Determining membership in the class: Spouse or common-law partners

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Determining membership in the family class

Family class requirements

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada can sponsor the following members of their family:  spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner (opposite or same-sex), dependent children, parents, grand-parents, children adopted from abroad, and under specific circumstances, other relatives.

Members of the family class must meet all of the following requirements:

  • they must have an eligible relative, or spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner who meets the requirements to be a sponsor
  • they must prove their identity, age and relationship to their sponsor
  • the applicant and their dependent family members must not be inadmissible
  • they must have valid and subsisting passports or travel documents
  • they must be coming to Canada to establish permanent residence

Family class: Excluded relationships

The Regulations prescribe relationships that exclude an applicant from membership in the family class. Applicants in the following situations are not members of the family class:

  • the spouse or common-law partner is under the age of 18 [R5]
  • bigamy or polygamy - either the sponsor or the spouse was married to someone else at the time of the marriage
  • the marriage or relationship is not genuine or was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act (R4) (relationship of convenience)
  • the sponsor and the applicant have been separated for at least a year, and either one is in a common-law relationship with another person
  • when the sponsor applied for permanent residence, the applicant was a non-accompanying family member of the sponsor and was not examined [R5, R117(9)(d), R117(10) and (11) and R125(1)(d), R125(2) and (3)]

The Regulations provide further precision about excluded family members noting that the spouse who was living separate and apart from the sponsor and was not examined, is excluded from the family class as per section [R117(11)(b) / R125(3)(b) and R117(9)(d) / R125(1)(d)].

Relationships of convenience

See Assessing the relationship between spouses and relationships of convenience.

Dependant not declared and/or examined

The reason for the exclusion in R117(9)(d) and R125(1)(d) is to:

  • encourage honesty and full disclosure of information at the time of application in order to prevent applicants from circumventing immigration rules; and
  • protect the health, safety and security of Canadians

Sometimes a principal applicant may be unable to have a non-accompanying family member examined.

The only circumstances under which R117(9)(d) would not apply to a family member who was not examined would be if, at the time of the sponsor’s original application for permanent residence, the Act and Regulations did not require the family member to be examined [R117(10) and R125(2)].

This applies to:

  • family members of refugees and protected persons
  • non-accompanying family members who were not required to be included or who were not eligible to be included at the time of the sponsor’s original application

When the client presents compelling reasons for not having disclosed the existence of a family member, it may also be appropriate to consider the use of H&C factors.

For example:

  • a refugee presents evidence that they believed their family members were dead or that their whereabouts were unknown; or
  • a client presents evidence that the existence of a child was not disclosed because it would cause extreme hardship because the child was born out of wedlock in a culture that does not condone this

Excluded members of the family class – Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) consideration

See also Humanitarian and compassionate consideration

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