Posted on - Oct 29, 2015

By Catherine Sas, Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

The question of how to sponsor your spouse who is already in Canada seems like a rather simple one. Indeed if you put that question to a CIC call centre representative, their answer is almost always as follows: “If your spouse is in Canada you use the Inland Spousal sponsorship category but if your spouse is outside of Canada, you use the Family Class category”. As in most things to do with our Canadian immigration system, the answers to such questions are never that straightforward. Let’s review the differences between the Family Class and the In-land Spousal categories.

The Family Class category is the traditional immigration program to sponsor your spouse from outside of Canada. If your spouse is from a country that requires a visa to come to Canada, it is your only option. However, if your spouse is able to come to Canada, you have a choice between applying under either the Family Class or the Inland Spousal category. Until recently the Family Class was a much speedier processing option, and in many cases, still is. However, you are not eligible to work in Canada while you are waiting for processing. You are able to travel in and out of Canada while your application is in process and if the case is refused for any reason, you have a right of appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division ( IAD).

The Inland Spousal category was introduced in 2006 by way of a public policy directive and it replaced the former means of sponsoring a spouse in Canada under a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H and C) application. The Inland Spousal category was meant to sponsor spouses who were in Canada and weren’t inadmissible for serious breaches of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act ( IRPA). The Inland Spousal category specifically overcomes minor immigration transgressions such as entering the country illegally or working without a work permit. It does not overcome misrepresentation or criminality. The policy also allowed for spouses in Canada to apply for a work permit, however until a positive determination on the application, no work permit would be issued. If your application is refused, there is no right of appeal to the IAD. Processing times were slower than the Family Class, but spouses were able to be together in Canada. As a result of significant delays in the processing of Inland Spousal applications, on December 22, 2014, CIC introduced a pilot project to issue open spousal work permits within four months of application and prior to any decision being made on the merits of the application. We should be hearing soon whether this pilot project will be extended, cancelled or formalized into a permanent program.

So the question of what is the best way to sponsor your spouse in Canada is far from an easy one and, with the introduction of the work permit pilot project for Inland applicants, and the slower processing for Family Class applicants, requires careful consideration as to which program is best for you and your spouse’s circumstance.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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