Canadians often meet Americans and fall in love. Of course, it also happens the other way around. So what happens if you and your spouse decide to live in Canada together?
A Canadian citizen or permanent resident may be able to sponsor his or her spouse to Canada as long as they are married or in a common-law relationship (residing together for at least 12 consecutive months). In many cases Canadians work in the U.S. on valid status and live together with their spouses. This can be considered common-law as long as the relationship is genuine. There are two ways in which a Canadian sponsor may submit an application. There are pros and cons to each of the following options, but depending on the specific circumstances of the relationship, one option may be better than the other for the couple.
Applying from Outside of Canada
In many situations both the Canadian and American are living in the U.S. together. In this case, if the couple decides to reside in the U.S. together until such time that the permanent resident visa is issued, this option is best. The process begins in Canada to approve the sponsor which takes approximately 2 months. Once the sponsor has been approved, the application is forwarded to the Canadian visa office in either in New York or Los Angeles. It takes approximately (on average) about 12-24 months to finalize the application and be granted permanent residence. During this processing time there would be no restrictions on the American citizen traveling to Canada for a visit. Once the visa is issued the couple can travel to Canada together. Upon entry, the American citizen will be stamped as a permanent resident.
This outside of Canada process may also be the preferred choice if the Canadian citizen resides in Canada while the American spouse resides in the U.S. This option allows for fastest processing times while the American continues to work or study. It provides the American spouse with enough time to wrap up life in the U.S. and prepare for a permanent move to Canada.
Applying from Inside of Canada
This is an option that is preferred among couples who either have no intention to reside in the U.S. during the processing period of the application. Of course, this option requires that both the Canadian sponsor and the American spouse are in Canada together. Since American citizens are not required to apply for a visa prior to entering Canada, it is a popular option for those who come for a visit and decide to stay with their spouse in Canada. The current policy allows the foreign spouse to obtain a work permit while awaiting the decision of the sponsorship application. Since processing times in Canada are lengthy, approximately 24-27 months in total, a work permit can certainly come in handy.
The process begins with an application made to the Case Processing Center. If the application is prepared well and contains the appropriate application forms and their supporting documents, a work permit can be issued within 4 months. A work permit will allow the American spouse to take up employment without restriction. It will also allow for the individual to apply for and obtain provincial health insurance while working full time. During the first 4 months while awaiting the issuance of the work permit it is recommended that the American spouse does not leave Canada. While there are no regulations that would prevent the American spouse to from leaving Canada, it is highly suggested that he or she spends majority of their time residing in Canada. Short trips are allowed, but re-entry to Canada is always at the discretion of the officer at the port-of-entry. It is always recommended to spend as much time in Canada unless absolutely necessary to travel outside.
Immigration Canada will approve the permanent resident visa inside Canada at a local office where both the Canadian sponsor and the American spouse should be physically present.
Children born in the United States to a Canadian parent
If there are children born in the U.S. to a Canadian parent, the children may be deemed Canadian citizens by virtue of the relationship to the Canadian parent and would not be required to apply for permanent residence. However, they would require a citizenship certificate as proof of their Canadian status and to apply for a Canadian passport.
To learn more about sponsoring your spouse to Canada from the United States, we recommend speaking with one of our knowledgeable immigration consultants or lawyers who can help you take the necessary steps. Our Canadian immigration consultants and lawyers are experienced in handling all kinds of relationship situations and are best to provide accurate advice that pertains to specific situations.