Marriage and Immigration

By: A Bashar
Written: for

Married and Moving to Toronto
Married and Moving to Toronto

For those of you who are not planning to marry a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, but are planning to live in Canada with your spouse, there are important factors to be aware of before the wedding and the big move. Although it may be easy to have your spouse here initially on a visitor visa, challenges with the immigration process are bound to arise, so learn the facts and be ready to support your spouse.

Initial Arrival:

If you are not already married, you need to decide where you will marry your fiancée. This can have travel implications depending on their country of origin, for them and your guest attendance. If visas are needed, time needs to be allocated for this. Once married, no matter where the event occurs, you need to apply for and obtain permanent residence status for your spouse (family class). Your spouse may be able to enter Canada without submitting a visa application, however, even if he/she may be able to come to Canada temporarily as a visitor, they have a limited amount of time in the country. Extensions are possible but please allot enough time for application processes. Otherwise, he/she will need to apply for a visitor visa ahead of time. Check the countries and requirements for visitor visas at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC):

Immigration Applications:

There are several ways to apply for your spouse’s Canadian permanent resident status. You're likely going to sponsor your spouse via the Family Class. Note that there are two different application types in the spousal sponsorship category: Spouse in Canada or Spouse outside of Canada. Whichever application you decide to go with, get it in as soon as possible. Your immigration application should be a top priority along with wedding details. There are several steps that may take time so it's a good idea to complete as much of the application before the wedding day. This will make you feel less frustrated about the processing time (averages about 14 months). The application includes questions related to the actual marriage which may require photographs and your marriage agreement; leave these to complete immediately after the marriage. Then submit!

For information about which immigration application you should complete, use CIC's assessment at

Forms can be obtained online at

View processing times at

Health Insurance:

Canada has a great public health insurance plan; however, this is only accessible to citizens and residents. If your spouse plans to come to Canada as a visitor while his/her permanent resident application is in process, he/she will likely not be eligible for public health coverage. Each province administers its own health care program so check your provincial plan's eligibility requirements to become covered under the plan. For example, to be eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), you must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or a newcomer to Canada from groups who are eligible for OHIP as set out in Ontario’s Health Insurance Act. OHIP also requires a three month waiting period when you apply as an eligible applicant. If you are working and receive extended health care benefits through your employer, check with your employer to see if your spouse may be covered prior to being covered by OHIP. If not, you may have to obtain private health care coverage during the waiting period.

Working in Canada:

There are a few things to note when it comes to working in Canada. No one can work in Canada without a valid social insurance number and/or work permit. Spouses who applied from inside Canada may apply for an open work permit and spouses who applied from outside of Canada may get a work permit with a valid job offer from an employer. Remember a visitor’s visa may also be required! Because of processing times and the steps required for employers to offer jobs to non-Canadians, if work is important for your spouse, take some time to find out which work permit application is best for your situation. You can check the CIC website for more information at Once your spouse obtains a work permit or their permanent residence status, there are many resources to help immigrants find work in Canada. One such organization is which has a Career Bridge Program for internationally trained professionals. Understand that for some, it can take quite a while before they are able to find work in their field. Also, some upgrade courses may have to be taken or regional professional exams may have to be sat. Take some time to research the various resources available to new immigrants.

This is only an introduction to the process of sponsoring your spouse to immigrate to Canada. Use the resources provided above to become familiar with the transition process. Talk with others who have gone through a similar process and when in doubt consult an immigration lawyer to help you along the way.

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