2. Learn about common-law and conjugal relationships

You may be able to sponsor a who is inside or outside of Canada.

You may be able to sponsor a who is outside of Canada.

Common-law relationships

Canadian immigration law has its own definition of common-law partner. It's someone of the same or opposite sex who you've lived with, for at least one year, in a conjugal or marriage-like relationship.

One-year period

The one-year period of living together cannot start until you're both at least 18 years old. And the one year must be continuous. This means that you don't take any breaks and cannot live apart for any reason, even because of your work.

If you separate and then start living together again, the one-year period begins when you start living together again. But being away for short periods of time, for work or family reasons, does not interrupt the one-year period.

You might be living apart after having lived together for at least a year, for example, because you're in Canada and your partner is waiting to come here. As long as you plan to live together when they arrive here, you can still be common-law partners.

Marriage-like relationship

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) considers that your relationship is like a marriage if it's a relationship of “some permanence” and that you both want a shared life. Some characteristics of such a relationship are that:

  • you depend on each other financially, socially, emotionally, and physically
  • you share household duties and other responsibilities
  • you've made a serious commitment to one another

Factors that show that your relationship is like a marriage include:

  • sharing a bed
  • having sexual relations only with each other
  • displaying feelings of affection and commitment
  • taking part in social activities as a couple
  • providing financial support and sharing financial responsibilities
  • sharing a bank account
  • being seen as a couple by others
  • having children or raising children together

Conjugal partner

A conjugal partner is someone of the same or opposite sex:

  • who lives outside Canada, and
  • with whom you've had a conjugal or marriage-like relationship with for a period of at least one year.

A conjugal relationship does not have to include living together at all. But if you could have lived together and chose not to, it can be difficult to convince IRCC that your relationship is conjugal.

This is because usually a conjugal partner is someone who you could not marry or live with. For example, this might be because you lived in a country:

  • that does not allow same-sex marriage
  • where divorce is not possible

If you cannot live together

If you're in a conjugal relationship but have not lived together because you would be persecuted or punished for breaking the law, IRCC considers your conjugal partner to be a common-law partner. For example, this may apply if you come from a country where your relationship is against the law.

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