Obtaining Permanent Residence in Canada for Family members

Family members of Canadian permanent residents and citizens can be sponsored to come to Canada as permanent residents. Family Class Sponsorship (FCS) is the main immigration program for family members, and it requires the Canadian relative to accept financial responsibility for the individual being sponsored. The financial responsibility is only for a set number of years and it begins when the sponsored person arrives in Canada.

Family reunification has been a core tenet of Canada’s immigration policy since the Immigration Act of 1976. Its objective as defined in the 1976 Act, was to “facilitate the reunion in Canada of Canadian citizens and permanent residents with their close relatives from abroad”. In addition to the benefits that accrue from integrated families, the reunification program is also anticipated to produce social and cultural benefits. Family reunification is achieved through a sponsorship program which makes it possible to:

  1. Change the status of your relative who is currently in Canada from temporary resident to permanent resident of Canada; or
  2. Gain permanent resident of Canada status  for your relative who may be living outside Canada.

This program is managed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The sponsorship program is based on the notion that a person who is a resident or citizen of Canada (called the Sponsor) would voluntarily provide financial support for the basic needs of his or her relative who is being sponsored for permanent residence. This commitment by the Sponsor is documented in a written agreement called an undertaking. The commitment last for only a few years and the Sponsor must ensure that the following basic needs of the person being sponsored are met during this period:

  • Food,
  • Clothing,
  • Shelter,
  • Other needs for everyday living, and
  • Dental care, eye care, and other health needs not covered by public health services.
91,311 individuals were admitted under Family Class Sponsorship program during 2019, representing a 7.2% increase from 2018 and a record high. Figures for 2020 are not available at the time of writing this article. Due to the travel and other restrictions imposed by COVID, it is anticipated that the figures for 2020 may not be available for a few months and they may show a decline from the figures for 2019.
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Who Can Be a Sponsor?

Can a Sponsor live outside Canada?

The answer depends on the legal status of the Sponsor as follows:

  1. Permanent residents living outside Canada cannot become Sponsors. They cannot apply to be a Sponsor until they return back to Canada.
  2. However, Canadian citizens living outside Canada can become Sponsors if they prove that they intend to be living in Canada when the person they are sponsoring would arrive in Canada.

Contact our team if you need assistance with sponsoring a relative while you are living outside the Canada.

  • Has failed to pay an immigration loan, a performance bond, or family support payments;
  • Has failed to meet their obligations in a previous family sponsorship undertaking;
  • Was ever convicted of a violent or sexual offence, or an offence that caused bodily harm to a relative, or attempted or threatened to commit any of these offences;
  • Is in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory, or prison;
  • Has declared a bankruptcy that has not been discharged; or
  • Is under a removal order while being a permanent resident.
Who Can Be Sponsored?

There are three main groups of relatives who can be sponsored:

  1. Spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner, and dependent children;
  2. Parents and Grandparents; and
  3. Adopted children and a few other relatives.

“Other relatives” include a sibling, nephew, niece, grandchild, an orphan under the age of 18, and—under very specific and limited conditions—another relative of any age or relationship. If you do not fit under one of the clearly defined relationships but wish to explore if you can immigrate to Canada under the Family Class Sponsorship, contact our team.

A Sponsor must apply under one of the following two classes:

  • Family Class; or
  • Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class.

A Sponsor must indicate the correct class of application under which he or she wants to sponsor a relative; the rules for classification are as follows.

  1. A Sponsor must submit an application under the Family Class if the person being sponsored:
    • Lives outside Canada; or
    • Currently lives in Canada but doesn’t plan to stay in Canada while the application is being processed; or
    • Is a conjugal partner or a dependent child of the Sponsor.
  2. A Sponsor can submit an application under either the Family Class or the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class if he or she wants to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner who:
    • Lives in Canada;
    • Has valid immigration status in Canada (for example, temporary resident status); or
    • Would like to apply for, and qualify for, an Open Work Permit that allows him or her to work in Canada while the application is being processed.

The main requirement for the sponsored person is that he or she must not be considered inadmissible to Canada.

The sponsored person is called the Principal Applicant. On the application for permanent residence, the Principal Applicant must list all family members who will accompany him or her to Canada. Note that all dependent children must be listed in the application, even if they will not accompany the sponsored person to Canada. A Principal Applicant must also include the names of all dependent children who are in the sole custody of his or her spouse or partner. If a sponsored person fails to do this and the omission is discovered, the application will be rejected. Contact us if your family circumstances are complex (e.g. due to divorce or re-marriage) and you wish to be certain who you should include as dependent children in your application.

In this article, we will focus on the immigration options for the spouse, partner, and dependent children category.

How Does the FCS Works?

If you are applying for permanent residence for yourself, you should know that the Family Class Sponsorship program is a bilateral process that involves you on one side and your Sponsor on the other. Both you and your Sponsor must:

  1. Meet the above criteria to become eligible for this program; and
  2. Fill out and submit separate application forms at the same time.

A Sponsor must submit an application to sponsor you, and you must submit an application for permanent residence. Only after your prospective Sponsor’s application is approved will your application be considered. Thus, even though the two applications must be submitted at the same time, the success of the immigrant’s application depends on the outcome of the Sponsor’s application. If you find the process confusing, contact our team for guidance.


You and your Sponsor should submit the permanent residence and sponsorship applications concurrently. Here are the basic steps for both:

  1. Check Eligibility:  Make sure that you and your Sponsor meet the basic requirements for the Family Class Sponsorship.
  2. Select the correct application package: What is included in a Sponsor’s package depends on the Sponsor's relationship with the sponsored person, the country where the sponsored person resides, and the country where the documents whose copies are required for application were originally issued. Similarly, the sponsored person’s application packages are not the same for every applicant; they vary depending on the citizenship of the applicant, his or her place of residence, and other factors. You must make sure that you choose the right application package for you and your Sponsor and prepare the appropriate documents. For example, you may have to submit either a copy of the birth certificate, or submit country specific documents to verify birth depending on the customary or traditional law (e.g. if an applicant’s child was adopted in India through customary law, an applicant must provide photographs of the adoption ceremony etc.). Please contact our team if you need help selecting the correct application package. An online tool is available to help you with this task.
  3. Gather the required documents: You and your Sponsor should prepare the required documents in accordance with the application package that you have selected. Remember that there are many country-specific requirements. You should carefully check them to identify the correct set of documents. For example, you may have to submit originals of some documents while in other cases certified copies may suffice, or your application will be rejected. Our team can assist you with this task.
  1. Fill out the Application forms: As discussed above, the application forms differ depending on several factors. One of these factors is the nature of relationship between the Sponsor and the person being sponsored. Fill out the appropriate set of forms for a spouse, partner, child, adopted child or other relative. Note that the procedure for inter-country adoption in Canada also varies by country so if an adopted child is being sponsored, you will have to be aware of these nuances. This is one of the most important steps in the application process and requires accuracy, clarity, and attention to detail. Contact our team if you need any help in selecting or filling the correct forms.

What is a Sponsorship Agreement?

A Sponsorship Agreement (SA) is a contract signed between a Sponsor and the sponsored person (sometimes also referred to as Principal Applicant or PA) in which legally binding promises are made between the two. A Sponsor promises to provide for the basic living needs of a sponsored person and any accompanying family members for the duration of the undertaking, including food, shelter, clothing, necessary goods or services, healthcare, and dental care. In turn, a sponsored person promises to make reasonable efforts to provide for his or her basic living needs and those of his or her family members.

The Sponsorship Agreement is one of the forms that must be signed by a Sponsor and a sponsored person. The duration of the undertaking depends on the relationship between the Sponsor and PA as described below. Note that the length of undertaking for residents of Quebec differs from that for other Canadian provinces and territories.

  1. Pay the fees: You and your Sponsor must pay fees online. A Sponsor must paid the sponsorship fee. You as the sponsored person must pay for yourself and anyone you include on your application a) processing fee, b) right of permanent residence fee, c) biometric fee, and d) third-party (e.g. for medical exams, police certificates, etc) fees if necessary.
  2. Check your application to avoid common mistakes: You and your Sponsors must include all forms and documents required. Otherwise, your application will be returned to you without being processed. So, please check for accuracy. If you need assistance with this task, contact us and we can verify your application for completeness.
  3. Submit the application: You and your Sponsor must submit the application to one of the IRCC offices. Remember that you should put the completed forms, all supporting documents required, and fee payment in a single envelope. The application can not be hand delivered, you must use:
    • Regular mail, or
    • Courier.
  4. Be ready to send additional information during processing: You may be invited for an interview with a member of the Canadian Embassy in your country. You and your family members may be asked to submit:
    • Medical exams;
    • Police certificates; and
    • Biometrics.
  5. Wait for approval: If your and your Sponsor applications are complete, you will receive an acknowledgment of receipt via a letter or email. For the decision, the processing time varies. Remember to check your mailbox regularly.
Sponsors Living in Quebec

Quebec manages its immigration programs differently from other provinces and territories of Canada. An agreement was reached between the Federal government of Canada and the government of Quebec concerning the implementation of the Family Class Sponsorship. The application and verification process for both a Sponsor and a sponsored person is under the joint responsibility of IRCC and the Quebec ministry of immigration. First, a Sponsor must apply to IRCC under the general procedure. Once the applications have cleared the preliminary stage, IRCC will redirect them to Quebec immigration authorities.

Quebec authorities then determine whether or not Sponsors residing in Quebec have the financial capability to sponsor members of the family class. Quebec has also established different lengths of undertaking and requirements for sponsored persons. In our other article, you may find more information about Quebec's rules for family immigration.

Commonly Asked Questions

How long does it take for family sponsorship application to be approved?

The processing time includes time required:

  • To obtain your biometrics; these have to be submitted with the application.
  • By IRCC to assess the Sponsor and the person being sponsored; and
  • To ensure that the PA meets all eligibility requirements.

New applicants can expect to wait about 12 months for a decision. The processing time for children depends on the country from which they move to Canada and may take up to 24 months.

How much does Family Class Sponsorship cost?

An applicant and his or her Sponsor must pay the following fees for immigration under the Family Class Sponsorship.



Principal applicant processing fee


Sponsorship fee


Right of Permanent Residence fee


Biometric fee


CAN $150 (CAN $75 sponsorship fee and CAN $75 processing fee) must be paid for each dependent child included in the application. You will also need to pay the biometric fee for any child included in the application who is aged 14 to 19; however, biometric fees are capped at CAN $170 per family.

You will also have to pay fees to third parties for yourself and your family members (if applicable) for:

  • Medical exams;
  • Police certificates.

Please note that you must have your receipt printed to add it to the final application as proof of payment. So, save those receipts!

What happens if the relationship between a Sponsor and the sponsored person breaks down?

If the sponsored person has already obtained permanent residency in Canada, the sponsored person’s permanent resident status will not be affected. The Canadian government cannot remove you solely on the grounds that your Sponsor cannot or will not support you financially. In such a case you can apply for social assistance from the government. According to the terms of the undertaking signed by the Sponsor, your Sponsor will be legally obligated to repay to the government any money you receive from the government.

Can a spouse work in Canada while the sponsorship application for the spouse is being processed?

Yes, a spouse can work in Canada while his or her sponsorship application is being processed. However, there are two main requirements:

  1. A Sponsor must submit his or her application to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class.
  2. A spouse or common-law partner must apply and qualify for an Open Work Permit.

Can you have more than one Sponsor?

No, technically you cannot. However, in some cases, a Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking can be co-signed by a Sponsor’s spouse or common-law partner. Use of a co-signer may be possible in applications to sponsor the following family members:

  1. Parents and grandparents;
  2. Dependent children, in cases where their dependent child (i.e. a grandchild) is included on the application as an accompanying dependent person; and
  3. “Other relatives” as defined above.

The co-signer must:

  • Meet the same eligibility requirements as the sponsor;
  • Agree to co-sign your undertaking; and
  • Agree to be responsible for the basic requirements of the person being sponsored and his or her family members for the validity period of the undertaking.

A co-signer is equally responsible with the Sponsor to provide basic needs to the sponsored person. Although, if the main Sponsor withdraws sponsorship, the co-signer does not automatically replace the Sponsor. This means that if the Sponsor decides to terminate the financial support, the co-signer will not be obliged to fully support the sponsored person.

Can a person sponsor more than one relative?

A Sponsor is allowed to submit more than one sponsorship application at the same time for different family class relatives, provided that he or she meets all financial requirements.

What is a Sponsorship Undertaking?

A Sponsorship Undertaking is a written contract in which a Sponsor promises to support the living needs of the sponsored person. The Sponsor also contractually commits the Canadian Government that his or her sponsored person will not apply for social assistance. If the sponsored person does end up receiving social assistance, the Sponsor agrees to pay that money back to the government. The Sponsor is obligated to do this even if he or she becomes unemployed or encounters other challenges. The undertaking is meant to ensure that sponsored persons and their family members do not become a burden to Canadian taxpayers before they are able to support themselves financially. The length of the commitment varies according to sponsored person’s age and the relationship between the Sponsor and the sponsored person.

What is the length of undertaking?

The length of undertaking is the period for which a Sponsor is responsible for the sponsored person. The undertaking takes effect on the day the sponsored person becomes a permanent resident. The length of undertaking depends on the persons sponsored and the nature of their relationship with the Sponsor.




3 years

Common-law partner

3 years

Conjugal partner

3 years

Dependent child and accompanying children of spouses and partners

10 years or until child turns 25 for a child under age 22

3 years for a child of age 22 or above

Parent or grandparent and accompanying children of parents or grandparents

20 years

Orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece, or grandchild

10 years

Child to be adopted

10 years or until child turns 25 for a child under age 22

Adopted child

10 years or until child turns 25 for a child under age 22

3 years for a child of age 22 or over

Other relatives

10 years

What types of marriages are recognized in Canada?

The Canadian legislation recognizes both opposite and same-gender marriages. For the purpose of immigration, the IRCC recognizes a marriage if the marriage:

  1. Was legally performed in Canada, or
  2. Must be legally recognized in the country where it took place and in Canada.

Although the Canadian government prioritizes family reunification in Canada, there are strict requirements for both a Sponsor and a sponsored person. If you are interested in exploring this route and seek assistance to ensure clarity and accuracy of your and your Sponsor’s applications, contact us; our team of experts will be glad to assist you in your quest for permanent residence in Canada. The importance of providing clear, complete, and accurate information throughout the process cannot be overstated. There are many forms that you and your Sponsor must fill out. Our team will help you choose the right application package that is appropriate for your circumstances, prepare all necessary documents, assist in your credentials assessments, and assist in preparing the applications for both you and your Sponsor.

We will give you a realistic assessment of your chances of success and assist you in developing the best strategy for a successful outcome. We will guide you on how to avoid pitfalls and improve your chances of being granted permanent resident status.