Canadian immigration law allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their common-law partners.

It requires that:

  • people in relationships who have not married to have cohabited together for at least one year in a conjugal relationship;
  • that the cohabitation during that year be continuous rather than intermittent cohabitation adding up to one year;
  • that the relationship be genuine; and
  • that the relationship not be entered into to acquire an immigration benefit.

While cohabitation means living together continuously, short periods of separation due to work, business travel, family obligations, etc., are permitted.

After the one-year period of cohabitation has been established, the partners may live apart for periods of time without legally breaking the cohabitation, provided that there is evidence that both parties are continuing the relationship. In Chantladze v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 771, Justice Fothergill stated that it was a reviewable error for an officer to consider the reasons why a couple had lived apart after they had previously lived together for one year continuously.

As the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada guidelines note:

“According to case law, the definition of a common-law partner should be read as “an individual who is (ordinarily) cohabiting.” After the one year period of cohabitation has been established, the partners may live apart for periods of time while still maintaining a common-law relationship. For example, a couple may have been separated due to illness or death of a family member, adverse country conditions (e.g. war, political unrest), or employment or education-related reasons, and therefore are not cohabiting at the time an application is submitted. Despite the break in cohabitation, a common-law relationship exists if the couple has cohabited continuously in a conjugal relationship in the past for at least one year and intend to do so again as soon as possible. There should be evidence demonstrating that both parties are continuing the relationship. “