New Restrictions for Spousal Sponsorship Applications now in force

Below is a summary of the recent changes to Spousal Sponsorships for Canada introduced by Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney and the Conservative Government.  Please note these sponsorship restrictions affect spousal sponsorships but do not affect any other type of sponsorship application.  Further, these changes are aimed at sponsoring spouses who were themselves sponsored to come to Canada. 


Section 130 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) describes the criteria an individual must meet in order to sponsor a foreign national making an application for PR as a member of the family class or the spouse or common law partner in Canada class.

Prior to the amendments that came into force on March 2, 2012 a sponsor did not have to fulfill strict residency requirements.  They only needed to be a Permanent Resident or a Canadian Citizen in order to sponsor a new spouse.

The proposal for this amendment was first made in the Canada Gazette published on April 2, 2011.  A second publication confirming the changes coming into effect on March 2, 2012 will be published in Part II of theCanadian Gazette.

Changes to Spousal Sponsorship Applications

According to the amendments that came into force March 2, 2012 an individual who became a PR after being sponsored as a spouse, common law or conjugal partner from sponsoring  new spouse, common law or conjugal partner cannot sponsor a new spouse unless that individual:

  • Has been a permanent resident for a period of at least five years immediately preceding the day on which a sponsorship application is filed by the sponsor; or
  • Has become a Canadian citizen during the period of five years immediately preceding the day on which a sponsorship application is filed by the sponsor and, had been a permanent resident from at least the beginning of that period until the day on which the sponsor became a Canadian citizen.

NOTE: This applies only to spouses who were themselves sponsored as spouses and were granted PR in that respect.

Why these changes?

The objectives of the amendments are as follows:

  • To strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration system by creating a deterrent to relationships of convenience; and
  • To clarify portions of the existing subsection 130(2) of the IRPR with regards to sponsorship.

Further Proposals for Spousal Sponsorship Applications

It is important to note that the Conservative government is aiming to implement further amendments to impose more restrictions on spousal sponsorship applications.  For example, the Minister of Immigration is seeking to introduce a specified period of conditional permanent residence for spouses and partners sponsored as members of the family class or spouse or common law partner in Canada class under subsection 13(1) of the IRPA.

This proposed measure would apply to spouses and partners who have been in a relationship with their sponsor for two years or less at the time of the sponsorship application.  The period of conditional status under consideration could be two years, or longer, from the time that the sponsored spouse or partner becomes a PR in Canada.

My take?

There are certainly “marriage of convenience” cases where the couples in question are less than sincere. I have seen well meaning sponsors be duped into marriage and sponsorship only to find their new bride or groom take off as soon as they land in Canada. Are these kind of cases the exception or the rule? I would strongly submit the former. The vast majority of spousal sponsorship applications are well intended, sincere efforts to join together over large distances. Do some of these  unions break up? Sure. Like couples from Canada, sponsorship couples are subject to the same challenges all of us are in terms of keeping it together.

So while there is abuse, is it really fair to penalize sponsors with their own immigration history from sponsoring a new spouse? Shouldn’t these cases be judged on a case by case basis rather subjecting them to harsh restrictions when in many cases, they are legitimate applications? Again, the government seems to take the most extreme measures to tackle a problem that could be resolved in a more measured fashion.


Any information provided here does not constitute legal advice and is intended for general information only. Should you require legal advise, you are encouraged to contact a lawyer directly. All blog postings are public and are not subject to solicitor/client confidentially. Case results depend on a variety of factors unique to each case, and case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any further case undertaken by the lawyer.

Tags: canada spousal sponsorships changes to spousal sponsorship applications spousal sponsorship applications Spousal Sponsorships

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the American Bar Association. He is frequently called upon to appear in the media to discuss Canadian and US immigration issues effecting North Americans. He has been interviewed by Canada AM, CTV, Canada News Net, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and has given lectures on immigration topics overseas.

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