When applying for immigration to Canada via Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) you must always have a principal applicant. This is the person who can fulfill the criteria of the particular immigration route you are choosing. It does not have to be the head of the household, nor does it have to be the male in a mixed sex relationship. You should look at the criteria and determine which family member will gain the most points or have the correct work history in order to qualify.
The principal applicant can then name spouses and dependent children as family members to be included in their application. Many people wrongly assume that a couple has to be heterosexual and married in order for their relationship to be recognized by CIC as valid, but this is not the case. CIC recognizes common-law relationships as well as same-sex relationships, but you do have to be aware of certain criteria that have to be met in order for your relationship to be accepted.
Spouse: Two people of opposite or same-sex in a legally recognized marriage.
Common-law: Two people of opposite or same-sex who are living in a conjugal relationship and have been doing so continuously for at least one year.
Conjugal: Two people who live together and have significant commitment to one another i.e. financial, emotional, children etc.
Some issues may arise when applying for immigration to Canada that may never have been a factor before and could actually prevent the CIC from recognizing your relationship as common-law. If you know before hand what these issues might be you can prepare in advance and get your affairs in order so that when the time comes you have no problems proving your relationship. Muchmor Canada Magazine outlines the main problems and how you can prevent them.
When CIC accepts common-law relationships both heterosexual and gay or lesbian it has to receive proof from the couple that their relationship is real and not being used for the benefit of immigration. This means that you will need to prove that your relationship is conjugal. Evidence that you share a home, support each other financially, are in an emotional relationship and perhaps have children will all be taken into account.
This might not sound as if it could be a problem, but lets take a look at a couple of scenarios:
Jack and Ben are a gay couple who have been in a relationship for six years and have been living as a common-law couple for four years. Jack owned the property they live in before he met Ben and all the bills, mortgage etc are in his name only. Ben contributes toward the food and general living expenses as well as holidays the couple take. They each have separate bank accounts. This arrangement has worked well for them both and they have seen no reason to change.
Problem: Because on paper Ben has no connection to the property they live in there is no proof that they are living as a couple, other than their “word.” Although Ben pays as much financially into the relationship he has no bills, mortgage or household costs that can be shown to the CIC. Neither do they share a bank account and do they have no obvious financial commitment to each other. Therefore this may give rise to CIC rejecting their common-law relationship and refusing their application.
Mark and Sue have lived together for two years. Mark works full-time and is the only earner in the home as Sue is a stay-at-home mum to a daughter she has by another relationship. Mark has always looked after the bills and rent and Sue’s name is not on any of the official documentation i.e. rent, utility bills etc. They do have a joint bank account, but this is used for savings and holidays and not for the payment of household bills which come out of a bank account in Mark’s name only.
Problem: As with Scenario 1 CIC could refuse to accept their common-law relationship as on paper Sue has no connection to the joint home and cannot prove commitment to the relationship. Although they share a bank account, this does not prove a relationship as any two individuals can open a join bank account without being in a relationship. Remember all the bills come out of an account in Mark’s name.
Sally lives with her same-sex partner Amy in a rented apartment. The rental agreement is in Sally’s name as she lived there before she met Amy about 18 months ago. The rent includes all utilities, so no living expenses other than groceries and everyday living costs are payable. If they add Amy to the rental agreement it will prompt a new contract being put in place, increasing their monthly rent, so they have left things as they are. They both have separate bank accounts.
Problem: Once again one partner in the relationship cannot prove that they are in any way committed to the relationship or the property they live in. Again CIC could refuse to accept this relationship and refuse their application.
Fortunately most of these issues can be easily rectified well in advance of you needing to supply the information to CIC. By following Muchmor Canada Magazine suggestions you can prevent problems.
The key to this is preparation and timing. As soon as you know you will want to apply for immigration to Canada you should look at mortgage or rental agreements, utility bills such as electricity, gas, water, internet, television etc. bank accounts and investments. Make a list and note who’s name is included on each.
The next thing is to try to get as many of these items in both names as possible. Some will be easier than others, but perhaps the easiest is a joint bank account which you then use to pay your bills. If you can show that both your incomes go into one account and all your expenses are paid from that account it helps prove financial commitment to one another and a shared liability for the “marital” home.
Next try to add the additional name onto utility bills. Some companies will do this readily, others may take some patience and paperwork. If you cannot get all changed over, don’t worry. As long as you can show that many of your bills are in joint names this is okay. After all even legally married couples don’t always have all their bills in both names.
The biggest obstacle will be mortgage or rental agreements as these will require a legal change and may it may be to your financial disadvantage to change them. This is something you will have to discuss with your mortgage lender or landlord. Again if you cannot easily get this changed, do not despair. As long as you can get a joint bank account in place and can prove you share all or most of the household expenses you should be good to go.
The CIC understands that not every couple married or common-law will share absolutely everything. Many married couples still have separate bank accounts or pay separate bills or only have one wage earner who pays everything. But it is taken for granted that a married couple living in the same house are financially and emotionally committed to each other. The same consideration is not extended to common-law couples who rightly, or wrongly have to prove this fact.
Because CIC require you to be in a common-law relationship for at least one year before applying, you should get all these things in order as soon as possible. The information you give on your application needs to be relevant at the time you complete it, not at the time you expect it to be processed by CIC.
Always read, re-read and read again the application criteria to make sure you are complying correctly. It is easier to start things off right than to have to correct things later which may delay your processing time, or mean it gets rejected altogether.
As with most things, preparation and planning are key.