Common-Law relationships have been recognized for Immigration purposes since 2002. Immigration Canada cannot discriminate against common-law partners. The Canadian government has defined common-law partners as two persons of the same or opposite genders who have cohabited in a “marriage-like relationship” for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. The relationship must also be “subsisting, real and genuine” and “not entered into primarily for immigration purposes.”
In other words, the reason your partner wants to live in Canada is to be with you, rather than your partner is with you so he or she can live in Canada.
The term “cohabit” is not defined in the Immigration Act or Regulations. The case-law suggests the word is to be given a common-sense, everyday meaning. This is the Court’s definition of what it means to “cohabit.” That means an immigration officer ruled against someone who then successfully appealed the decision. That was probably very stressful, and expensive.
For Immigration Canada, “cohabit” means for two people to live together under one roof, share assets, and share expenses. The couple must show that they have “mingled their lives” and “combined their affairs to the extent possible.” That can be a problem if visa issues have made it difficult to live together for a whole year without a break, or banking rules have made it difficult to share accounts. But these problems are not insurmountable, and a carefully prepared application can make all the difference in the world. There are often other options as well.
In general, an immigration lawyer must review in detail the evidence on your living arrangements to give you a definitive opinion, because it is necessary to show that your relationship has evolved beyond simply dating or living together without a mutual commitment. Marriage usually certainly simplifies matters, but is not always necessary.
Some cases can require some detailed work to say whether you qualify or not, but in most cases we can give you a general assessment from an appointment, or an email. We can certainly tell you if it is worthwhile for you to file an application.
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