Bringing a Chinese partner to Canada means sponsoring them. And that means marriage, either in China or in Canada. This is because to sponsor a Chinese partner you must be living in a common law relationship or conjugal relationship. A common law partner, as defined by CIC, is one of the same or opposite sex that has been living in a conjugal relationship with you for at least 12 months, with brief absences where you are away from each other allowed for business travel or family reasons. To qualify as a common law relationship, you will need to prove to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) that you have combined your affairs, and that you have set up a household together. Documentation such as credit card and bank account receipts should be saved as proof. Other helpful documentation includes:

  • Joint ownership of a home;
  • Joint leases;
  • Joint rental receipts;
  • Joint utility bills;
  • Joint payments for household goods like appliances, for example;
  • Mail addressed to either person or to both, all at the same address. 

A conjugal relationship is defined by CIC as one where the partners are living in situations that prevent them from having a common law or spousal relationship. There has to be permanence to the relationship, dependence on one another, and a commitment to the relationship at the same level as in a marriage or common law relationship. A conjugal partner must have had a conjugal relationship with you, the sponsor, for at least a year, but must have been prevented from living together with you by one of the following:

  • An immigration barrier;
  • The conjugal partner’s or your marital status – an impending divorce, for example;
  • The conjugal partner’s sexual orientation – a ban on same sex marriages in the conjugal partner’s country, for example.


Step 1: Marriage in China

Western Marriage customs in China By Sigismund von Dobschütz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wedding in Lanzhou by Sigismund von Dobshutz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Another option is to get married in China and then apply to sponsor your new spouse to Canada. This means understanding the requirements and procedures for foreigners planning on marrying a Chinese national in China. 

The first step will be for you and your Chinese partner to go to the marriage registration office in the jurisdiction, or hukou, where your Chinese partner is registered. The Hukou is in fact the registered residency status of an individual in China within the huji system, although hukou is often used to refer to both. The marriage registration office is where you obtain your marriage registration application form which you must fill out and submit along with accompanying documentation. Your Chinese partner must submit the following documentation:

  • A marriageability certificate;
  • A birth certificate;
  • A household registration book (also called a hukou);
  • A health certificate from the local regional hospital;
  • A letter of permission to marry a foreigner from your Chinese partner’s parents with the fingerprints of each parent below their signature and the date.

You, as the foreigner in the marriage, must submit the below documentation. But remember that requirements may vary between marriage registration offices, so consult beforehand with the marriage registration office in your partner’s hukou about the required documentation for you as the non-Chinese partner.

  • A valid passport;
  • A Chinese residency permit;
  • A health certificate from a local hospital designated by the marriage registration office;
  • 3 photos of you and your partner taken together as a couple;
  • A certificate of marriageability. As a Canadian, assuming you are Canadian, you must obtain a statement in-lieu of certification of non-impediment to marriage abroad. This can be applied for from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada by mail from inside Canada. Send the request to the Authentication and Service of Documents section of Foreign Affairs before you depart for China, so you have the statement in-lieu of with you when you travel. Alternatively, you can apply for one from your local government of Canada office abroad in China, generally a consulate or embassy near you. 

When you have assembled the required documentation and presented it along with the completed marriage registration application form, the local marriage registration office will evaluate your proposal and hopefully approve the application. Once approved, the marriage is registered, and the office will produce a marriage certificate to be picked up by you and your partner. You are now a married couple and your next step will be to decide how to proceed with your sponsorship of your spouse. Please note that the Government of Canada does not recognize marriages from abroad where:

  • You are married to a close relative – like a brother, sister, parent or grandparent for example – by blood or by adoption;
  • You are married to more than 1 person at a time;
  • If your marriage is illegal in the jurisdiction overseas where you were married.


Or Step 2: Marriage in Ontario

As our focus at IMMIgroup is on bringing your spouse to Canada, but we are based in Ontario, we will outline the requirements for getting married in Ontario. There are several conditions you must meet to get married in Ontario:

  • You must both be 18 years old or older. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can get married with the written consent of your parents or legal guardians;
  • The marriage must be voluntary;
  • You may be of the same or opposite sex;
  • As mentioned above, you cannot be close relatives by blood or adoption;
  • You must both be physically present at the marriage ceremony;
  • You cannot be currently married. If you are divorced, you must show proof of your divorce.

There are 2 types of marriages in Ontario:

  • A religious marriage: This is where a recognized religious official marries you. Go here to see a list by municipality of religious marriage officiants. Go here to see a list by name of religious marriage officiants.
  • A civil marriage: This is where a judge, justice of the peace, or authorized municipal clerk marries you, usually at city hall or a local municipal office. Go here to find a local city hall, town hall, or municipal office. 

There are 2 forms, either one of which you will need before you get married. Remember, you only need 1 of these forms:

  • A marriage licence: To obtain a marriage licence you will need 2 pieces of government ID, 1 of which is a photo ID. Go here to download a marriage licence application form. Examples of appropriate ID’s are:
    • Valid Passport
    • Record of Immigrant Landing
    • Canadian Citizenship Card
    • Valid Driver’s Licence
    • Valid Ontario Photo Card
  • A banns form: This is a form you get from a church after a divine service in which you announce your commitment to each other. A declaration is then published by the church known as “the publication of banns.”  Please note that if you or your spouse have been married before, banns cannot be published and you must instead get a marriage certificate.

The next step is to obtain your marriage certificate, which is a document that gives the details of a marriage performed in Ontario. To obtain the marriage certificate, your marriage must first be registered by the official who performed the marriage who does this by sending your marriage licence to ServiceOntario. It normally takes about 6 to 8 weeks for your marriage to be registered, after which you can order your marriage certificate by going here. Your certificate will be sent by mail within 15 business days. You cannot pick up your certificate.


Step 3: Inland vs. Overseas

There are 2 main paths to sponsoring your Chinese partner; from within Canada or inland, or from abroad or overseas. Which one you choose will depend, among other factors, whether your Chinese partner has obtained a temporary visa and is already in Canada or whether he or she is still a resident of China. 

There are further advantages and disadvantages to each path. An inland application means that your Chinese partner, assuming he or she is already living in Canada on a temporary visa, cannot leave the country because should any problems arise when re-entering Canada, they may be disqualified and no longer able to be sponsored by you. Inland applications also take longer to process but your partner has the advantage of already being able to begin the process of assimilation into Canadian society. They can improve their language skills and may also be eligible for an open work permit. It is a good idea to apply for one at the same time as your inland application. Please note that if an interview is required, it will be held in Canada at a government office near your residence. 

Overseas applications are processed more quickly in general, but any interview required will have to be done at the visa office abroad that serves the applicant’s country of origin, China in this case, and is processing your partner’s application. It is possible to do the application from a third country visa office, but given the extensive ties between China and Canada, it is likely best to do your outland application from China.  Processing times, as well, at the Beijing office are quite fast, compared to other offices. 

To sum up, if your Chinese partner will need to travel outside of Canada during the application, an outland application may be best. If he or she are able to obtain a temporary visa, including successful renewals while in Canada, and do not mind remaining in Canada during the process, then an inland application might be best. Please note that if your partner is unable to get a temporary visa, any issue which resulted in his or her being denied entry to Canada must be resolved before you can apply to sponsor them.


Dependent Children

You may sponsor your partner’s dependent children but please note that because of a recent change in immigration policy in Canada, they can now be up to the age of 21. 


What Could Disqualify Your Partner?

The most common reason for which a common law partner is denied a sponsorship, is doubts on the part of immigration officials on whether your relationship is genuine, or is instead a marriage of convenience. If immigration officials do request an interview, it will likely be to examine the nature of your relationship. That means you should keep chat logs, phone records, and any other data or documents that can help prove your relationship is real and is not one of convenience. 

Your best choice is to always be frank and open with all the details of your relationship: for example, like the details requested on your Spouse/Common-law Questionnaire, even if you feel the CIC is being intrusive with respect to your intimate relations with your Chinese partner. The more information about your relationship that you give them, the more likely your application will be successfully processed. Photographs, printouts of emails or online chats, letters, wedding invitations, all are helpful data to give to officials. In addition, legal documents like shared bank account statements, insurance policies, or even copies of leases are also useful documentation in order to prove to the CIC that your relationship is genuine. As well, concerns could be raised by your partner’s economic situation in China; if he or she is on social assistance for example, or has outstanding claims against him or her. It goes without saying that a criminal background or links with extremist groups could also disqualify them. Finally, it will be necessary for your Chinese partner to submit to a medical exam.


Step 4: The Application Process

Application to Sponsor Your Spouse

The sponsorship application process has 3 parts:

  1. You apply to sponsor your spouse or common-law partner and any dependent child involved. To do this you must essentially prove to CIC that you can: meet basic needs like food clothing and shelter for yourself and your family without recurring to government assistance; support them financially; and in general ensure they do not have to seek government assistance. Go here to download the appropriate forms.
  2. Your spouse or common-law partner applies for Permanent Residence. Go here to download the application forms.
  3. Your spouse or common-law partner then fills out the forms specific to the region from which they are applying, in this case China.

Within the application process, gathering the necessary documents is vital. Go here to see a list of all the forms needed under Step 2: Complete the Application. As well, the documents checklist or form IMM5491 will list all the documents that you will need. Go here for a detailed, step by step guide to filling out the forms. You will need to fill them out on a computer and validate, print and sign them and place the barcode page on top. You will also find information on how to use a representative to aid you in the process. Next, you calculate the fees owed using the tables in the guide and pay the fees, either online using Visa, Master Card or American Express, or at a Canadian financial institution if you are in Canada. Remember in either case to obtain an official receipt that you must include in your application. You then submit the application to the case processing centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Please refer to the application guideline for the address.

Remember, that while sponsorship can be helpful to ensure your Chinese partner can join you in Canada, you must submit a complete and accurate application to give them the best possible chance of being accepted. Sponsorship is far from being a guarantee to permanent residence for your spouse or common-law partner. Do it right the first time and you will save yourselves time and trouble


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