If you have an application for a visa to Canada, being permanent resident, or a temporary visa, you may have changed your life in a significant way.  Some life changes must actually be reported to Canada’s immigration department if your application is still pending.

One such change is if you’ve become a common law partner while your visa application is in progress.  In other words if you’ve been in a relationship of  exclusivity with a high degree of commitment for more than one year, you may have to declare the relationship to the immigration department or be at risk of misrepresenting yourself before a Canadian visa officer.

Most couples know when they’ve entered a common law relationship, but perhaps not down to the exact day.  Such couples may have started as roommates but gradually, started to share household chores and pay for expenses for each other.  They may have also presented themselves to their peers and relatives as an exclusive couple.

When the common law relationship has been in place for more than one year, it should be declared in the context of a pending visa application.  Such a declaration, however, may have certain consequences to an already filed application.  For example, adding a common-law partner to a Canada Experience Class application or to a Federal Skilled Worker application may add more processing time.  The additional processing time would arise from the inevitable medical and background checks for the added common law partner.    In less clear cases, an officer may have to spend additional time making a determination of whether, in fact, the person being added is a common law partner.

Such an analysis would entail a review of evidence showing that the couple do, in fact, share a life together, in a substantive way.  There may be evidence of the origin of the relationship, its evolution from acquaintance to friendship to exclusivity, the sharing a large and/or long term financial burden, testimonials from relatives and friends, etc.

From an immigration officer standpoint, it is preferable for an applicant to simply get married, as the amount of scrutiny of officer may have to exercise would be less than assessing evidence of a common law relationship.   The reasons for maintaining  a common law relationship  as opposed to getting married may relate to cultural impositions. For example, if a couple from a less culturally evolved country has yet to tell their parents of the exclusivity of the relationship, they may opt to maintain the common law status until they have proven to each other’s’ respective parents that they are compatible as a couple.

If an officer deems that inadequate evidence has been given to prove the relationship is not a common law one, then the excluded putative dependent partner would be excluded from the application and would not get the benefits of said application, be it permanent residency, or in other cases, an open work permit.

The issue may be more material in Federal Skilled Worker applications where a dependent spouse’s education may yield additional points to the main applicant.  In such cases, if evidence of a weak common law (or indeed, a weak marriage) was put forward, the main applicant could be refused and barred for materially  misrepresenting a fact to an officer; the penalty for such misrepresentation would be  five years of inadmissibility to Canada.

In such circumstances, advice from a Toronto Immigration Lawyer would be prudent prior to making an application to Canada’s Immigration Department.

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