family Class Sponsorship programs are some of the most generous family reunification programs in the developed world. One of the most widely used Family Class streams is the Canada Spousal Sponsorship stream, which facilitates immigration for spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

See also Canada’s spousal sponsorship processing now 12 months for new applicants.


Like other countries around the world, Canada spousal sponsorship process has been under a lot of pressure during these COVID-19 times. The Canadian government is committed, and has always made consistent efforts, to ensure that immigrant families are able to stay together. The standard processing time for most family sponsorship applications has been streamlined to 12 months prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic upended Canada Spousal Sponsorship stream processes, processing and support services, just like the pandemic has on other immigration programs including students visa, work permit and visiting visa processes. The pandemic worsened a situation in which families already feel that Temporary Resident Visas (TRV) to visit spouses and families are often denied because applicants have to demonstrate that they would leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay if their permanent residence application is not finalized.

You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.

There were countless Covid-19 related spousal sponsorship horror stories on social media, including the Facebook account of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) The common thread of each story is how family unit has become disrupted as a result of the spousal sponsorship delays consequent to the coronavirus pandemic. See for example Canadian Spousal Sponsorship Applicants Affected by Covid-19.


Is Canada spousal sponsorship in crisis due to COVID-19?

Relief!! Canada spousal sponsorship update

Faced with the spousal sponsorship crisis, in September 2020, the federal government announced that it would speed up the processing of spousal sponsorship applications. IRCC increased staff responsible for spousal sponsorships by 66 per cent, and set an ambitious target to process and finalize 6,000 applications every month between October and December 2020.

Canada speeds up spousal sponsorship application processing.


The Toronto Star reports that IRCC considerably met its goal. In total, 15,999 files were finalized in the quarter, with 14,816 applications approved, 837 refused and 346 withdrawn. Two-thirds of the completed applications were from people who were physically overseas, while the rest were from inside Canada.

Nevertheless, the average processing time remains longer than the 12 months it had been before the COVID-19 pandemic. The processing time is currently 17 months for overseas applications and 15 months for in-Canada applications.

“IRCC will continue to pioneer innovative and compassionate ways to reunite families” according to a department spokesperson quoted by the Toronto Star.

IRCC said it is introducing a pilot project to digitize paper applications so officials can process cases more efficiently while working remotely and at various worksites. It’s also using new technology to conduct online interviews with applicants.

How to Sponsor your spouse or partner

There are many options for a Canadian permanent resident or citizen to bring a spouse to Canada. Whichever option is taken it is important to ensure that following eligibility requirements are satisfied:

Requirements for the Sponsor:

  • The sponsor must be at least 18 years of age;
  • The sponsor must be a Canadian permanent resident living in Canada or a Canadian citizen;
  • The sponsor cannot be in prison, bankrupt, under a removal order (if a permanent resident) or charged with a serious offence; and
  • The sponsor cannot have been sponsored to Canada as a spouse within the last 5 years.

Find out who can apply to become a sponsor. Use IRCC’s basic guide (IMM 5525) to help you with the application steps, including:

Requirements for the Sponsored Person:

  • The sponsored person must be at least 16 years of age and
  • The sponsored person must not be too closely related by blood to the sponsor.

Requirements for the nature of the relationship:

The applicant must prove that the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored person qualifies under one of three categories:

  • Spouse: This means that the Sponsor and the Sponsored Person are legally married. For those married within Canada, a Certificate of Marriage from the province or territory where the marriage took place will show that the marriage is valid. Note that same-sex marriages performed within Canada are valid for spousal sponsorship. If the marriage took place outside of Canada, it must be valid under the law of the country where it took place as well as under Canadian federal law. Same-sex marriages that took place outside of Canada are not valid for spousal sponsorship, but an application can be made under either the common-law partner or conjugal partner categories if such a relationship can be proven.
  • Common-law partner: In order to establish a common-law relationship, the Sponsor and the Sponsored Person must cohabit continuously for at least one year, excluding brief absences for business or family reasons.
  • Conjugal partner: Conjugal partners can be of either opposite-sex or same-sex. A sponsored person is defined as a conjugal partner if:
    • Exceptional circumstances beyond their control have prevented the applicants from qualifying as common-law partners or spouses, such as immigration barriers or legal restrictions limiting divorce or same-sex relationships; and
    • The applicants have had a mutually dependent relationship for at least one year with the same level of commitment as a marriage or a common-law union. This can require a demonstration of emotional ties and intimacy, financial closeness, such as joint ownership of assets or mutual financial support, and efforts to spend time together and reunite.

An individual cannot apply to become a sponsor if he or she:

  • did not pay an immigration loan, a performance bond and/or family support payments;
  • failed to support a previously-sponsored relative, which resulted in the sponsored individual seeking social assistance to meet his or her basic needs;
  • is under a removal order;
  • is in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison;
  • receives social assistance for reasons other than a disability;
  • have filed for bankruptcy and have not received an ‘order of discharge’ by the court (he or she is still going through the process of bankruptcy);
  • were sponsored and held permanent resident status for less than five years;
  • sponsored another spouse/partner previously and three years have not passed since the sponsored spouse/partner became a Canadian permanent resident;
  • have already submitted an application to sponsor his or her current spouse/partner/child and a decision was not yet made on his or her submitted application;
  • were convicted of a violent or sexual offence or an offence that caused,attempted to cause or threatened to cause bodily harm to a relative. 

Does your spouse or partner want to work while they are living in Canada and waiting for their application to be processed?

If you’re sponsoring your spouse or partner under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in-Canada Class, they may be eligible for an open work permit. Find out how to apply.

You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.