Assessing the relationship between spouses 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.

Officers should be satisfied that a genuine relationship exists. A spousal relationship or common-law partnership that is not genuine or that was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege will be refused (R4). Similarly, under R4.1, the dissolution of a relationship between two persons to acquire any status or privilege under the Act and its subsequent resumption will result in the relationship being excluded. This means that the foreign national will not be considered a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner under the Regulations. R4.1 applies whether the person who seeks to acquire status or privilege through a bad faith relationship is the sponsor, the foreign national being sponsored or a third-party foreign national.

Officers should examine the documents submitted as proof of the relationship to ensure that they are not fraudulent.

Officers must also assess the relationship between the applicant and any dependent children to establish proof of parentage and dependency.

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Evidence of relationships

The application kit requires that applicants submit certain documents as proof of the relationship. In the case of applicants in the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class, officers must also be satisfied that the applicant is living with the sponsor in Canada.

Type of evidence that is acceptable

Relationship Evidence
Spouse

Documentary evidence should include:

  • a completed Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation questionnaire (IMM 5532) (included in the application package)
  • a marriage certificate
  • proof of registration of marriage with a government (local, provincial, state or country) authority
  • proof of divorce if either the applicant or spouse was previously married
  • if the principal applicant and sponsor have children in common, long-form birth certificates or adoption records listing the names of both parents
  • wedding invitations and photos
  • a sponsor and principal applicant are expected to provide items from at least two of the following sets of documents. If they are unable to provide documents from a minimum of two of the following sets of documents, a detailed written explanation must be provided:
    • proof of joint ownership of residential property.
    • rental agreement showing both the sponsor and principal applicant as occupants of a rental property
    • proof of joint utility accounts (e.g. electricity, gas, telephone, internet), joint credit card accounts, or joint bank accounts
    • vehicle insurance showing that both the principal applicant and sponsor have been declared to the insurance company as residents of the insured’s address
    • copies of government issued documents for the principal applicant and sponsor showing the same address (e.g.: driver’s licenses)
    • other documents issued to the principal applicant and sponsor showing the same address, whether the accounts are held jointly or not (e.g. cell phone bills, pay stubs, tax forms, bank or credit card statements, insurance policies)
Common-law partner

In the case of a common-law partner, documentary evidence should include:

  • a completed Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation questionnaire (IMM 5532) (included in the application package)
  • proof of separation from a former spouse if either the sponsor or the applicant were previously married
  • a completed Statutory Declaration of Severance of Common-law Union form (IMM 5519) if either the sponsor or the applicant were previously in a common-law relationship with someone else
  • if the principal applicant and sponsor have children in common, long-form birth certificates or adoption records listing the names of both parents
  • photos of the sponsor and principal applicant showing they are in a conjugal relationship
  • at least two of the following sets of documents. If the sponsor and principal applicant are unable to provide documents from a minimum of two of the following sets of documents, a detailed written explanation must be provided:
    • important documents for the principal applicant and sponsor showing they are recognized as each other’s common-law partner (such as employment or insurance benefits)
    • documentary evidence of financial support between the principal applicant and sponsor, and/or shared expenses
    • other proof that the relationship is recognized by friends and/or family (e.g. letters from friends/family, social medical information showing a public relationship)

If the sponsor and principal applicant are currently cohabitating, evidence from at least two of the following sets of documents showing that the principal applicant and sponsor have been living together for at least one year (e.g. documents showing the same address for both). If they are unable to provide documents from a minimum of two of the following sets of documents, a detailed written explanation must be provided:

  • proof of joint ownership of residential property
  • rental agreement showing both the sponsor and principal applicant as occupants of a rental property
  • proof of joint utility accounts (e.g. electricity, gas, telephone, Internet), joint credit card accounts, or joint bank accounts
  • vehicle insurance showing that both the principal applicant and sponsor have been declared to the insurance company as residents of the insured’s address.
  • copies of government-issued documents for the principal applicant and sponsor showing the same address (e.g. driver’s licenses)
  • other documents issued to the principal applicant and sponsor showing the same address, whether the accounts are held jointly or not (e.g. cellphone bills, pay stubs, tax forms, bank or credit card statements, insurance policies)

If the sponsor and principal applicant are not currently cohabitating, evidence must be provided that shows the sponsor and principal applicant cohabitated for a minimum of one year in the past, and the following must also be provided:

  • proof of contact, including letters, printed text messages, emails or social media conversations, or other documented proof of contact between the principal applicant and sponsor. A maximum of 10 pages should be provided
  • proof of the sponsor's visits, such as airline ticket coupons or used boarding passes, photocopies of pages of passport for your sponsor showing entry-exit stamps supporting visits, etc. If the sponsor did not visit the principal applicant, an explanation must be included in the principal applicant’s IMM 5532 form (Part C, question 4)
Co-habitation

See “What is co-habition?

One of the eligibility criteria in R124 is cohabitation with the sponsor in Canada. Documents provided as proof of the relationship should also establish that the spouse or common-law partner and the sponsor are living together. If this is not clear from the evidence available, CPC-M should request further documents or refer to a IRCC for an interview.

Evidence of cohabitation may include:

  • joint bank accounts or credit cards
  • joint ownership of residential property
  • joint residential leases
  • joint rental receipts
  • joint utilities accounts (electricity, gas, telephone)
  • joint management of household expenditures
  • evidence of joint purchases, especially for household items
  • correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address
  • important documents of both parties showing the same address, for example, identification documents, driver’s licenses, insurance policies
  • shared responsibility for household management, household chores
  • children of one or both partners are residing with the couple
  • record of telephone calls

Persons who are not cohabiting with their sponsor at the time IRCC seeks to grant permanent residence (persons who have been removed or who have left Canada voluntarily) are not eligible under the Spouse or common-law partner class. They may, however, seek to apply in the family class (overseas), which would require them to submit a new application.

Applicants in the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class who are not cohabiting with their sponsor at the time they are ready to be granted permanent residence (persons who have been removed or who have left Canada voluntarily) are not eligible for permanent residence. They have the option of submitting a new application to be processed abroad under the family class, subject to applicable fees.

Assessing for relationship of convenience

If the documents submitted do not provide adequate proof of a genuine conjugal relationship within the context of a marriage or common-law relationship, or if officers doubt that the applicant is living with the sponsor, an officer may request additional information or schedule an interview. To help assess whether R4(1) requirements are met, an officer has the discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to request that the sponsor and applicant complete and submit a Supplementary Relationship Questionnaire [IMM 5526 (PDF, 742 KB)] and/or to convoke them for an interview.

Spouse or common-law partner in Canada cases requiring further investigation should be referred to an inland IRCC office. The local IRCC office may interview both the sponsor and the applicant, separately, to establish whether the relationship is genuine. See Relationships of convenience for factors that may be considered during this interview.

Follow procedural fairness guidelines when concerns arise that are material to the decision. If an applicant is interviewed to address concerns, record all questions posed and answers given in the interview. Where applicable, the interview notes may then be used to substantiate the decision made on the application. This is especially important, given the right of a sponsor to appeal the refusal of an application processed abroad under the family class.

Sponsors and sponsored spouses and partners can voluntarily provide consent – on form IMM 5532 (Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation) – for IRCC to release to their spouse or partner any information obtained in connection with an investigation of marriage fraud. If they provide consent on this form, a spouse or partner is free to revoke it at any time by advising CPC-M in writing. Officers should not make negative inferences from the decision of a sponsor or a sponsored spouse or partner not to sign this consent form.

Same-sex marriages

“Marriage”, in respect of a marriage that took place outside Canada, means a marriage that is valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction where it took place and under Canadian law (R2). This definition is applicable to all classes or persons, whether the marriage is between opposite or same-sex partners.

A Canadian citizen or a permanent resident may sponsor their same-sex partner as a spouse, as long as the marriage is legally recognized under both the laws of the place where it occurred and under Canadian law, and they meet the respective requirements. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply to sponsor their same-sex partner as a spouse if they were married in Canada and issued a marriage certificate by a Canadian province or territory on or after the following dates:

  • British Columbia (July 8, 2003)
  • Manitoba (September 16, 2004)
  • New Brunswick (July 4, 2005)
  • Newfoundland (December 21, 2004)
  • Nova Scotia (September 24, 2004)
  • Ontario (June 10, 2003)
  • Québec (March 19, 2004)
  • Saskatchewan (November 5, 2004)
  • Yukon (July 14, 2004)
  • All other provinces or territories (July 20, 2005)

The onus is on the sponsor and applicant to provide information to IRCC confirming that their same-sex marriage was legally recognized when and where it occurred.

Same-sex partners who are not married (or whose marriage is not legally recognized) may be sponsored as common-law partners, provided they meet the definition of common-law partner. If they have not been able to cohabit for one year, the foreign national partner may apply as a conjugal partner provided they have maintained a conjugal relationship for at least one year.

Some countries allow civil registrations of common-law opposite-sex and/or common-law same-sex partners. Some foreign jurisdictions provide recognition for the unions of same-sex couples under legal means other than marriage, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships. For the purposes of immigration, these relationships must be processed as common-law partnerships.

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