People wishing to sponsor family members to immigrate to Canada generally have to meet numerous requirements. These include, but are not limited to:
- Not be subject to a removal order;
- Not be detained in any penitentiary, jail, reformatory, or prison;
- Not be convicted under the Criminal Code for certain offenses (see this post for more on this requirement);
- Not be in default in respect of any previous undertaking;
- Not be an undischarged bankrupt;
- Not be in receipt of social assistance other than for a disability; and
- Meet the minimum necessary income requirements.
The Minimum Income Requirement
The financial requirement for sponsors is necessary to ensure that sponsors can support their sponsorees for the duration of their sponsorship undertaking. People sponsoring spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, or dependent children are exempted from this requirement.
For all other family sponsorship applications, the sponsor’s income must meet the minimum necessary income requirement as identified annually by Statistics Canada in Low Income Cut Off levels (“LICO”). The sponsor must meet the cut-off to support all members of a sponsor’s own family, the sponsored person, and the sponsored person’s family members. This includes non-accompanying family members.
The current LICO rates for 2011 outside of Quebec are:
|Size of Family Unit||LICO|
|1 person (sponsor)||$22,229|
|Each additional person||$5,989|
Excluded from these amounts include, amongst other things, any amounts paid to the sponsor under the Employment Insurance Act, other than special benefits.
The spouse or common-law partner of a sponsor may co-sign an undertaking to help meet income requirements by pooling resources. Other family members may not co-sign. A co-signer must meet the same requirements and are subject to the same bars as the sponsor. They assume the same obligations as the sponsor and become jointly and severally or solidary liable if there is default.
Pursuant to OB 324, and resulting from the Federal Court’s decision in Dokaj v. Canada, where a family member is added to the sponsor’s family during the processing of a sponsorship application, then the changes to both the size of the family unit and the family’s income must be considered where the additional family member is a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner who becomes a co-signer.
Changes in Circumstances
It is extremely important to note that rule 133(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations requires that a sponsor has to be in compliance with the income requirements from the day on which the application is submitted until the day on which a decision is made on the application.
Accordingly, a co-signer may not be added to the sponsorship application if the sponsorship was already assessed and at that assessment, the sponsor failed to meet the sponsorship requirements.
Summary of When a Co-Signer can be Added to an Existing Sponsorship Application
The following is from OB 324, and offers a useful summary for when co-signers can be added to existing sponsorship application. It also demonstrates how rule 133(1) of the Regulations are interpreted.
- In all cases, the sponsor must have met all sponsorship eligibility requirements at the initial sponsorship assessment.
- In all cases, a co-signer may not be added after a negative (Not Met) recommendation has been rendered on the initial assessment.
- In all cases, a co-signer may not be added after a negative (Not Met) recommendation has been rendered on a reassessment.
- CPC-M will add a co-signer after the initial assessment, even if the sponsor did not choose to include the co-signer at initial filing of the sponsorship application, as long as the sponsor met the original financial assessment and all other eligibility requirements on his own.
- If the sponsor is given the opportunity to add a co-signer following a change in circumstances and chooses not to do so and a negative recommendation is rendered, on a reassessment, the sponsor cannot then request to add a co-signer.
- Although the facts in the Dokaj case were specific to the sponsorship of parents, the re-interpretation of the regulations, allowing the addition of the co-signer after filing, will apply to all family class categories where the financial test is applicable.