Am I considered common-law partners with my boyfriend or girlfriend for immigration?
In order to be considered common-law partners on a Canadian immigration application, the most important requirement is that the two romantic partners have lived together for at least one year (365 days). To meet the threshold for common-law, this year of cohabitation can have occurred
- inside Canada
- outside Canada or
- a combination of inside and outside Canada.
Both heterosexual and homosexual couples can become common-law partners under Canadian immigration law. There is actually no difference between a same-sex and opposite-sex common-law couple for the purpose of Canadian immigration.
In addition to having lived together for at least one year, common-law couples also have to meet other requirements. To determine whether a common-law relationship is genuine, immigration officers look at whether the couple:
- is in a monogamous, serious relationship with one-another
- is physically and emotionally interdependent on one-another
- participates in a shared social life
- is financially interdependent on one-another, either through sharing expenses or financial support
Can we still be common-law if we live together with another person?
It’s extremely common for couples to live together with roommates or family members. Frequently young couples will remain in the apartment where they met as roommates or move in with family members to save money. Living together with another person does not have any impact on your status as common-law partners as long as your relationship meets the requirements outlined above.
In fact, it is also important to understand that if you are in a romantic relationship with a flatmate, it could be possible for IRCC to believe that you are actually common-law partners. If you do not declare someone as your common-law partner on your immigration application, you can both be considered to have misrepresented (lied), which can result in a procedural fairness letter, a refusal, or possibly a bar from becoming a permanent resident of Canada.
Do I have to declare on an immigration application if I have a common-law partner?
You absolutely do. If you do not declare your common-law partner, then you can be found to have misrepresented and possibly lose your chance to immigrate to Canada.
Are we common-law if we spend the night at each other’s house frequently?
No. If each of you maintains your own separate residence, even if you hardly spend any time there, then you are not common-law partners; you are simply dating. In order to be considered common-law partners, you both have to go “all in” on a single residence and cement your lives together in the ways outlined above.
How long can we spend apart and still remain a common-law couple?
Even though there is a minimum amount of time that you need to live together to be considered common-law partners – a period of one year – there is no specific amount of time that you need to live apart to no longer be considered common—law partners if your relationship is still intact. Of course, if the relationship has broken down and one partner has either moved in with or married someone else, then the common-law relationship is over. However, even if two partners who have previously lived together for one year now live apart, whether they are going to continue to be considered common-law partners depends on the factors outlined above and is at the discretion of the immigration officer.
Am I still common-law with my partner if we don’t have a joint bank-account?
This is a very common question. For some reason, people believe that a joint bank account is the be-all, end-all of being in a common-law partnership. If your relationship reflects the factors outlined above for showing the interdependence of your lives, and you have lived together for a period of at least one year, then you are common-law partners regardless of whether you have a joint bank account.
Do we need to file paperwork to be considered common-law for immigration?
No – if you have lived together for at least one year and your relationship meets the requirements outlined above, then you will legally be considered common-law partners in Canada automatically. As part of a sponsorship or other immigration application, you may complete a statutory declaration of common-law union. However, this is for immigration purposes only and is not a legally binding document otherwise.