How Does Common-Law And Conjugal Sponsorship Differ?

Know IRCC Requirements For Unmarried Couples Sponsorship To Canada


We often receive questions whether you can sponsor your boyfriend or girlfriend to Canada. IRCC recognizes married couples, Common-law partners, and conjugal relationships. However, mostly there is confusion between common-law and conjugal sponsorship as well as the proofs required to prove the relationship.

Although the two may sound similar, they are perceived differently in the context of immigration. In this article, you can learn about:

Common-Law Sponsorship

Any Canadian citizen or permanent resident who wishes to sponsor their common-law partner must submit a Common-Law Sponsorship application. 

In the context of immigration, common-law partnership means a couple who has lived together for at least a year in a ‘marriage-like’ relationship. 

Legally, to meet the requirements of a common-law partnership, the two people do not need to be married but need evidence that they live or lived together in a “marriage-like” relationship. 

The requirements for common-law partnerships are: 

  • They should have lived together for at least one year. If the partners have lived together before for one year but do not presently, they are still eligible to submit a sponsorship application. 
  • Be together in a romantic relationship
  • Maintain a monogamous relationship
  • Have social and financial lives connected 

Therefore, to be considered in a common-law relationship, you cannot be married to your partner, as explained above. 

If you would like to sponsor your common-law partner, then in your sponsorship application, you can submit form IMM5409 Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union. 



Conjugal Sponsorship

A Canadian citizen or permanent resident can apply for conjugal sponsorship to sponsor their partner. 

A “marriage-like” relationship is called a conjugal relationship. To be considered in a conjugal relationship, the two partners must prove that they are “unable” to get married and “live together” for reasons beyond their control. 

To meet the conjugal relationship requirements, the conjugal partner should be:

  • Living outside Canada 
  • In a relationship with the sponsor for at least one year 
  • Unable to live with the sponsor as a couple due to reasons beyond their control, such as immigration barriers, religious reasons or sexual orientation.

It is crucial to remember that marriages and common-law partnerships are two distinct categories of conjugal relationships. However, a conjugal partner can only be sponsored as a family member if the two people in the relationship cannot get married or cohabitate because of uncontrollable circumstances.

IRCC clearly states that expense or difficulty to one or both partners may not be a valid reason for conjugal sponsorships.

Because conjugal sponsorships are rare, couples should try and satisfy the spousal or common-law sponsorship criteria. Moreover, only unmarried partners outside Canada could qualify for conjugal sponsorship. 

IRCC Requirements

According to IRCC, there are certain requirements for common-law partners and co-habitation.

IRCC Common-law requirements

For common-law partner, documentary evidence should include:

  • Include a completed Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation questionnaire (IMM 5532) in the application package
  • Provide proof of separation from a former spouse if either the sponsor or the partner were previously married
  • A completed Statutory Declaration of Severance of Common-law Union form (IMM 5519) if either the sponsor or the partner were previously in a common-law relationship with someone else
  • Long form birth certificates for children if applicable or doption records listing the names of both parents
  • Photos of sponsor and their partner showing they are in a conjugal relationship
  • 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)
Evidence from at least two of the following documents proving that the sponsor and principal applicant have been living together for at least a year is required if the sponsor and principal applicant are presently living together (e.g. documents showing the same address for both).
  • 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 living together, proof proving they lived together for at least a year in the past must be presented, along with the following requirements.

  • 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)

IRCC Co-habitation requirements

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, CPC-M should request further documents or refer to a IRCC for an interview.

Evidence of cohabitation may include:

  • 1. joint bank accounts or credit cards
  • 2. joint ownership of residential property
  • 3. joint residential leases
  • 4. joint rental receipts
  • 5. joint utilities accounts (electricity, gas, telephone)
  • 6. joint management of household expenditures
  • 7. evidence of joint purchases, especially for household items
  • 8. correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address
  • 9. important documents of both parties showing the same address, for example, identification documents, driver’s licenses, insurance policies
  • 10. shared responsibility for household management, household chores
  • 11. children of one or both partners are residing with the couple
  • 12. record of telephone calls
Source: IRCC