Spouses and common-law partners became Canadian immigrants in far greater numbers last year than in 2022, the latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveals.

As December came to a close, Canada welcomed 75,185 new permanent residents through the spousal sponsorship program, up 17.2 per cent from the 64,145 in 2022.

The immigration program’s strong performance exceeded the growth in Canada’s overall immigration, which rose 7.8 per cent, to 471,550 new permanent residents from 437,595 the previous year.

And the spousal sponsorship program did particularly well in the last quarter of the year with much higher numbers of spouses and common-law partners – 27.4 per cent more – in the last three months of 2023 compared to the previous year.

Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, once again saw the greatest number of arrivals under the spousal sponsorship program with 39,820 spouses making it their home last year.

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The other provinces and territories attracted the following number of new permanent residents under the spousal sponsorship program during that period:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador – 205
  • Prince Edward Island – 135
  • Nova Scotia – 935
  • New Brunswick – 510
  • Quebec – 6,995
  • Manitoba – 2,100
  • Saskatchewan – 1,360
  • Alberta – 10,290
  • British Columbia – 12,670
  • Yukon – 90
  • Northwest Territories – 60
  • Nunavut – 15

Among the provinces, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta saw the greatest increases in spousal sponsorships with Ontario welcoming 29.3 per cent more spouses and common-law partners as new permanent residents last year, Manitoba seeing an increase of 25 per cent more, and Alberta a boost of 25.9 per cent.

In the francophone province of Quebec spousal sponsorships fell by the greatest relative amount across the country with La Belle Province seeing a decline of 23.7 per cent in spousal sponsorships.

Yukon, Northwest Territories Welcomed More Spouses Last Year

In Canada’s Far North, the Yukon saw growth of 28.6 per cent in spousal sponsorships last year and the Northwest Territories welcomed 20 per cent more spouses and common-law partners as new permanent residents. 

Nunavut, though, saw a decline of 25 per cent in spousal sponsorships last year off a very small base in 2022.

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When a Canadian citizen or permanent resident chooses to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner to immigrate to Canada, the sponsor must sign an undertaking, promising to give financial support for the sponsored person’s basic needs, including:

  • food, clothing, shelter and their needs for everyday living, and;
  • dental care, eye care and other health needs not covered by public health services.

This agreement cannot be cancelled, even if:

  • the person sponsored becomes a Canadian citizen;
  • the couple divorces, separates or the relationship breaks down;
  • either the sponsor or the sponsored spouse or common-law partner moves to another province or country, or;
  • the sponsor experiences financial problems.

EI Payments Considered Income For Sponsor Of Spouse

Maternity, parental and sickness benefits paid under the Employment Insurance Act in Canada are all considered income and contribute to allowing a person to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner but other payments from the government, such as employment insurance and federal training allowances, are not considered income.

On its website, IRCC provides estimates of the current processing times for various types of applications, including spousal sponsorships.

According to that website, the current processing time for sponsorship applications for spouses or common-law partners currently outside the country and planning to live outside of Quebec is now down to 12 months, a considerable improvement over the 20-month processing time in 2022.

That estimated processing time includes:

  • the time needed to provide biometrics;
  • the assessment of the sponsor and the person being sponsored, and;
  • the time immigration officials need to ensure the sponsor and his or her spouse or common-law partner meet the eligibility requirements.

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