Common law applies to couples after one year

Q: I am a Canadian citizen and have been working abroad as a teacher for the past four years.


My girlfriend is a British citizen and has a university degree from England. She is also teaching. We have lived together in a third country for two years and have a joint bank account. We are planning on getting married in England next summer and then plan to live in Toronto.


My questions are:


  • How can she get Canadian residency? Do I have to sponsor her? If so, how do I go about doing this?

  • Can I begin to sponsor her while I am living outside of Canada?

  • How do I go about getting her a work permit?

A: You can sponsor your girlfriend as a “common law partner” provided that you have been living together in a “conjugal relationship” for at least one year.

You would be financially responsible for any social assistance she collects within the first three years of her becoming a permanent resident.

She might also qualify to apply on her own as a “skilled worker” since she has a degree, has work experience, and presumably speaks English fluently. This application would take much longer than a sponsored application (i.e. 50 months or more if processed in London, England).

To sponsor her, you would have to file your sponsorship application at the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga.

CPC will assess your qualifications as a sponsor. Normally, you need to be living in Canada to qualify, but there is an exception for Canadian citizens only who intend to reside in Canada upon the approval of their partners’ application. You do not have to have any minimum income to sponsor her.

Once you have been approved as a sponsor, her application would normally be referred to Canada’s High Commission in London. Since you have been living in a third country, she could choose to have her application processed in the Canadian visa post serving nationals of that country provided she has been lawfully admitted to that country for at least one year.

If you start the process now, she probably won’t need a work permit since it is likely that she could get landed prior to her arrival next summer. CPC Mississauga is reportedly taking about 53 days to approve sponsors and London is concluding 80 per cent of their common law applications in an additional 3-9 months.

Guidy Mamann is the senior lawyer at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Law Society as an immigration specialist. Reach him at 416-862-0000. Direct confidential questions to