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Couples Unable To Prove Canadian Common-Law Relationship Separated At The Border

Canadian-American Couples Unable To Prove Canadian Common-Law Relationship Separated At The BorderAs Canadians return home amid travel restrictions, some couples are being separated because they are unable to prove they are in a Canadian common-law relationship. 

Earlier in June Canada relaxed travel restrictions at the U.S.- Canada border to allow immediate family members of Canadians to enter Canada. In a recent case, the couple was unable to demonstrate that their spouse meets the definition of a Canadian common-law partner. 

Unable to have their spouse accompany them to Canada, and unable to return to the U.S. together because of American travel restrictions, the couple was separated with one returning to Canada and the other traveling back to the U.S.  

Proving your partnership meets the definition of a Canadian common-law relationship can be complex. Each couple might provide different documents to prove the relationship status. We wanted to go over the basics of what a Canadian common-law relationship is, and provide some suggested documentation to help you prove it.

What is a Canadian common-law relationship?

A Canadian common-law relationship is legally a de facto relationship, meaning that it must be established in each individual case, based on the facts and documents provided. Legally married spouses have a marriage certificate which is sufficient to satisfy the requirement that there is a spousal relationship. In some cases, applicants may need to provide proof the marriage is indeed genuine and not for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration status. 

To meet the definition of a Canadian common-law relationship, the couple must demonstrate that they have cohabitated together for at least 12-months in a conjugal relationship. Conjugal is defined as relating to marriage. The gender of the spouses is not a factor in determining a Canadian common-law relationship. 

What is a Canadian conjugal relationship? 

Like a Canadian common-law relationship, a Canadian conjugal relationship requires that a couple is in a marriage-like relationship for at least a year. What makes a Canadian conjugal relationship different is that due to persecution in their country of origin, the couple is unable to cohabit together. This usually applies to same-sex couples living in countries where homosexuality is prevented by law or for couples from different religious backgrounds where an inter-faith couple would face persecution. 

Documents to support Canadian common-law status

There are two things you must prove to demonstrate a Canadian common-law relationship exists:

  1. That you have cohabitated with your partner for a year or longer
  2. That a significant, marriage-like relationship exists between the two of you

Any documents that can prove that you have cohabited with your partner for a year or longer provide excellent support to demonstrate a Canadain common-law relationship exists. Supporting documents to demonstrate this can include:

  • Shared ownership of residential property
  • Joint leases or rental agreements
  • Bills for shared utility accounts
  • A declaration of common-law status
  • Sworn statements from friends and family if none of the above can be provided

Documents to support a marriage-like relationship exists are a little less clear and can be unique to each couple. Documents to support this requirement can include:

  • Insurance policies with your partner named as the beneficiary 
  • Photos of the two of you on vacation or with each others family
  • Chat transcripts
  • Funds transfers or proof of gifts
  • Sworn statements from friends and family if none of the above can be provided

If none of the above documents are possible, get creative. There can be documents that support your Canadian common-law relationship that are unique to your specific case. The general rule is, the more documents you can provide to support your relationship, the stronger your case will be.  

Adam Pinsky

Adam Pinsky has a keen interest in all things immigration and has been working in the industry for 11 years.

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