Common-Law Couples & Immigration to Canada

Maggie & James - WeddingImage by seanmcgrath via Flickr
By Katherine at Legal Language
Posted 02/02/2011
In Immigration
anada is one of only a few countries to allow common-law couples to take advantage of the family immigration process.
Proving the validity of a common-law relationship can be difficult, however, and Citizenship & Immigration Canada will deny applications that don’t meet some strict criteria.

Definition of Common-Law Marriage in Canada

Couples whose relationships are defined as marriages or common-law marriages are eligible for immigration to Canada through family sponsorship if one person is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
Citizenship & Immigration Canada, Canada’s federal immigration agency, defines a common-law marriage as two people of the opposite or same sex who have lived together for at least one full year and have significant commitments — emotional, financial — to one another.
While the definition of a common-law relationship may seem lenient, it is important to be aware of certain criteria to be met in order for a common-law marriage to be accepted by immigration officials.

Common-Law Marriage & Immigration Regulations

Common-law marriages are closely inspected and scrutinized by Citizenship & Immigration Canada for the same reason that US Citizenship and Immigration Services rejects them outright — many people lie about the nature of their relationship just to be eligible for immigration.
Though CIC’s definition of a common-law relationship may be lenient, it does require extensive proof that the relationship is real — and this can pose problems even for bona fide couples.
Evidence that you are in an emotional relationship, share a home and support each other financially will need to be provided.

Proof of a Common-Law Marriage

The key to this is preparation and timing.
As soon as you know you will want to apply for immigration to Canada you should look at mortgage or rental agreements, utility bills (such as those for electricity, gas, water, internet and television), bank accounts and investments. Make a list and note whose name is included on each.
Many couples split the cost of living, which Citizenship & Immigration Canada accepts as proof of a common-law marriage.
However, many couples do this by assigning certain bills to an individual person instead of putting two names on the account. Immigration officials may view this as “roommate behavior” instead of the behavior of a financially and emotionally invested couple. Citizenship & Immigration Canada will be looking for utility bills that include the names of both parties.
This also goes for leases, deeds or other evidence of home ownership or rental. While you may have rented or bought a place before a second person moved in, it’s very important to add your partner’s name to the paperwork. Establishing the amount of time you have spent living together is vital to determining if your relationship can be deemed common-law.
Joint bank accounts are also good evidence of a committed couple, as are birth certificates of any children you may have had or adopted together. To a lesser degree, photos, correspondence and even travel tickets and itineraries can be used as proof of a common-law marriage.
This is not to say you must have both names on everything — Citizenship & Immigration Canada understands that not every couple will share absolutely everything. Many legally married couples, for example, have separate bank accounts or a house in one name.
But keep these tips in mind while you’re filling out an application — Canadian immigration officials are more likely to question or even deny an immigration application that a common-law couple submits.

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