Family Class Applications (FSTC)

Canadian immigration policy and legislation have a long tradition of supporting family reunification which permits both recent immigrants and long-established Canadians to be reunited with their close family members from abroad. The support of sponsors assists new immigrants in achieving self-reliance and leads to faster establishment in the country.

Who Can Be Sponsored
Only the following members meet the definition of “family class” and may be sponsored:

  • spouses, common-law or conjugal partners 16 years of age or older;
  • parents and grandparents;
  • dependent children, including adopted children;
  • children under 18 years of age whom you intend to adopt;
  • children under guardianship; or
  • brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces or grandchildren who are orphans; under the age of 18 and not married or in a common-law relationship.

Please note that in order to meet the definition of “common law” partner, an applicant must show evidence of cohabitation with that person (i.e. sponsor) for a period of at least 1 year. If an applicant was unable to cohabit with his/her partner due to – for instance – societal/cultural reasons or discrimination – an argument could be made that he/she falls under the “conjugal partner” category, but this determination would have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Sponsorship obligations
It is important for each sponsor to understand that, when signing the Undertaking, he/she assumes a legal financial obligation for the well being of the sponsored individual once in Canada (for a period of 3 to 10 years after arrival in the country, depending on the type of sponsorship). As a result, the sponsor may have to meet certain minimum income requirements (“LICO”) as set out by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These requirements, however, do NOT apply when sponsoring a spouse or common law/conjugal partner.
Please note that should the Canadian Sponsor fail to financially support the sponsored applicant and he/she receives social assistance, the Authorities may take legal recourse against the Sponsor.

Sponsors must be Canadian Permanent Residents or Canadian Citizens over the age of nineteen (19) and must be residing in Canada, or if Canadian, show that they plan on returning to Canada with the sponsored individual(s). Sponsors cannot be bankrupt, in default of a previous undertaking to sponsor, in prison, under a removal order or charged with a serious criminal offence.

Finally, in some cases, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may be eligible to sponsor another relative. However, these circumstances are quite narrowly defined and the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer should be sought in such cases.

In the attempt to prevent fraudulent marriages, according to a policy change made by the federal government in 2010, individuals who come to Canada as a sponsored spouse/partner must wait 5 years before sponsoring a new spouse/partner.

Furthermore, the federal government has recently also introduced a conditional permanent resident status for spouses and/or partners married or in a common law relationship less than two years and without children. These individuals are now required to live with their sponsor for a two-year period before they can be considered permanent residents.

Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship
In November 2011, the federal government placed a moratorium on new applications of this variety for two years (with possibility of further extension) while the program is redesigned. However, recognizing the hardship associated with this moratorium, the Federal government also introduced the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, which allows parents and grandparents to visit Canada for two years at a time over a ten-year period.

De-facto family members
In cases where the applicant does not fit within the definition of “Family Class,” he/she can still seek to be reunited with their nuclear family in Canada on Humanitarian & Compassionate grounds pursuant to the “de facto” family member provisions.

As section 8.3 of Chapter OP4 stipulates:
De facto family members are persons who do not meet the definition of a family class member. They are, however, in a situation of dependence that makes them a de facto member of a nuclear family that is either in Canada or that is applying to immigrate. Some examples: a son, daughter, brother or sister left alone in the country of origin without family of their own; an elderly relative such as an aunt or uncle or an unrelated person who has resided with the family for a long time.

In these types of applications, an important consideration is to what extent the applicant would have difficulty in meeting financial or emotional needs without the support and assistance of the family unit in Canada. Factors to consider include:

  • Whether dependency is bona fide and not created for immigration purposes;
  • The level of dependency;
  • The stability of the relationship;
  • The length of the relationship;
  • Ability and willingness of the family in Canada to provide support;
  • Applicant’s other alternatives, such as family (spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.) outside Canada able and willing to provide support;
  • Documentary evidence about the relationship (e.g., joint bank accounts or real estate holdings, other joint property ownership, wills, insurance policies, letters from friends and family);
  • Any other factors that are believed to be relevant to the H&C decision.

This is a highly discretionary type of an application and in order to maximize the chances of success, help from skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyer is recommended (please also look under “Humanitarian & Compassionate” applications as these are directly related).