How to Prove a Common-Law Relationship?

March 19, 2022


Spousal sponsorship is a significant contributor to IRCC’s pool of applicants for immigration. But have you ever thought about why the government allows spousal sponsorships? The primary reason for this is family reunification and the fact that at least one of the spouses has been through the examination loops and is ready to take the economic and legal responsibilities associated with her/his/their partner. 

Marriage is the straightforward approach to prove the relationship between the sponsor and the applicant. However, marriage might not be on the cards for the involved people in many cases. In such cases, common-law relationships provide a great alternative to get virtually the same benefits in the immigration system without registering a marriage.

This post will guide you through the definition of a common-law relationship, its impact on the immigration process, and how you can prove one.

What is a Common Law Relationship?

In the immigration context, a common-law partnership means that a couple have lived together for at least one year in a conjugal relationship. A common-law relationship exists from the day on which two individuals can provide evidence to support their cohabitation in a conjugal relationship.

As the term suggests, cohabitation is the setup of two consenting adults living together on one roof and aggregating their finances to a certain degree. The latter aspect is not mandatory to prove cohabitation, but it helps establish the relationship in the eyes of the law. 

One of the partners might have to travel for work or business, which is acceptable within the parameters of the cohabitation idea. However, such gaps in living together must be short-term and result from a genuine business concern.

Common-Law Relationship and Immigration

Suppose your relationship with your partner qualifies as a common-law relationship. In that case, you now have options to sponsor one another for immigration, based on the current status of each partner in the Canadian immigration system.

1. The Common Law Partner is Not in Canada

This is one of the most common cases. It generally rests on one setup – the sponsoring partner from the common-law relationship is in Canada while the other is not in Canada. As per the definition of a common-law relationship, the partners are no longer cohabiting. How can they still be termed under a common-law relationship?

The answer to that lies in three key areas:

  1. The partners must have established a conjugal and common-law relationship by staying together for at least one year in the recent past. 
  2. The partners must intend to live in a common-law relationship as soon as possible.
  3. There must be a recognized cause for the gap in the common law relationship – a deceased relative, unavoidable circumstances like a national emergency, work-related obligations, or reasons about the education of one of the partners.

The focus in these cases is that if the extraordinary circumstances did not exist, the partners would have stayed together. And all of this has to be proved by filling up the form IMM 5532 and other essential documents we shall explore later in this post.

2. The Sponsoring Partner is Married to Someone Else

In certain circumstances, the sponsoring common-law partner can be legally married to someone else and still provide a legitimate sponsorship to the other common-law partner.

  1. The sponsoring partner can provide evidence that declares her/his/their marriage with the third person to have ended. This can be done with the help of children’s custody orders or the removal of the third party as a beneficiary to the sponsoring partner’s will or insurance policies. However, this can be done only if all of the following conditions are met:
  2. The sponsoring partner must have physically stayed separated from the third person for at least one year.
  3. The common-law relationship must be established between the sponsoring partner and the common-law partner while the sponsoring partner stays away from the third person from the previous relationship.

Alongside the form IMM 5532, the sponsoring partner will have to take the burden of proof of showing that the marriage has ended and, on top of that, the common-law partners will have to prove cohabitation. 

Virtually the same conditions apply to the situation where the applicant was married to someone else and not the sponsoring partner.

3. The Common Law Partner was Once Married to the Sponsor

While this is rare, it is still an acceptable situation. In such circumstances, the common-law partners show that they were married, the marriage broke down, and now the partners are in a common-law relationship. 

Such situations have quite a few moving pieces, and all the conditions applicable to other situations will be applicable here. However, the immigration officers will try to determine whether the common-law partners have come together for genuine reasons or just to take advantage of the immigration policy supporting common-law partners. 

Since the burden of proof is on the sponsoring partner and the applicant, such situations can get tricky. Several more permutations fit into the common-law relationship category. If you are not sure which one will work for you, click here and get in touch with one of our experts.

How to Prove a Common Law Relationship? 

As you might have noticed by now, common-law relationships have one basic principle – 12 months of consecutive cohabitation. However, it can be challenging to prove and might require substantial documentation to establish the common-law relationship.

Generally, these are the documents used to prove common-law partnerships:

  1. Form IMM 5532 is legally required to substantiate the common-law relationship.
  2. You can use form IMM 5409 for statutory declarations. 
  3. Depending on the history of relationships, one or both the partners might have to provide a legal declaration showing the end of previous marriages or relationships. 
  4. You can use shared residential property ownership documents or lease agreements bearing the name of both the partners, as far as the address is common. 
  5. You can also use rental agreements of utility bills (electricity, internet, or gas) as far as they bear the name of both the partners and are designated to one address. 
  6. If the partners have insurance policies, drivers’ licenses, or personal identification documents that showcase the common address, they can use these documents. 

While this is a comprehensive list, it is not exhaustive. The documents you need to prove your common-law relationship will largely depend on your particular situation. However, you can refer to this checklist for your research and education and see the other possibly acceptable documents.

In Summary

Common-law partnerships are a great way to immigrate to Canada as far as you have a genuine relationship that fits the definition and a sponsoring partner in the equation. Click here to book an appointment with our immigration experts! Our team can provide you with a free consultation to walk you through the process.

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