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  • Immergity Immigration

Proof of Relationship Spouse/Common-law partner sponsorship Canada

To sponsor your spouse or common-law partner, you must demonstrate to immigration officials that you are in a genuine relationship. We often get asked, what documents to submit to show proof of relationship or genuineness of relationship for a spousal sponsorship application for permanent residence to Canada. Let's start by understanding the concept of ''marriage of convenience'' and ''bad faith relationships'' purpose behind submitting these supporting documents.



Genuineness and proof of relationship documentsGenuineness ​ ​It is illegal to enter a relationship for the sole purpose of obtaining permanent residence in Canada. In order to sponsor your conjugal or common-law partner or spouse, the government requires you to provide evidence that your connection is real. To evaluate if a relationship was formed largely for immigration purposes, immigration authorities rely on the intention of one or both participants at the time of entering the partnership to ensure that their union isn't a ''marriage of convenience'' or their ''relationship isn't one in bad faith''. ​ section 4 of IRPR (Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations) prohibits bad faith relationships, stating:

  • 4 (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered a spouse, a common-law partner or a conjugal partner of a person if the marriage, common-law partnership or conjugal partnership

  • (a) was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act; or

  • (b) is not genuine


Factors used to determine Genuineness of Relationship​

  • the emotional, intellectual and financial compatibility of the couple;

  • the different stages of the relationship;

  • the level of knowledge of each other’s relationship histories;

  • the level of knowledge of each other’s daily lives;

  • communication (and frequency of) between the sponsor and the applicant;

  • financial interdependence;

  • how well does the couple know each other;

  • time spent together travelling or visiting incase the couple is not living together;

  • the couples' social acknowledgment and acceptance amongst family, friends and co-workers;

  • the applicant’s previous (failed) attempts to come to Canada;

  • previous marriages;

  • children they have together or children as part of their family composition.

Burden of Proof When reviewing a sponsorship application, visa officers must take into account the “burden of proof” when determining the genuineness of a relationship. This means that it is the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate that their relationship is legitimate and not created solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration status. ​ When a visa officer is unable to make a determination as to whether or not a relationship is bona fide, they will send a procedural fairness letter. This letter outlines the areas of concern and requests that the applicant provides additional evidence in order to prove their relationship is genuine. In response to a procedural fairness letter, it is important for the applicant to provide the requested documents in a timely manner. It is also important for them to explain any discrepancies between their evidence and their sponsor’s declarations. Failure to respond adequately to a procedural fairness letter may result in the refusal of the sponsorship application. ​ Proof of Relationship - Timeline A relationship timeline is basically what you need to start with while collecting your supporting documents. We always recommend you to submit this with your application. Your relationship timeline is basically the story about your relationship and how you met. Your timeline should/could include important dates, venues and people from the initial stages and throughout your relationship. Each person in the relationship can write their own version of their ''love story''. ​ Proof of Relationship - Supporting Documents Supporting documents are simply additional documents that support your application and prove the relationship is genuine. In case of inland sponsorship, the main purpose of the supporting documents is to show that you have been cohabiting in a marriage like relationship (unless you're officially married) and that you share a certain amount responsibilities as a couple. Some items you can include to show this are:

  • Joint bank account statements showing the same address in Canada

  • Joint lease or ownership agreement of land or property in Canada

  • Joint utility bills (e.g. phone bills, water bills, electricity, etc.)

  • Driver’s licenses showing the same address

  • Home or auto insurance showing you both listed at the same address

Proof of Relationship - Photographs IRCC outlines that you submit 20 photos depicting different stages throughout your relationship. If you recently got married and yours was an arranged marriage, including photos from various celebratory events with family and friends around should also be included. If you are in a common-law/conjugal relationship you should include pictures from the start till the recent moments of your relationship (when you first met until now). Avoid sharing pictures of just you as a couple without the presence of friends or family around you. If you are submitting a paper application, ensure to share a brief description on the back of each photo you include in your submission. For a digital application, you can use apps like Microsoft word to share pictures and brief descriptions. Please refrain from using EXCEL as excel files are not accepted by IRCC. ​ Proof of Relationship - Past and ongoing communication This includes, messages, calls, letters, emails or proof of any other mode of communication that you use to stay in touch on a day to day basis. While sharing this remember to include events and instances from your relationship timeline. This makes it easier to ''keep it real''. ​ Proof of Relationship - Affidavits From Family and Friends These letters/affidavits do not have to be in any specific format. These are simply being shared to show how your family and friends perceive your relationship. Do they see you as a happy couple? Do they often get to see either of you at family or casual events? How do other members of the family or common social groups see you as a couple? Etc.. ​ Remember, if these letters or any other supporting documents are not in English or French, then you will need to get them translated by a certified translator before you submit your application package. ​ How do you prove you live together in a common-law relationship? ​ For common-law relationships, you must submit proof that you have been cohabiting (in a marriage-like relationship) for a minimum of one year. There are a variety of ways to demonstrate cohabitation (see below). If you are married, there is no minimum period of cohabitation required before you can sponsor your spouse. ​ How do you prove a conjugal relationship? Proving conjugal connections can be challenging. Before applying to sponsor a conjugal spouse, we advise you to consult with an experienced immigration consultant. ​ You must demonstrate that the conjugal partnership has lasted at least one year. You must also provide mitigating circumstances for your inability to cohabit for a year or marry. You must have been separated for circumstances beyond your control, such as being in a same-sex relationship in a country where you would be persecuted by the government, being unable to be together for religious reasons, or being forced to remain apart due to war. ​ The simple fact that you reside in different countries and that living together or getting married would be logistically challenging is insufficient to establish a conjugal relationship. ​ How do you prove that you are legally married? ​ To prove that you are legally married, you must submit an original copy of your marriage certificate along with any certificates from the local authorities if applicable, plus a certified translation if the marriage certificate is not in English or French. ​ How to prove your previous marriage or relationship is over? ​ If you or your partner have been previously married, you will need to provide a divorce certificate. Like the marriage certificate, you will need the original copy and a certified translation if it was not issued in English or French. ​ In case of a common-law relationship you should include a sworn affidavit of dissolution of previous relationships. If you are separated, you should provide a legal separation agreement as well. Type of documents accepted as evidence towards proof of relationship Relationship - Spouse Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides a list of documentation that can be used to prove your relationship with your spouse including:​

  • 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)

Relationship - Common-law Partner Type of documents accepted as evidence towards proof of relationship Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides a list of documentation that can be used to prove your relationship with your spouse including:

  • 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 you 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 Type of documents accepted as evidence towards proof of relationship 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, you could be asked to appear for an interview. ​ Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides a list of documentation that can be used as evidence of cohabitation including:

  • 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.

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