The answer is maybe. This may come as a surprise to most, but being romantically involved with a foreigner is frowned upon by CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency). Keep reading and we will give you the tools you need to make this trip happen.
Follow these simple steps…
Step 1: What passport does my partner have?
Note: if your partner is thinking of moving to Canada, scroll down to the marrying section of this article.
The reason we need to know this is because we need to find out if they need a visitor visa to Canada or are they visa exempt.
A simple way to tell is, do they hold a first world passport like an American, British, or European one. If they do, you can move on to step two. If you are still not sure, check by using this tool and come back after you are done.
Tip: If you are using the tool above, look for whether the tool gives you the answer ‘You need a visitor visa. All other answers this tool gives are simple things you can do yourself.
If your partner needs a visitor visa, keep reading. If they do not, skip to step 2.
If your partner needs a visitor visa to enter Canada, we need to slow things down and explain what you are up against. Don’t rush this step, otherwise the only way you are going to see your loved one is by getting on a plane and flying overseas. You may have a strong chance of getting this visitor visa, but the truth is whatever decision you get on the first visa request will follow you for the rest of your life! In other words, if your first visa gets refused you are unlikely to change things with the second, third or forth application. The first one is the MOST important application.
In short, getting a visitor visa really depends not on you but your partner’s ability to prove to the Canadian government that they are only VISITING and not staying permanently in Canada. The fact you two are romantically involved works against you, which usually comes as a surprise to most people.
The great news here is that we have a FREE visitor visa course you can take, click the link. For now, just keep reading and we can come back to this later.
Step 2: How do you deal with Border Services Officers (CBSA) when entering Canada?
Just remember, the fact that you are romantically involved with a foreign National works against you not for you. The reasons are a few that you can learn more about below. For now, let’s deal with some good practical advice.
Rule 1: Don’t lie but follow rule 2
Rule 2: Don’t give more information than is asked for. For example, if they ask, ‘why are you entering Canada’, the right thing to say is ‘visiting’. The wrong thing to do is going on a long rant about this or that. This just makes you look nervous and guilty. Just keep your answers short and to the point, if they need more information, they will ask.
Rule 3: If the question comes up, ‘who are you visiting or what is your relationship to this person’, tell the truth, but keep it short.
Tip: Expect your cell phone to be checked and your email to be read. Having clear proof that you have a life back in your home country, and you are expected back home for work, studies, or other reasons (think of your calendar and emails), can be a clear indication to the officer you are not going to overstay. A great show to watch on YouTube is ‘Nothing to Declare’, it can give you an inside look and really help you up your game when dealing with immigration officials.
Step three: There is a limit to how long you can keep this up. At some point it will become more and more difficult at the border. The government position here is: ‘if you love him/her so much, then marry them and live together’. The application the Canadian government is nudging you to do, is called a Spousal Sponsorship. Now, there is no nice way of saying this, but this application is a pain. However, at some point, you will need to explore the spousal sponsorship option if both of you are going to live together in Canada. If on the other hand, you are the one who’s going to move out of Canada, expect a similar application fo the country you are going to live in.
Tip: Immigroup has a free Spousal Sponsorship Course you can take, click here.
What if you are planning to marry this person?
You’ve taken control of an enormous decision and found a partner that you want to marry or that you’ve already married. It’s an enormous step in anyone’s life – potentially the single most important decision anyone will make over the course of their life. You’ve actually committed to that person and are now planning to spend the rest of your lives together. It takes courage and more than a little faith in yourself and your partner.
Oh yes, your partner is a foreign national and either lives abroad or is in Canada on temporary visa.
The Canadian government doesn’t care. Except for investigating the possibility that you and your spouse are a sham.
How dare the Canadian government do that? Well, here’s why:
Canada is a sought-after country and one which seeks talented and skilled people – and, yes, wealthy investors as well – in order to add value to the country’s economy.
So, the Canadian immigration authorities have created “economic” streams like skilled worker programs in Express Entry or provincial nominee programs where you basically are applying for the job of Canadian permanent resident and citizen. And you compete with determined, talented, and educated candidates from around the world.
As well, international students pay tuition fees that are several times what permanent residents and citizens pay adding tens of billions of dollars to Canadian post-secondary institutions.
In fact, some economists have gone so far to say that Canada’s economy has avoided a major recession since the early ’90s thanks to hard-working immigrants coming to the country every year in the hundreds of thousands. (Until COVID hit at least.)
This certainly has more than a little truth to it given that Canada’s demographics are aging in an alarming fashion. We’re not quite Japan yet but most Canadian women have made the very logical choice of focusing on career and other life opportunities resulting in the fact that the fertility rate in Canada has fallen well below the so-called replacement rate of just over 2 children per family.
Minister Mendocino – the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, & Citizenship – puts it bluntly in some of his ministry’s press releases. In the early ’70s there were around 6 workers per retired person in Canada. Now the number is around … take a guess …
Try paying aging baby boomers’ pensions with 2 workers per retired person. It’s not going to work.
As a result, Canada’s economy is desperately trying to boost that number by importing skilled workers from around the globe.
In other words, Immigration is Big, very Big, Business in Canada.
So-called Economic Immigration is where the priority is, plain and simple.
So, ask yourself this: Where does your marriage to a wonderful spouse in the Philippines or Morocco fit into this picture?
The answer is that Spousal Sponsorship is really a sort of Humanitarian Immigration stream – something like family reunification.
Sponsored Spouses don’t earn their permanent visa like a skilled worker in Express Entry although your spouse may be just as talented, they are being granted it because they are marrying a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
So, while saying the Canadian government is doing you a favour letting your spouse migrate to Canada with a permanent resident visa in their passport might seem harsh, consider this:
What will your spouse gain by coming to Canada to live as a permanent resident and assuming all goes smoothly, as a proud citizen?
- They’ll live in a country where people complain when the rate on their 20-year mortgage goes over 3 percent … annually.
- They’ll live in a country with one of the world’s most stable and consumer-friendly banking systems.
- They’ll live in a country with public health – not quite universal public health but that’s for another article.
- They’ll live in a country with jobs in everything from energy, technology, communications, manufacturing, services, finance, decentralized digital blockchain innovators, biochemical companies, pharmaceutical companies (ok the USA and the EU clean up here, but Canada has a vibrant sector if not nearly as big), transportation, a media and entertainment sector that’s way larger than most of the world realizes, and on and on.
- They’ll have the benefit of a solid public education system and a legal system that is progressive and transparent.
- And while they might have to get their cricket scores online, they’ll be part of an astonishingly and increasingly diverse country where they won’t feel like a stranger in a strange land – even if living in Canada will obviously be a whole new experience for them.
What will your spouse have to give in return for these benefits?
- They won’t have to compete with others based on their job skills and experience – although having good skills and experience will always help somewhat.
- They won’t have to prove their language skills – although knowing English and/or French will help.
So, what do they actually have to give to Canada to benefit from spousal sponsorship?
- Proof that the relationship is genuine and not a simple ticket to citizenship.
- Proof that they are healthy enough and not a criminal (they are admissible to Canada).
That’s wonderful news, isn’t it?
Spousal Sponsorship applications should be fairly straightforward in other words, right?
It is precisely because your spouse is not classified by immigration authorities as a skilled worker coming to add value to Canada’s economy that IRCC will make them jump through a number of hoops to show the marriage is valid.
What do we mean by jumping through hoops?
- At least 10 forms to fill out and sign – each one with detailed information that must be filled in accurately, truthfully, and completely. One forgotten signature and your application can be delayed for over a month or even returned to you. On these forms your spouse will have to answer questions on everything from where they have lived over the past years (5 years usually) to information on their immediate family members – whether those members are coming to Canada with them or not.
- Tons of supporting documents – from marriage certificates to wedding photos to text messages all of which we’ll talk about in greater detail below – that in the case of official documents must also be certified and translated.
- Medical exams and biometrics – for your spouse’s entire immediate family.
Sponsoring your spouse will take:
- time, as in months and sometimes over a year, and
- effort, as in overcoming your frustrations when a document takes longer to get than expected and requires you to spend weeks dealing with authorities overseas and in Canada, and
- patience as you can well imagine
- money – there are fees to be paid, as we’ll explain.
1. The First Step to Sponsoring Your Boyfriend Or Girlfriend is to stop and realize you’re not really in control here
The Canadian government – in other words IRCC – are the ones controlling the process, as well as the authorities abroad from whom you must obtain their supporting documents.
That does not mean giving up.
Quite the opposite, it means controlling what you can do and doing your best to actually help the immigration case officer who will be deciding your application.
Now at this point you probably feel like doing one of the following:
- You can get annoyed and frustrated with IRCC and the officers who have to work through stack loads of cases every working day.
- You can get down-hearted and even teary-eyed about the fact that you and your loved one will have to go through this process to get them to live here. Your spouse for goodness sake!
- You can get hopeful that there’s some magic shortcut a high-priced lawyer will reveal to you and within a matter of weeks your spouse will be with you in your kitchen, having your morning coffee together.
Or you can accept the reality of a sponsorship application process and start to tackle it, one step at a time.
So, let’s step back for a few moments and just look at how marriage laws have evolved over the years to get a little context.
2. Marriage rules back in the good old days – a Swayamvar at IRCC
- While Roman marriage was more of an informal arrangement between families – especially among the elite – it was between citizens of Rome. The good news was that the Roman empire meant citizens could come from as far away as North Africa or the Levant. The bad news is that it was inconceivable to Romans – at least in most cases – to marry a non-citizen. And yes, dowries were often part of the picture. In other words, how much could the wife’s family contribute to the husband’s household?
- In India, the custom of arranged marriages apparently goes back to the 4th century AD. The parents of the young husband (often a teenager) would use a form of marriage broker (sometimes called Swayamvars) to help them find a suitable girl for marriage and then would make a proposition to the girl’s family. This evolved in later ages into a dowry system where the economic status of the girl’s family became the predominant factor. As well, the young groom’s family, education, and social position were also considered important in making a decision.
Do you see the problem that a foreign marriage might present to these types of systems which were inherently local?
Whatever the values looked for in choosing a bride or groom, having someone from a distant land makes that process of verification all the more difficult.
- Does she have a dowry?
- Is he in fact a well-educated kid from a good family?
- How did you answer these questions if you were a swayamvar (or marriage broker) in India and the bride or groom came from Burma or Cambodia, for example?
Now, while the values that led you to choose your spouse have evolved enormously since those times, the ghosts of those ancient, long-establish matrimonial customs still haunt our societies and have more than you would think to do with IRCC’s rules and regulations for Spousal Sponsorships.
Let’s be clear: You’re a citizen or permanent resident of Canada with clearly defined rights and what you and your spouse have to do is a whole stack of paperwork, not bow down before some sort of sacred marriage tribunal.
But please understand this:
- The validity of your marriage does need to be proved to your case officer at IRCC.
- So, you need to accept this and understand that’s why you have to fill out all these forms and provide all sorts of supporting documentation on your relationship.
Questions to ask in deciding whether to “do it yourself” or “hire the pros” at Immigroup for your Sponsorship Application:
- Do you enjoy reading?
- Do you like complex projects?
- Do you have a lot of “extra” time?
- Are you detailed oriented—and good at catching mistakes?
- Can you follow complicated directions?
If you answered “yes” to all or most of those questions, then you’re a prime candidate for doing the application process on your own.
If you answered “no” to all or most of those questions . . . if such activities leave you flustered and frustrated and impatient, then you’d be wise to get an expert to at least review your application.
3. How much do they want to charge me?
First of all, go back up and look at all that your spouse will gain by coming to live with you in Canada as a permanent resident with full citizenship within a few years of moving to Canada:
A whole new life, basically in a country where what sometimes seems impossible in many parts of the world – owning your own home in a decent neighbourhood, getting a well-paid job, having public healthcare that is reliable and available (if not always with the speed and options that a private health system like those in the USA can provide), and having a relatively affordable and excellent educational system to improve your skills and move up that employment ladder – in Canada become a reality as long as you put in a little effort.
Now, remember all the forms and the various supporting documents that you and your spouse will have to gather, translate, and often certify.
Overwhelmed by that long application? Wondering how to track your Spousal Sponsorship Application through the bureaucratic maze? Get our help! We’ll use our years of expertise to help you prepare thoroughly for the application process. Then we’ll carefully review your documents before submitting them to the government so that you avoid frustrating delays in processing.
Once again, we’re reminding you that this is a lengthy and detailed process which by the end will result in a surprisingly large stack of paperwork. And all of that paperwork has to be done right.
Now, let’s talk about typical fees but also let’s talk about options you have:
- Are you focus and detail-oriented and does filling out forms not give you the same feeling as scheduling a root canal at your dentist? Then you can pay around CAD$500 to say CAD$1,500 for a review of your application. You fill out the forms and gather the supporting documents and your immigration consultant/lawyer reviews it all and cleans up any mistakes you may have made.
- Does doing paperwork drive you crazy or do you not have the time because of a busy work life for example? Then an end-to-end application done by your consultant will cost you from around CAD$3,500 up to around CAD$5,000 for high-priced, large law firms.
There is something else you have to understand if you choose the second option and ask your consultant to handle everything:
- You still will have to be involved filling out the forms, because a consultant won’t know where you lived 3 years ago, for example, or what your work phone number is until you tell them.
- In other words, even when you pay for the full-service option it will still be a back-and-forth process to make sure the forms and documents are as accurate and truthful as possible.
- And please remember: you will have to sign and date multiple forms and the more involved you are – keeping in touch and providing any requested information promptly – the quicker the application package will be put together and the sooner it will be sitting in a Case Processing Centre ready for a case officer to work through it.
- Not only that, it will also be a well-put-together application which makes the case officer’s job all the easier. Does that increase your odds of a successful sponsorship application? What do you think?
So, sorry. You can’t just say “I want the full-service package. E-mail me at my hotel room in Cancun when you’re done.” It doesn’t work that way, although by paying for the full-service package you’ll be doing far less paperwork than if you choose the review-only option.
And remember as well, when you choose a full-service option, the consultant can offer you a payment schedule with your payments made in several affordable installments. At least, that’s what we do at Immigroup.
So please keep in mind the process you will be facing when you prepare and then submit a Spousal Sponsorship Application package. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as much as you would love to rush your loved one over the finish line and into your waiting car so you can drive together from the airport to your home in Canada.
- You will meet them at the airport (or even fly back to Canada with them).
- You will drive them to your home.
- You will spend your lives together in Canada.
It’s just going to take longer than you thought and involve more paperwork than you thought. Accept those facts and you will have already taken your first crucial step to a successful sponsorship application.
Here’s a tip: Before hiring an immigration firm, check out their website. If it’s confusing or lacks the information you need, come see us at Immigroup. We think of everything!
4. Sponsorship Application Getting You Down?
Because a Spousal Sponsorship application generally takes longer than expected and involves all those forms and documents we’ve mentioned over and over, you can easily feel overwhelmed by the process.
At that point there’s a couple of things you need to keep in mind:
- Persistence is not easy. If it was, it wouldn’t be persistence. You will have days that are tougher to get through when a document turns out to be mistaken, or when for example, a foreign government agency decides that Canada’s Certificate of Non-impediment to Marriage Abroad is not acceptable as proof that the Sponsor is not currently married. This is rare – usually the Certificate is fine – but it does happen from time to time.
- Doing a Spousal Sponsorship Application on your own will require even more persistence, especially if filling out forms and keeping track of detailed processes is not your strong point. It’s ok to admit this.
- But if you do decide to get help from an immigration consultant, remember that you’ll still have days that are frustrating. You need to accept that and get the right document/signature/form completion etc. done as soon as reasonably possible by providing your consultant with the information they need.
- Getting that done on one of those days when you feel like giving up is real persistence.
In fact, it’s often on one of those down days that you actually realize how much your spouse means to you and how good it will be when you’re living together in Canada.
Here’s a little trick you might try on one of those days:
- Wedding photographs are a key piece of evidence for IRCC case officers. They are visual confirmation of your wedding. As we explain in our Tutorial/Guide on Spousal Sponsorships, you should organize your photos so they tell your wedding story. Placing the names of the people, the location, and the date the photo was taken on the back of the photos (or digitally) will help officials make sense of the event and give your application’s chances a nice little boost. Feeling overwhelmed? Take an hour of your time and organize your wedding photos, which also acts as a helpful reminder of why you’re going through this often-frustrating process.
If you would like to learn more about weding photos, check out are in-depth article called “Common Mistakes That Could Cause Your Spousal Sponsorship Application To Be Returned”.
5. Are you Ready to Submit Your Sponsorship Application?
While it may seem like we’ve presented an overly challenging picture of what a typical Spousal Sponsorship Application can be like, we really feel at Immigroup that being realistic from the outset and informing potential clients about the reality of the process is the best way to start a successful application.
Yes, getting married is so joyful that your impatience and frustration at the bureaucratic process that follows is understandable.
But once you manage those expectations and accept the process, you can then take the next important step having already informed yourself a little about what you’re facing:
- You can decide to tackle the application entirely on your own.
- You can decide to do most of it on your own and then get a professional to review your application. Click here to learn more about the Review Service
- You can switch strategies when you realize you don’t have the time or patience to do it all on your own and contract a consultant. Click here to learn more about the Full Service.
- Or you can start by getting a consultant involved to help guide you from the very beginning. Even if you haven’t got married yet. In fact, especially if you haven’t got married yet.
None of these is a “perfect choice” – they all have trade-offs between time spent and money paid out. But part of coming to accept what you have to do to put together a successful application is realizing what you can do, and what you can’t do, or aren’t willing to do.
That’s what we’ve hopefully helped you do here – understand a little of what you will need to do and then decide which approach suits your situation best. If you wish we have an in-depth tutorial with over 35 concise and easy-to-follow chapters to guide you through the whole process from finish to end. Take a couple of hours on a weekend if you can find the time and research our tutorial. And then take that decision.
Your spouse is more than worth it.
Now that you’ve seen an overview of the basics of spousal sponsorship, it’s time to consider diving in to the details. Here’s a list of dozens of useful articles and tutorials to help you understand a wide range of topics associated with Sponsorship. Think of it as your go-to source on Sponsorships.
Riley Haas has been a leading expert since 2011 on immigration matters, with hundreds of publications online. Published author of three books about political philosophy, the Beatles and the Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. BA from Bishop’s University, MA from McMaster University. You follow Riley on Substack https://rileyhaas.substack.com.