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Sponsoring a relative — FAQ

A Canadian passport. Stock photo by Getty Images

If you have relatives abroad who want to move to Canada, you may be able to bring them here under the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) sponsorship program. Here are some of the basics on how it works.

Who is eligible to sponsor?

If you’re over 18 and you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible to sponsor a relative to live in Canada.

You must also meet a minimum income level, which varies depending on how many people you sponsor. The amount is defined annually by Statistics Canada. In 2014 for example, you needed an income of at least $23,647 to sponsor one person. To sponsor five people, you needed to make $49,839.

Also, you have to agree in writing to financially support your relative for a certain period depending on the relation and their age. For a spouse or common-law partner you must commit for a three-year period, but it’s a 10-year commitment for a dependent child.

If you live in Quebec, you must also meet some of the province’s own requirements.

Who’s not eligible?

Even if you meet all the other criteria, you could still be ineligible if you:

  • Owe spousal support or child support payments.
  • Missed, are late or defaulted on payment of an immigration loan.
  • Are receiving government financial assistance, unless it’s for a disability.
  • Have committed a violent crime, any sexual offence or offence against a relative.
  • Are in prison.
  • Have declared bankruptcy, but are not yet discharged.
  • Sponsored a relative in the past but violated the sponsorship agreement.

Who can I sponsor?

  • Your spouse, common-law or conjugal partner
  • Your dependent child, including adopted children. In August 2014, CIC lowered the age of a dependent child from 22 to 19.
  • Brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces or grandchildren who are orphaned, are under 18 and are not married or in a common-law relationship. 

It’s also possible to sponsor your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, brothers, sisters and cousins, although certain conditions apply.

What does it cost?

There is a processing fee to accompany your application. It costs $75 for the sponsor and varying amounts for the applicant, depending on how many there are and other criteria including age and marital status.

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily, but given the lengthy process, the costs and the amount of work involved, you don’t want to make mistakes that could cause further delays or rejection of your application. If you’re confused at any point, seek advice from an immigration consultant or lawyer.

How long does the process take?

First, CIC assesses your suitability as a sponsor. The processing time depends on who you’re trying to sponsor and from which country. Applications to sponsor adopted children or orphans are processed daily on a priority basis, whereas spousal applications can take almost two months and for parents and grandparents, it can take several years.

Then the applicant is assessed. If they live in another country, they’re assessed by that country’s visa office and the processing times vary greatly.

If they reside in Canada, things move a bit faster, although it can still take well over a year. The sponsor is still assessed and the CIC does a medical and background check on the applicant.

What if my application is refused?

Applicants could be turned down for a variety of reasons, including;

  • They’re involved in organized crime.
  • They are deemed a security risk, perhaps through terrorist involvement or espionage against Canada.
  • They have committed human rights violations.
  • They have a serious health issue, one that poses a threat to public health or places high demand on the health care system.
  • They have serious financial problems.
  • They lied on the application or in the interview.

If your application is rejected, you can file an appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

You must file the appeal within 30 days of your application’s refusal. If the appeal is granted, it takes approximately 10 months to decide. If it is rejected, you can apply to a federal court for a judicial appeal.


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