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Difference between a spouse, a conjugal partner, and a common-law partner?

Difference between a spouse, a conjugal partner, and a common-law partner?

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When looking for information about Canadian funding for you or your partner, you may come across different ways to describe a relationship. The government lets you bring a love partner to Canada if you are a spouse, a conjugal partner, or a common-law partner.

Who Can Be a Spouse?

When both people, whether they are the same or different genders, are legally married in the country where the marriage took place or in Canada.

It’s important to remember that IRCC doesn’t accept marriages that took place outside of Canada where one or both people weren’t there. This includes rituals that were held by proxy, like online or over the phone. The only time this job doesn’t apply is when someone gets married to a member of the Canadian Forces. 

What documents do I need if I want to sponsor my spouse?

  • Duly completed application forms. 
  • Status proof that you live in Canada
  • Identity Proof 
  • Certificate of marriage
  • Police certificates and clearances from every country where your spouse has stayed for at least six months after turning 18
  • Certificate of health for your partner
  • Proof that government fees have been paid
  • A digital picture
  • Relationship Questionnaire and Evaluation of Sponsorship
  • Photos and cards for a wedding
  • When you and your partner have children together, you must present birth certificates or adoption records for each child.
  • Proof that the marriage was registered with the government

Who can be a common-law partner?

It is someone you have lived with for more than a year but are not married to. For immigration reasons, your partner can be of the same or different gender as you. You must also show that two people are very committed to each other.

How to show that you are in a common-law marriage?

You must show proof that you and your partner were:

  • Sharing the same place, (how you act and what you do when it comes to doing housework) 
  • Help each other out financially (for example, by making financial plans or owning property) and mentally.
  • If you can, have children together.
  • Act like a couple when you’re out in public.
  • Sexual and personal behavior, such as faithfulness, loyalty, and how they feel about each other.

What proof do I need to show that I am in a common-law relationship?

When you apply, you need to show proof of your common-law relationship with at least two of the following:

  • Pay stubs or tax forms that show you live at the same address Proof that you have lived together for at least a year
  • Proof that you or your partner own property or that you both pay rent on it.
  • Accounts in the same bank
  • Bills with both of your names on them,
  • Copies of IDs from the government,
  • Coverage for cars
  • You and your common-law partner must show birth papers or adoption records for any children you have together.
  • Photos of you and your common-law partner that show you are in a married relationship
  • Letters, emails, and posts on social media can show that your family and friends are aware of your relationship.

If you can’t give the above papers, you need to find other ways to show your relationship and give them. Give signed statements or letters from family and friends that explain how you became a common-law couple. The visa officer will decide whether or not to accept your common-law papers, but the more proof you can give, the better your chances of being accepted.

Who can be a “conjugal partner”?

A conjugal partner is someone who lives outside of Canada and with whom you have been in a serious, romantic relationship for at least a year, but you can’t live together because of big problems. This could be because of things they can’t change, like a barrier to immigrants, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, among other things.

In some situations, they also can’t formally get married to their sponsor and become a spouse. In every other way, this group is the same as a common-law partner or a husband, because they have been in a bona fide (real or true) marriage for at least a year.

For example, if you can’t marry or live with your partner because you lived in a country, this is called a conjugal relationship.

  • That doesn’t let same-sex couples get married.
  • When it’s not possible to get a divorce
  • Where what you have going on is against the law.

How to show that you are married

If a Canadian citizen or permanent resident wants to sponsor their partner to come to Canada as their spouse, they must show proof:

  • They have been in a marriage with their sponsor for at least a year.
  • They are in a long-term relationship where they are both committed and depending on each other, and they have tried to combine their lives as much as possible.
  • The couple has to show proof that they can’t live together or get married because of some problems or limits.
  • This is because a sexual partner is usually not someone you could marry or live with. For example, you may have lived in a place where:

When there are no formal records to show that you are married

If there is no formal proof or a specific event that shows your commitment to your partner, this is true for both married and common-law relationships. In these situations, you must show the immigration officers proof of strong emotional and social links that show you are in a serious, committed relationship and plan to stay with your partner for a long time.

When thinking about bringing a partner with you to Canada, it’s important to understand these different words. Because each group has its own set of rules, it’s important to know which one you fall into before you apply.

It’s also important to remember that the papers you have to give and how the process goes for you will depend on a lot of other things. If you still have questions, you can read our page about sponsoring a spouse to find out more.


  1. Different Relationship Categories.
  2. Spousal Sponsorship.
  3. Common-law Partnership.
  4. Conjugal Partnership.
  5. Need Proof of Relationship.
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