information for global expats

Family Members and Marriage for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2014

Family Members

Ideally, when you immigrate to another country, you are able to bring your partner and children with you at the same time. If this is not financially or otherwise possible, you may need to spend some time working in Canada, and possibly remitting money to your home country to help support your family. Once you have started to familiarise yourself with Canada, and found some suitable family accommodation, and perhaps looked into schools and such things, you may find it easier to move the rest of your family into the country.

When you first immigrate to Canada, you are only permitted to bring certain family members with you. These are: your dependent children, and their dependent children (i.e. your grandchildren) if any, your spouse (or common law partner) and their dependent children. To bring other family members, such as parents and grandparents, you must first gain permanent residence, then fulfil the other criteria required for sponsorship, detailed below.

Once you become a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can sponsor other family members to become permanent residents under the Family Sponsorship Program. Those eligible for sponsorship include spouses and common law partners, parents, grandparents, dependent children and other dependents under 18. Dependent children must be under 22 and substantially dependent on you for their well-being. Spouses may be required to live with you in Canada for at least two years after they have been granted permanent residence (this is to prevent marriage fraud, which is a common problem.) The number of family members you are permitted to sponsor may be limited –  if for example, they have been granted social security benefits.

To complete the sponsorship process, you have to sign a contract with the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. You must also sign a sponsorship agreement with each family member, detailing the commitments you are prepared to make to each other. By initiating sponsorship, you are making an agreement to provide support to the family members for from three to ten years.


As there are no residency requirements, getting married in Canada is a quite a simple procedure.   The minimum age you can marry in Canada without any restrictions varies regionally, from 16 (Quebec) to 19 (British Columbia.) To get married when you are over 16 but under 18 (or 19), requires parental consent. 

Before you can get married in Canada, you must obtain a marriage licence or certificate. These are controlled at a regional level; each province and territory issues its own licences. To obtain one you must apply to the relevant municipal office or Department of Vital Statistics in your province or territory. You must submit this form, together with the registration fee, which ranges from C$20 (Yukon)  to C$121.78 (Nova Scotia). You must then wait, in most provinces and territories, for a short period (24 hours in most cases, though in Quebec you must wait 20 days.) Documents you will need to send include the following:

  • proof of ID (driving licences or birth certificates)
  • proof of marital status
  • evidence of the date you intend to marry

Additional regulations to do with the ceremony may be imposed by the region you are in. The ceremony can be religious or non-religious as required. Once the ceremony is completed, the newlyweds must sign a registration of marriage form and receive a temporary proof of marriage. The form is then completed by the officiator and is forwarded to the Office of Vital Statistics. You can obtain your marriage certificate from this Office when it is ready. Marriage in Canada does not alter your residence status. Note also that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country.




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