Why Not Conjugal?

I was just consulted by an American who had received a CIC letter refusing a conjugal sponsorship application filed by her. In part the immigration officer had written:

“I am not satisfied that you and your sponsor have maintained a conjugal relationship for at least one year as per section 2 of the Regulations. Canadian courts have set out the generally accepted characteristics of a conjugal relationship. These involve a mutual commitment to a shared life and a relationship of some permanence where the two parties are interdependent and have combined their affairs economically, socially, emotionally and physically, with consequences for one affecting the other. I am not satisfied that you and your sponsor have met these criteria, based on the evidence you have provided….”

Her experience was upsetting and came as a shock to her since both that she and her partner had known each other for well over 10 years, had visited back and forth between United States and Canada and had taken numerous trips together. In their eyes, they definitely had an ongoing, stable relationship. However, CIC refused the application because their relationship did not fall strictly within its definition of “conjugal”.
Often people believe, because they have had a steady exclusive relationship, that they can easily sponsor their partner because they are a committed couple.

Under Canadian immigration rules, there are three categories under which Canadians can sponsor a foreign national partner—firstly, by marriage, secondly, by a 12 month common-law cohabitation and thirdly by the conjugal route. It is this last category that people find confusing.

If they are committed to each other, why can’t they use the conjugal route?

CIC takes the position that the conjugal partner category is mainly intended for partners where neither common law partner status nor marriage is possible, usually due to moral, cultural or legal reasons. For example, such reasons could arise where the foreign partner comes from a country where divorce is not allowed or if the partner is the same sex. In either case, they would not be allowed to marry and if they are prohibited from obtaining long stay visas in ether country, a further obstacle appears. As CIC states:

The conjugal partner category provides the ability for a Canadian in these circumstance to sponsor the foreign national partner. It is not intended to be used to avoid the usual requirement to be a spouse or common law partner before marrying.

Where individuals cannot live together because of such extenuating circumstances, CIC wants solid documentation and evidence of the same. Only in these extreme situations will immigration consider a conjugal application. But the individuals must have integrated all of their financial, emotional and social ties in every way other than living together.

So before any conjugal application is made, it is important for applicants to ensure that full details and documents are available showing:

  • Length of relationship
  • Amount of time spent together
  • Reasons why they have not cohabited for one full year
  • How the long distance relationship has been maintained
  • Evidence of efforts to live in the same country
  • Evidence to show how affairs have been merged as much as possible given the separation