Despite Record High Immigration, Canada’s Spousal Sponsorships Dipped Last Year

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The latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveals immigration to Canada through spousal sponsorship programs dipped last year even as overall immigration to the country hit record highs.

In 2022, Canada hit a new immigration record by welcoming 437,120 new permanent residents, an increase of 7.7 per cent over the immigration level of 406,040 new permanent residents set in 2021.

Despite that overall rise in Canadian immigration, though, the number of spousal sponsorships nudged down by 0.65 per cent to 64,020 new permanent residents last year from 64,440 the previous year.

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Last year started off strong for spousal sponsorship and these appeared almost certain to set a new record. In the first quarter of the year, Canada welcomed 18,475 new permanent residents under spousal sponsorships. 

Based on that trend, the county was set to welcome 73,900 new permanent residents under spousal sponsorships, far more than in past years. 

That strong start, though, fizzled as the year wore on. 

In the second quarter of the year, the number of new permanent residents under spousal sponsorships slipped 7.6 per cent to only 17,070 new permanent residents and that fell even more, to only 16,930, in the third quarter of the year. 

By the last quarter, Canada was only welcoming 12,110 new permanent residents through the spousal sponsorship program, a relatively lackluster performance that led to the lower results for the year overall.

That softer performance means spousal sponsorships accounted for only 14.6 per cent of Canada’s total immigration last year compared to 20.3 per cent of total immigration in 2017. 

Spousal Sponsorships Hit Record High Numbers In 2019

At their height prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, spousal sponsorships to Canada allowed 64,775 new permanent residents, or 19 per cent of the total 341,175, to come to Canada in 2019. 

In the first year of the pandemic, spousal sponsorships dove by more than 44.2 per cent to 36,120 new permanent residents in 2020 as total immigration to Canada also fell to only 184,595 new permanent residents amid public health and travel restrictions. 

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Spousal sponsorships then rebounded to almost their pre-pandemic levels in 2021, jumping by more than 78.4 per cent that year before softening in 2022.

In 2015, Canada welcomed 46,350 new permanent residents through spousal sponsorships. The following year, that number swelled by 22.7 per cent to hit 56,855.

Spousal sponsorship numbers grew by a more modest 2.3 per cent in 2017 but then spiked 8.8 per cent the following year to see 63,298 new permanent residents come to Canada in 2018.

Sponsors Must Ink An Agreement To Provide For Their Wives Or Common-Law Spouses

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.

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.

Processing Times For Spousal Sponsorship Applications Are Improving

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 is now down to 16 months, an improvement over the 20-month processing time last year.

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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