My Journey to Canadian Permanent Residency via Common Law Sponsorship

On 11th April 2014, I became a Permanent Resident of Canada! It was a very happy day for the both JR and I – it meant we were now able to live in Canada together as long as we like without any visa restrictions. 

This is the story of how I became a Permanent Resident of Canada. Please note that I am not an immigration lawyer or consultant so can only talk about my application and processing experience. 

Updated 2018

Becoming a permanent resident of Canada

A Permanent Resident is an immigrant who can live in Canada permanently but cannot vote, run for political office or have a Canadian passport. After a certain amount of time as a PR, they can apply for become a citizen and then do all of the above should they wish.

There is also one very important obligation that PRs have – they have to live in Canada for at least two years of every five to keep permanent residency status (though there are some exceptions).

gemma quebec city wits canada

A long working holiday in canada

November 2011 – Jean Robert and I had just finished a three-month road trip around Europe and headed to British Columbia in the hopes of perhaps working in a ski resort for a year or so.

Only six months later (after a successful season snowboarding and working at Vancouver Island’s Mount Washington) we were getting into the swing of BC life and started to wonder if we would be both able to stay longer. JR, being a Canadian citizen, could stay forever if he wanted. It was me that was the problem. 

As a British citizen, I could apply (at the time) for two one-year working holiday visas, one of which I was already halfway through, and the other I had already applied for.

Once I activated the second, we would then be on a ticking clock for departure. I knew it was very unlikely I would be able to get a visa via work sponsorship as my job was minimum wage and limited to the winter season.

Why don’t you just get married?

As a Plan B, I started to research what options there were for partners of Canadian citizens. I found out pretty quickly that applying for Permanent Residency was an option for both married and common-law couples.

And what does ‘common law’ mean, you may ask? According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), it means living with your partner for at least 12 consecutive months in a relationship like a marriage.’

Well, this changed everything. By this point, we had lived together for almost three years so we were set. Throughout the application process, I actually had many people ask me why we didn’t get married to make things easier and here is the answer.

It doesn’t necessarily make the process any faster as applications from married and common law couples are considered together.

italy jr gemma

Preparing the common law application

Fast forward to the start of winter and we made the decision to go ahead with the application. It is not something to be taken lightly as the costs are certainly not low (we spent $2500 total, fees, paperwork, photos and medical all in) and it takes time to put the actual application together.

In our case, it took approximately two months from when I first looked at the documentation checklist on the CIC website to actually putting our application in the mail.

Both married and common law couples have to prove that their relationship is ‘loving, ongoing and genuine’ for their application to be approved.

As a common law couple, we also had to prove that we had been living together as if we were married (shared bank accounts, paying bills together, mail at the same address). This means there is a LOT of gathering of documentation that must be done even before any forms could even be filled out. 

Inland vs. outland common law PR application

Something else that has to be decided before completing any forms is whether to apply inland or outland. When applying for PR via the common law/spousal sponsorship route, the applicant has a choice of ways to file.

Outland means the application is processed outside of Canada, in the applicant’s home country or nearest processing office.

Inland means processing happens in Canada – for this, the applicant must be living in Canada throughout the application.

Outland is usually faster than inland (depends on the visa office) but with the inland process, a work permit can be applied for, allowing the applicant to work while waiting.

I personally decided to apply inland (reasons explained later). I can’t really recommend applying one way or the other because it really depends on your own situation. However, if I had to do the application again, I would apply outland.

Gemma Kejimkujik national park

Finding proof of our relationship

To prove that Jean Robert and I had a loving/ongoing/genuine relationship we provided:

  • A collection of 20 photos taken of us in various stages of our relationship so far (some from the beginning, middle and a few very recent ones)
  • A few other photos of us with various family members, including a couple from my cousin’s wedding
  • Five personal letters from close family and friends (my parents, JR’s dad, three good friends)
  • Two notarized letters from our managers (also friends)
  • Screenshots of Facebook messages and emails between us – after meeting, before JR moved to the UK, some recent

My top tip: Provide a range of evidence but also be careful not to overwhelm the processing officer. If including Facebook message and emails, they do not need to see EVERY message you have ever sent each other. Choose a selection from throughout your relationship. Likewise, sending hundreds of photos is overkill.

Proving common law status for Canadian PR

Proving we had lived together for the length of our relationship was more difficult since we were never really ‘officially’ (on paper) living anywhere together until a few months before we put in the application.

Despite sharing our finances and living together for around three years, we had little physical proof of it. I only one tenancy agreement from five different places we had lived, no shared bank account and few shared utility bills.

For five months we actually didn’t even have an address as we were living in a van and travelling Europe. When we lived in the UK, Jean Robert didn’t even have a bank account (long story).

In end we used the following as evidence:

  • Shared bank account details (open a few months before the application)
  • Copy of current tenancy agreement
  • Signed and notarized statutory declaration of common-law union
  • Copies of our driver’s licenses with the same address

I also included any vaguely official documentation I could find that had both of our names on it as well as some more anecdotal evidence.

Here are some of the documents we sent: 

  • Jean Robert’s work health insurance coverage (I was listed as a common-law partner)
  • Joint car insurance that we had for six months
  • Flights to Canada booked together
  • A wedding invitation to both of us
  • Shared utility bill
  • Library cards listed at the same address
  • Matching stamps in our passports from our travels together 
  • Screenshots from the blog I kept about our three month Europe trip

Completing and sending the common law application

The actual application forms were fairly straightforward. My advice for applicants is to be patient and thorough.

  1. Read the guide (5525) several times in full before even attempting to complete the forms.
  2. Don’t rush! Trying to save time at this stage may lose you time later if your application is returned or deemed incomplete.
  3. Can’t open the forms? Save them onto your desktop and open from there. If still not working (PC users), right click and select ‘open with’ and then ‘Adobe Acrobat Reader.’
  4. Some forms have to be validated – don’t forget to print out and include the barcode page if one is created after validation.
  5. Do not leave gaps on any of the forms – if a field doesn’t apply to you, write ‘N/A.’
  6. When finished, triple check every document for missed signatures. If you miss one (and I did), your application’s process will be paused and the document in question returned to you. 
  7. Organise your application in a folder (with dividers) as per the Document Checklist for easy reading and processing.
  9. Before sending, go through the Document Checklist again to make sure you have everything required.
  10. Send your application to the correct address – there are different processing centres for inland and outland applicants.

Our application ended up as a one-kilogram paper monster – I wish I had taken a photo.

gemma canola fields pei canada

The long wait and a potentially risky trip home

I applied inland as I wanted the work permit – problem was, processing times were delayed and instead of receiving it six months into the application, I was advised it would be a year or more*.

Turns out it didn’t matter so much anyway as the ski resort I was working at experienced the worst winter in years and was closed much of the season.

I decided to take an opportunity to go home to the UK, my first visit in over two years. I was taking a risk in leaving the country while having an inland application in process, but by then I had my work permit and felt it was unlikely I would be refused entry.

*Note – With the work permit system changing relatively soon after my application, delays like this are now rare.

Decision made – so near and yet so far

While in the UK, I found out that a decision had been made on my application. A little after my return to Canada (I had no trouble getting back in), I received a letter stating that I would be granted PR.

The downside was that I had to wait for an interview in Vancouver as I had applied inland. Rather than enter Canada at any border (airport, land or ferry) like an outland applicant would do, to receive my PR I would have to ‘land’ at an immigration office instead.

The waiting time to land at the Vancouver office (my nearest landing office) was six months. Ouch. I was grateful that my application had been processed reasonably quickly (11 months compared to the expected 18). But to think I’d have to wait another six months just for a formal ‘landing’ was frustrating. 

Canadian flag paragliding sail

Landing in Vancouver

The awful ski season we were experiencing at Mount Washington led us to bump up our summer road trip plans. Our adventure was to take us all over BC and the Yukon, with little internet or phone signal along the way. We would also be leaving our last address permanently. It would, therefore, be very difficult for CIC to contact us for an interview.

Knowing that CIC’s call centre was likely to be fairly useless on the subject, I wrote a letter to the Vancouver landing office to explain the situation. I did include a note that I knew that going on a road trip wasn’t the most desperate of circumstances, but I would appreciate any help at all.

The day my letter arrived the office, we received a phone call from a CIC agent who asked if we could come in the following Friday for a landing interview. We couldn’t believe it. I honestly didn’t think it was legitimate until we got to the CIC office on the Friday and my name was called. 

After a couple of formalities and some signatures, I landed and become a Permanent Resident! As evidence of this, I was given a COPR – Confirmation of Permanent Residency. 

Receiving my Canadian PR card

My PR story isn’t quite over. As a Permanent Resident, you have a PR Card as identification, essential when returning to Canada from abroad and for other things like signing up for health care. When landing inland, an automatic request for a PR card is sent. It took four months to receive my PR card.

This was super frustrating when it came to my driver’s license, as Service BC refused to renew my photo card until I had it. I had to carry a paper only license and renew it every month until I received my PR card. 

gemma and jr at luckett vineyards, Nova Scotia

Permanent residency card replacement

Just over six months after finally receiving my PR card, we went on a trip to Europe and had all of our belongings stolen in Italy. It was a bad situation already, but my still-new PR card was amongst the stolen items too.

I was cross-questioned when returning to Canada and applied for a new card as soon as I could. That was in June 2015. I finally received my card after an interview in Vancouver in June 2016. 

The road to citizenship

Under the citizenship requirements when I became a Permanent Resident, I would have been able to apply to become a Canadian citizen in Spring 2016 (2 years of PR status plus 2 years on temporary work permits).

Unfortunately, the rules changed under the Harper government to requiring Permanent Residents to live in Canada for four full years with PR status. These rules changed yet again in 2017 under Trudeau, this time back to the original regulations. 

Permanent Residents now need to live in Canada for three years of the last five to be able to apply for citizenship. Time on temporary work permits can be contributed up to a maximum of a year, at a 50% rate. I applied for citizenship in October 2017 and finally became a Canadian citizen seven months later. 

Manning Park hiking views - Choosing Working Holiday Travel Insurance

My Canadian immigration timeline

December 2011 – Arrived in Canada on my first one year long working holiday permit

December 2012 – Activated my second one year long working holiday permit

March 2013 – Applied for Permanent Residency via common law sponsorship

January 2014 – First stage approved, received sponsorship work permit

February 2014 – Went to the UK for two week holiday

February 2014 – Decision Made on second stage (approval, yay!)

March 2014 – Notified of six month landing wait in Vancouver

April 2014 – Landed in Vancouver, less than a week after sending letter to Vancouver office

August 2014 – Received Permanent Residency Card

May 2015 – Applied for replacement PR Card

June 2016 – Received replacement PR Card in Vancouver after interview

October 2017 – Applied for Canadian citizenship

March 2017 – Passed citizenship test

May 2017 – Became a Canadian citizen

June 2017 – Applied for Canadian passport

Gemma with mountie at Citizenship Oath Ceremony

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142 thoughts on “My Journey to Canadian Permanent Residency via Common Law Sponsorship”

  1. Hi,

    I just wondered if you had gotten round to writing a post about the application process yet?

    I am about to start and need as much help as possible


    • Hi, my partner completed the application in the website and he is taken to the pool. Now, he will look for a job. Because we cant go to Canada without finding job. But, I didnt apply to be taken to the pool as I am common law partner.

      What do I need to during this process? How can I apply a job specifically?

      Also, will we wait for institution to call us for collecting the documents?

      Thank you !

    • Hi Gemma.

      My case is different but I believe you can be if help. I have been given a convention refugee status in Canada and was told I could go in and process my PR. I have a common law partner back home who I included her name on the documents while seeking asylum here in Canada. My question is this; do I have to wait to get my PR before my partner can be sponsored ? Or can the process of obtaining PR be run simultaneously; me filing my documents here and she filing hers outlandly at the same time. Please help. Thanks.

      • Hi Majek,

        I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the refugee process in Canada so cannot help as much as I wish I could. Hope you get it all sorted

  2. Hi! I am in a similar situation… My boyfriend is from UK and I am Canadian. He has been here for a year and a half on the IEC visa. My question is does he/did you need to get a Canadian police check when applying for PR?

    • Hi Kelsey,

      Your British boyfriend does not need to get a Canadian police check unless specifically asked. CIC do their own checks but may request one if further info is needed.

  3. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your experiences! Thank you!
    I myself have recently linked my common law inland application to my cic account. I am currently on a working holiday visa, which will expire in august. My question is will i be able to leave to return to the uk for a period of 8 days?
    Thank you

    • I’m glad you found the post helpful. Leaving while having n inland application is a bit of a grey area to be honest. I was comfortable doing it as I had a valid work permit at the time and it was only for a very short amount of time. The border officers however do reserve the right to refuse you entry so it always carries a small risk.

  4. Hi,

    Your post is the most helpful one I found online. Anyway, I still have few questions though. My boyfriend and I are planning to file a common law sponsorship. I am the one in charge of getting all the requirements together. I was just wondering:

    1. aside from the birth certificate that was not listed on the requirements but apparently is part of the requirements, do we also need to get a police clearance for both the applicant and the sponsor?

    2. The open work permit for inland applicants is only extended until December 21, 2017. Do you think it’s fine if we file it before the 21st without the first approval yet?

    Thank you so much, Gemma. I hope you can still respond to my questions and probably we could email each other if you have time. Thank you! 🙂

    • Hi Sen!

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by the birth certificate reference (sponsors must show proof of PR or citizenship status as per the checklist, a birth certificate is an easy way to do the latter for those born in Canada) but police certs are just needed for the applicant, not the sponsor.
      2. Yes, I would file your application and work permit app at the same time.

      I hope this helps! Good luck with your application 🙂

  5. Thanks a lot, Gemma, your blogs are so helpful.

    How long did you hear back from CIC since you first file your application?

    Similar to your situation, I am recently on my working holiday in Vancouver AND I applied for Inland spouse sponsorship PR around May 2017.

    • You’re welcome, Chi! I’m glad this post was helpful. I actually heard back from CIC super quickly because I missed a signature on my work permit application. Oops. Aside from that, I didn’t hear anything until a few months later when they sent me a letter about implied status while waiting for my work permit.

  6. So my partner and I applied under the common law status with me being the dependent. On the cic website it states that she got approved for the PR does that mean I got it too?

    • It sounds like you are applying for PR via the skilled route (not common law/spousal sponsorship) Tar? If so and you included your partner on your application, yes I believe she would be approved at the same time.

  7. Hey Gemma,

    I know this was written two years ago, so just checking you are still receiving emails before I write a big long essay about your process!


  8. Hi Gemma,

    I’m stressed about my application. I am sponsoring my boyfriend and I included so much paperwork but I’m still worried it is not enough.

    Did you guys have tons of pictures and proof?

    Thank you!

    • If you included plenty of proof and information, I’m sure your application will be fine Sandra 🙂 I included about 20 different photos of us on our own and with family. I provided about 12/13 different types of proof with both our names on – official docs (tenancy agreement, bank account, car insurance) plus other things like a wedding invite, joint bills, flight tickets, matching passport stamps, letters sent in the mail to both of us etc.

  9. I was happy to come upon your blog and congrats on your PR. My question is: my Canadian daughter has lived in NIreland for 9 years. She was married in 2015 and had a baby in 2016. Currently she has applied for the baby’s Canadian citizenship. She has decided to return to Toronto with her husband and baby this year. Her husband applied for a work permit but that was declined just last week due to him not having a profession or skills required. They have decided to move here (Toronto) anyway and apply again for a open work permit and “spouse sponsorship at the same time”. They will live with me. Do you think they should inform customs at the Canadian airport when they arrive that they are going to apply for both, or should they just say that they are on vacation. What do you think their chances are of getting the open work permit (his 2nd attempt) and finally his permanent residence. I would appreciate your feedback

    • Hi Frances,

      Glad you found my site. OK, so a few things here.

      A work permit can only be successfully applied for in a few different scenarios – 1) employer sponsorship 2) through a specific program such as the IEC 3) via one of the eligible Permanent Residency routes. So without more info, it sounds like your daughter’s husband was not eligible at all and hence it was refused.

      Second, yes, he would be eligible to apply for an open work permit at the same time as applying for Permanent Residency via the Inland Spousal Route. It would take about four months to process under current guidelines but he’d be very unlikely NOT to get it with an Inland Spousal application in process.

      The main issue, however, is your daughter’s husband entering Canada legally. First, if he has a one-way flight only it is possible that an airline will not even allow him to board the aeroplane. The next issue is actually entering Canada. It is possible that the immigration officers will have issue with him coming into Canada as a visitor intending to then apply for PR. It’s an issue of something called ‘dual intent’ – the official information is here https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/visitors/dual-intent-applicants.html Basically, the officer has to be satisfied that your daughter’s husband would leave Canada if his Permanent Residence application was denied. A way to do this is to demonstrate ties to his home country (a return flight would help would this issue as well the aforementioned airline problem) and that he respects the terms and conditions of his visitor’s status. The number one rule is to never lie to border officers.

      Other options – How old is he? If 35 or under and holds Irish citizenship (I believe that Northern Irish can get both Irish and British) he could apply for the IEC working holiday program which offers a two-year open work permit. He could go to Canada on that and then apply for PR while there with no issues. If he is 30 or under and British, the same goes but there are less places available and I’m guessing he is unlikely to be under 30 anyway.

  10. Actually he is under 30 and uses a UK passport. However I know you are correct about having a “return flight” booked for 6 months upon his entry to Toronto. If he arrived in Toronto in June then their return flight should be booked for December., correct? If he speaks to customs Canada at the airport and tells them of his intent to stay in Canada for 6 months on his travel visa, but that he is also going to apply for an open work permit and spousal sponsorship is that the correct way to go about it? Sorry for all the questions but you seem to have the knowledge that I/we are lacking

    • That is the absolute honest and legal way that I am aware of, yes. The flight would need to be within six months of his flight into Canada. It is possible that he won’t have to speak to Canadian customs at all – there are now electronic customs machines and only a small proportion of people actually speak to an officer. My British parents flew in last September and didn’t speak to anyone at all.

      Good news about him being under 30! Since that is the case, he could apply for the IEC working holiday program. It is always oversubscribed for UK applicants but it costs nothing to do the initial application and selections are done completely by random. You never know, he could put in an application next week and then has as much chance as any other UK applicants to receive a place. If he was selected, he would then be able to get a two year open work permit. If I were him, I’d do this and then continue with the original plan (applying for the open work permit with PR app) when the time comes. I have a full step by step guide to applying to the IEC here https://offtracktravel.ca/how-apply-canada-working-holiday-visa-iec-2018-guide/

  11. hello !!!!
    so happy to find such a detailed story congrats ….
    also i got married and my husband applied for sponsor me im from brazil . we applied outside canada as long i just have a tourist visa and still studying at university .
    do you have some idea if the outland is really faster ?


  12. Thanks so much Gemma – your valuable information is really appreciated. I will give you an update when possible. Happy EASTER

  13. Hi Gemma
    Great to read your story! I’m wondering if you were able to continue working on your IEC visa while your PR common-law visa was being processed?

    • Hi Liz! No, since IEC work permits are only extendable under very specific circumstances, I had to stop working until I got my work permit. I had implied status (visitor) that allowed me to stay in Canada in the meantime. Luckily, this was only a very short time (six weeks)

      • Hi Gemma!

        I don’t know if I got this correctly, my wh (iec) visa expires in May 2019, and we are about to send papers for pr and open work permit (so I have right to work while waiting for pr). Will I still be able to work under my iec until I get this open work permit approved while waiting for pr. thank you!

    • Hi Flopi, I’m not sure I understand your question. As mentioned in the post, I was eligible for 2 x one year work permits as per the UK IEC program at the time. Now the UK IEC program offers 1 x 24 month work permit. So I did not renew any work permits. IEC work permits cannot be renewed as they are a one-time deal.

  14. I have lived together with my boyfriend for 10 months. Can we apply for a PR now? Someone told me that it takes a few months for CIC to even look at the application, and by then we surely have lived together for a year. Does that really work? Or should I wait till the day that actually HAVE lived together for a year?

    By the way, love this post. Thank you!! I will definitely look at this when I’m applying. It feels SOOO overwhelming. I Wish I could hire an immigration lawyer who would take me through the process, haha.
    My WH visa expires in August, so my plan is to apply for an extension of my stay (and get a visitor document), and then apply for a PR…

    • Hi Stella, I did reply to this a couple of weeks ago but my comment was deleted in a website upgrade. You can only apply for common law sponsorship once you have common law status – this means 12 months living together as married. If you apply before this, your application will be returned.

      • Thanks for your reply! I will definitely wait until it’s been 12 months.

        Did you have go through a medical exam for the application? And did you have to do the language test?

  15. Hello Gemma
    Just checking you are still receiving emails. I sent one before and it seems to have disappeared! Thanks!

  16. Hello,
    I am currently gathering docs to sponsor my boyfriend and I would like to know specifically what documents you submitted!

    He has a study permit which allows him to work 20 hours a week. Could he keep working until we receive a response about the open WORK PERMIT_???

    Thanks a lot!!!

    • Hi Julie

      I’m not sure what you mean – a list of ALL of the docs within my common law application? In which case, the application forms have changed since I applied (they do regularly) and I doubt this would help! 🙂 The most recent common law/spousal checklist is your bible for your application.

      I wouldn’t recommend him to work past 20 hours as I believe he would have implied status that allows him to work as per the conditions of his most recent work permit.

  17. Hi Gemma,
    This is exactly the blog content I’ve been waiting for. Thanks for sharing all the gruesome process. My case is a little bit different though, but I believe we have some common ground. Me and my common law partner are from Indonesia and we’ve been living together for over a year. Currently we are documenting everything we can and we believe we have no problem with that, specially after we double check your checklist post. I will be studying in Canada next year and he will apply for the open work permit. I heard many people getting rejected when apply both of the visa together, and so, since he have a valid visitor visa to canada, we are planning to come separately as a student and as a visitor. Then only he change his status and open work permit in canada. The thing is, how and what do we tell the immigration border about that? Do we just go separate lanes and lie that he wants to travel around while i will study? Thanks

    • Hi Teddy

      I’m not very familiar with study permits and associated work permits for partners but I haven’t heard of people having issues with this on entry. As far as my knowledge goes, this is the correct procedure (for you to apply on entry). Whatever you do, do NOT lie to border officers. This could lead to your removal from Canada.

  18. Hi Gemma,

    Really happy I came across your page. I am a Canadian Citizen who met my partner while in the UK on a 2 year visa. He then came to Canada with me on a two year visa and during this time we got married. As his visa was coming to an end we decided we would return to the UK and apply for a spouse visa here which was our initial plan. I’m currently in the UK on a visitor visa and will be returning to Canada next month to process our UK spouse visa. Now we are having second thoughts and missing Canada and double checking our options. Obviously what we should have done is applied for his PR while in Canada on his IEC visa which expires this week. If we were to go back to Canada next month together and he was given a 6 month visitor visa and we applied for Inland sponsorship and an OWP would he still have to leave after 6 months or does that get extended with the application? Hopefully that makes sense. Thank you!!

    • Hi Sarah

      I’m not certain as my situation was a bit different (my IEC was still valid) but I believe he would be on implied status, as given by the valid work permit application.

  19. Hello,

    My common law partner and I will be applying for an outland sponsorship application and he holds a full time job. I just returned from canada and I do not have a job (yet). The application shows that they want to know how I can support myself while being away so will it affect our chances if during the time of application that I am unemployed?

    • Hi Izzah,

      If you are the Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident sponsoring your partner, the only restriction I am aware of is that you cannot be receiving welfare. There is no minimum income requirement. So it shouldn’t go against you currently being unemployed.

  20. Hi Gemma,

    I have been struggling alot with this exact situation. My husband and i were recently married in April. I flew up to Canada in May, because he and I wanted to discuss our options for our future. Whether he would sponsor me to obtain PR in Canada or vice versa for him to move back to the states. We decided that we would help get me PR in Canada.
    Now we are very young to be married, Im 20 years old and my husband is 19 soon to be 20 as well. So yeah, trust me we have heard the “Wow. You are just babies!”
    Anyways I’m currently here in Canada as a “visitor”, since my hubby is a Canadian citizen, I am allowed to visit here for up to six months at a time. I obviously can not work, and we are living with grandparents until we are able to get on our feet. And with that being said, we are only working off of one income , as a newly wed couple.
    I can not stress how often I have researched all the forms and tried my hardest to understand what they are asking of me. I have cried my eyes out over this for months and we finally had an idea to look into firms that would do the application process for us. My husband and I are worried about money which, a firm will ask a lot of for their services.
    I was curious to know just how you got those forms completed, and if you ever sought out help from firms or anyone. Our families are not wealthy and they cannot afford to help out with an immigration firm. But, if we were able to figure out the forms, we could save tons of money and just submit it on our own.
    Im just asking fro you advice, because I finally came across this page, and I was so inspired by your story. Thank you for posting this and giving me hope. I hope to hear a reply soon.

    • Hi Kayla,

      I’m sorry to hear about the trouble you’ve had with starting the process. I completed my application independently, with no outside help at all besides reading immigration forums online. Most other people I have known (to also go through the process) have also done it independently.

      What I think you need to do it is break it down and look at it in individual pieces. The main parts of the application are:

      Application forms
      Proof of your ‘loving, ongoing’ relationship (letters from family, photos etc)
      Police certificate(s)*
      Proof of marriage (for common law couples this would be proof of common law relationship).

      Print out the application checklist and go through it slowly, crossing completely through anything that doesn’t apply to you. Work out what from this list you can do most easily and get those done. One of these, for example, would be proof of your marriage (a photocopy of your certificate I would guess, though I’m not married so unsure!) Work through each application form one by one. Buy some stationary supplies if it helps, to keep everything organised while you’re working on it. It is absolutely possible to do independently BUT I totally understand how it can be overwhelming. The key is not to try and do EVERYTHING all at once.

      *To clarify, not needed ON application but absolutely required AS PART OF the application. I did mine upfront and would do again.

  21. Hi Gemma,

    We applied for common-low about 3 weeks ago with a help of my Canadian boyfriend, I wish I saw your website before.

    The comments you’re leaving these days, I noticed some mistakes. You don’t need to send a police certificate or a medical check when applying, CIC will contact us when they want us to go get them. Just wanted you to know.
    Since you applied, the rules have got changed and inside vs outside takes about the same time (CIC says), which is 8 to 12 months.

    I like that you applied inside but went back home, it’s good to know that people are doing it. Sometimes you just have to, right?

    Anyway I can’t tell you my whole story (just because our application won’t be the same as other people) and I’m hoping that CIC would accept it, do you remember how long it took until you heard anything back from them? Just curious because I think I saw it somewhere that in about 4 weeks CIC will send us a letter to sing up online to see what the status is and such, did you have to do that too?

    Appreciate your response!


    • Hi EE!

      I’m glad you found this helpful! Yes, this is true that you do not need the police certificates and medical upfront. This was also true when I applied. I found it easier to do it upfront though, and I would estimate that this is especially true with waiting times being a lot lower now. So I would still do the same, personally. Yes, inland is now a lot faster than it used to be but I still would not recommend it. As I mention, it’s a personal choice but I hated the limitations with inland.

      I first heard something about a month or so into my application too. But then nothing for a very long time!

  22. Hi,

    Thank you so much for all of this! We are in a similar scenario as have lived together but traveled for quite a bit and names not officially on lease but do have joint bank accounts and other proof of tenancy just not consistent for a year. What I am wondering is if in the proof of relationship to sponsor part of the checklist -if it is best for us to do the written explanation portion and submit other evidence as providing current cohabitation information is difficult. Also how many months of information did you send for the lease, bills, etc. Do letters from family and friends need to be notarized?
    Thank you

    • Hi Al,

      Simply put, we sent as much information as could. So we had our current lease (less than a year old) plus as many bills as we could find (about six total, some dating back to two years or longer). It was such a tricky thing since we moved around so much (and still do). We got two letters from friends notarised, I’m not sure if this is required now.

  23. hi gemma! how can I e mail you? i have a lot of questions. Based on reading your story, I know you will be a great help. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Shiela,

      I can definitely answer questions about my experience or general ones about the application, but unfortunately I am not qualified to answer lots of specific questions

  24. Hi Gemma,

    I’m looking into applying for PR via my boyfriend in stead of going for express entry methods. I’m wondering if you used a lawyer to file you application or if you sought any counsel on completing it, or figuring out how to file. If you did, which firm/lawyer did you use? Your post has been wildly helpful and the detail you go into is an awesome reference!

    Thanks, Grace

    • Hi Grace! No, I did not use a lawyer or seek any advice other than what I found online. It is my opinion that unless you have a difficult situation (e.g. one of you has a criminal record or something like that), most people can complete the application themselves. Yes, it involves plenty of reading and organisation but it is doable!

  25. Hi Gemma,
    First of all I would like to congratulate you on your lifestyle.
    It was very interesting reading your story and very informative.
    I am from Greece and i have a dual citizenship GR and UK as i was born in UK. I am in a relationship with a Canadian citizen and planning on going ahead and live together in Canada. We are currently in a long distance relationship and i visit for 3 months twice a year.
    I am thinking of following the common living law route and then apply for PR.
    I am not sure what my question is as i am still doing my research but I am wondering about citizenships. Will I be forced to deny one citizenship to become eventually a Canadian citizen?
    I know you might not have all the answers but you seem very knowledgeable and I am kind of lost as i dont know where to start from since I am in Greece.
    Every information you share is more than welcome and much appreciated.
    Take care

    • Hi Athanasia,

      I’m not sure of Greece’s rules when it comes to dual citizenship, but the UK does allow citizens to have multiple citizenships. I became a Canadian citizen in May 2018 and continue to be a UK citizen too. You will need to check specifically whether Greece allows it. I know that there are some countries that definitely do not.

  26. Hi GEMMA!

    We are about to send our application for my PR, also via common law. He is Canadian I am Croatian, I’m on my second working holiday visa (just like you were) and it’s expiring in May 2019. When can I apply for a new working visa but via PR? Is this what you did? How does this process look like? So I can work while waiting for their response..

    Thank you so much!

      • Thank you so much!
        I did apply inland. when they ask for UCI (Unique Client Identifier number) on PR application, is this the one that is on top right on working holiday visa? It says UCI and then number, so am I giving this one?
        Also police certificate from Croatia my parents scanned and sent to me, so I have a scanned copy, is this okay or do I need the original (I got both Croatian and certified translated)

        Thank you so so so so so much!!!!

        • Hi Matea,

          Yes, your UCI should be on any previous work permits or noted within any previous communication with CIC. It will say “UCI:” then 8 numbers. I sent my original police certificate (though had another true copy at home).

  27. Thank you!
    And I know I know I’m annoying (trying so hard not to mess something up) but one last question please!
    I went on the link you sent me for work visa while waiting for response for PR. It says:

    If you were provided with a work permit under the initial pilot, you must apply for a work permit extension before it expires.

    If you are submitting a new application, you may submit a work permit application at the same time as your sponsorship application, along with an application for permanent residence. You must include the appropriate fees, and send all completed applications together to the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga.

    Sooo am I choosing the first or second one? Considering I still have my working holiday visa til May 2019. Do I apply through first one for extension or through second one for new application.

    I hope you’ll understand what I mean :DDD

    • Hi Matea,

      You did not apply for a work permit under the initial spousal/common-law sponsorship pilot so you are submitting a new application.

      • THANK YOU!

        It’s so overwhelming and confusing, administrative paper work is not my stronger side + english being my second language, I’m freaking out 😀

        So even though I still have my IEC WH visa until may 2019, I am applying for work permit (so I can work while waiting for PR to be processed) because it may be a long wait for PR and I don’t want to lose my right to work.

        We did the whole PR application but now I’m filling out the work part so we can send it all together (Both PR and work permit). I am applying with Application to change conditions, extend my stay or remain in Canada as a worker. I hope that’s the right one haha.
        There is a question:
        I am applying for one or more of the following:
        – Apply for a work permit with the same employer
        – Apply for a work permit for the first time or with a new employer
        -Restore my status as a worker
        – Get a new temporary resident permit (for inadmissible applicants only)

        (I think I have to chose one or two out of those 4)

        I have a job but would like to not be limited and have a open work permit. What do I choose?

        Thank you Gemma!

        • I chose option 2, but I don’t honestly think it matters much. You are applying for an open work permit on the back of your PR application and they will know what to do with it.

          • Thank you!
            I’m applying for that work permit and in guide is says:
            Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union (IMM 5409)
            Must be notarized to be considered valid.

            Is that true? Did you guys get notarized? how do I get notarized and who does that? Oh my yet another expense :(((

            So funny they ask for notarization here but not on pr application.

          • I got our statutory declaration of common-law union notarised but I did that primarily for the actual PR application, to improve our case.

  28. Hey! I am so glad I found your blog.. I am in a similar situation – I am from the uk on a 2 year Work visa (1 and a half years in), my boyfriend is canadian and we have been together 1 year and 5 months. We have lived together for 8 months and we want to apply for common law visa when we hit 12 months of living together… but we don’t really have any proof of the first 5 months of us living together. We have our tenancy agreement, but he didn’t change any of his mail to our new address and our landlord organised the bills, and our housemate did the internet. We travel a lot in this time and lived in a boat for a bit as well (even though we kept the room in the house). We have lived together on our own for the past 2 months we have documents for the same address and- bills, shared bank account, post, insurance etc. But I am worried how we are going to prove the first 5 months of livingtogether! We have so much paperwork that proves our relationship is real and genuine like flights back to uk together, me going to his family for Christmas etc but please can you give me more information of how you proved you were living together even though you didn’t have much physical proof?? Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Moods,

      Can totally relate to your situation! I mentioned the extra documentation used in the post – anything vaguely official such as library cards (at the same address), wedding invites etc. I specifically included photos of us together when travelling. I also asked my family and friends to include in their letters the dates (month) of when we started living together. Good luck with your application!

  29. Hi Gemma! Love your blog!

    On application next to the UCI number is question for application number. Do I also take that from the working holiday visa (above UCI)? thanks!

  30. Hello GEMMA!

    I am applying for open work permit with my PR just like you did.
    There is a part: Details of intended work in canada.

    1. what type of work permit are you applying for. I put open work permit.
    2. details of my prospective employer (attach original offer of employment)
    I have a current employer should I put their info then?
    3. Intended location of employment in canada (ok that is vancouver, BC that’s where I’m planning to stay)
    4. my occupation in canada will be: Job title___, brief desciption of duties______
    duration of expected employment from___ to____ OK so that’s a part where I’m stuck, I don’t know what my occupation in canada will be, or job title or description of duties or duration of expected employment. I know what I do now, so for that 4th question do I put all the details of current work or do I put my intended which is textile industry because of my education. Even if I put that I don’t know who my employed will be or duration. Gosh I made it complicated didn’t I? THANKS GEMMA!

    • Hi Joshua,

      I entered N/A to all of these fields since common law/spousal applicants are eligible for an open work permit. These fields are relevant for closed work permits, for applicants who are limited to working for one employer.

      • Thank you dear Gemma!
        question 5 we have to answer and it is: Duration of expected employment FROM___ TO____
        do I put my working visa information (when I got it and when it expires)

        And while you’re here 🙂 let me ask you about paying just to make sure.
        What did you choose? I’m in the same situation you were- I have WH visa, applying for open work permit with my pr application via Common law.

        – Work permit (including extensions) – per person $155

        – Work permit (including extensions) – group of performing artists (3 or more) $465

        – Restore your status as a worker
        Restore your status ($200) and get a new work permit ($155) $355

        – Open work permit (including extensions) – per person $100

  31. Hi Gemma,

    Thank you so very much Gemma. I am so grateful to have come across your blog. This has been a huge help to me. Congratulations on your status. I’m so happy for you!!.

    I am a Nigerian and I have a been living in Canada for 4 years now, came as a student finished school and have been working for two years. I have a 3 year post-graduate work permit that expires in Aug 2019.

    I have been dating my Canadian Boyfriend for 3 years and we have lived together for two years. We want to apply for sponsorship via common-law union for permanent residence for me.

    My question is, Do we file for common-law separately because we haven’t reported that we live together as we file our taxes separately or can we just apply for common-law and permanent residency together? If we can do the latter, then I’ll follow your guidelines to the letter.

    Although we do plan on getting married legally in the future and I believe that would legalize our relationship to married. But would that affect my PR status since I would be granted (if all goes well) through the common-law status?

    Please help. I’m most grateful for this service.

    Kind Regards

    • Hi Ozzy,

      Thanks for your kind words! The common law application as described in this post is the permanent residency application. Common law status in Canada, for couples, is not something you apply for – it is automatic after one year living together as married. Getting married after filing for permanent residency via the common law route would not affect your PR status later.

    • Yes, we got several documents notarised. To get documents notarised, you go to a notary. If you google your local town, you’ll probably find several.

  32. Hi Gemma, your blog post has been really helpful in a lot of ways since I am currently working on my PR application. I was wondering what kind of letters from your managers you got notarized, was that some sort of referral letter or how did it look like ? I am trying to gather as many documents together as possible.

    • Hi Johanna,

      We just typed up a letter describing how we met our managers, how long we had been working together, how well they knew us and the status of our relationship. The letter ended with their signature and contact details.

  33. Hi Gemma!

    We sent out our paper application at the beginning of December, is there a way to check the processing status of our paper application? Thank you!

  34. Hi Gemma,

    Which panel physician did you see for medical exam in vancouver? do you recommend someone?
    How much did it cost? Do they all always require blood test and xray? (I assume that is extra charge :/ )

    • Hi Diana! I used a panel physician in Campbell River as I lived in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island at the time. I had to pay for each part of the medical separately – physical, blood test and X-Ray. I believe most panel physicians offer an ‘all in one’ price.

  35. Hi, Gemma,

    Amazing story; I loved hearing it and that it worked out for you!

    My partner and I are currently in stage 1 where we apply for common law sponsorship, and I hoped maybe you had a bit of advice.

    We have lived together for over a year and have the documentation to show this. Her 1 year work holiday visa, however, ended in October. We applied for an extension which was refused. She went back home to Germany in mid December for 3 weeks and returned early January under the eTA VISA.

    So, basically, we’ve lived together over a year and are common law, but she is only here as a tourist at the moment. If we were to apply for Common Law Sponsorship, would she be then allowed to stay under implied status, or would she have to leave after the 3 months of her tour?

    We also wonder whether during the processing time she can leave and come back into the country.

    If you have any thoughts, we would certainly appreciate it!
    Kam & Romina

    • Hi Kamran!

      You have two options –

      Apply for PR inland. If you apply for an open work permit for Romina at the same time, she would be on implied status as soon as it is received. That means she could stay in Canada without issue. If you’re concerned that the PR and work permit app would be received too close to the expiry of her visitor status, she should apply to extend her stay in Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/application-forms-guides/application-change-conditions-extend-stay-visitor.html It is important to stay in status. The eTA, by the way, it is not a visa, it is just authorisation to fly into Canada. She currently has visitor status, not a visa 🙂 The problem with applying for inland, is that you’re not meant to leave Canada while the application is in process (I mentioned this in my post).

      Apply for PR outland. This is usually slightly faster but there is no option for an open work permit with it, so no implied status either. Romina would have to apply to extend her visitor status. On the positive side, she can leave Canada without any issue.

      Wishing the best of luck!

  36. Hi Gemma, I applied for pr and open work permit from Canada (inland) in early December and after few weeks I went to my country for 2 weeks. I’ve been back to Canada but now as I’m reading comments I am scared that maybe I wasn’t allowed to leave Canada? I have my Working Holiday visa from April 2018 until April 2019.
    Thank you

    • Hi Hannah,

      With an inland application in process, you are not recommended to leave Canada. Inland applications are for applicants who are physically present in Canada. If you leave Canada, you are NOT guaranteed re-entry. If blocked for entry into Canada for whatever reason, your application would therefore be cancelled and no appeal is possible. Since you were allowed re-entry (your work permit would have helped), there is no issue.

      • Hi Gemma!

        I just got my work visa for 2 years, so I can work while waiting for my pr. I have a trip in a few months, Can I leave now without problem, now that I have working visa. I would be away for 3 weeks. thank you

        • Hi Hannah, my advice would be the same. Having a work permit puts you in a better position, in my opinion, but since you are still not guaranteed re-entry into Canada, you are still risking your application by leaving. It just depends how comfortable you are with that risk, however small it may be.

          • With notice that my work permit was approved they provided me a new eTA number. It is said:

            “A study or work permit is not a travel document. To allow you to travel to or re-enter Canada
            by air only, we have issued you an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) when we issued your
            permit extension. Your eTA is linked to the passport that you used to apply for your permit
            renewal. You must travel with this same passport. If you get a new passport, you will need to get
            a new eTA.”

  37. Hi, my partner completed the application in the website and he is taken to the pool. Now, he will look for a job. Because we cant go to Canada without finding job. But, I didnt apply to be taken to the pool as I am common law partner.

    What do I need to during this process? How can I apply a job specifically?

    Also, will we wait for institution to call us for collecting the documents?

    Thank you !

  38. Hi! Thanks for writing this post, probably the most helpful article i have found during this process. I am American, applying for Permenant Residency a sponsorship and open work permit from inside canada. My partner is Canadian. I’m going through this checklist now, and just curious about the Family information section. On the imm5406 it says “the following persons must fill out their own copy of the form, you, the principal applicant and any family memebers 18 years of age or older. “ I know i have to have a passport photo of all my siblings and both my parents but are they are actually required to have a background check and have to fill out these forms ? Or is that only if they will be traveling with me to Canada. My family doesn’t even have passports yet so i’m not quite sure how i’ll be able to get them to fill out all of these forms.

  39. Hi Gemma,

    Your post here is awesome. Much better than any info we have been able to find on gc.ca sites. I have 1 simple question (for now): when you sent all the proof of relationship info (utility bills, joint bank account statements, etc) with your application, does this mean you mailed originals or were these copies/scans of the originals?

    Also, you state above: “An eTA is not approval to enter Canada, it is only authorisation to fly to Canada “. I am not 100% sure that is correct as my gf has been here in Canada (“living” with me) for the past couple years on her eTa. She has returned home to Japan a couple times during the past couple years as well we have taken trips to the US and elsewhere and then simply scanned her PP (encoded with her eTa) when we re-enter Canada.


    • Hi Peter,

      I mailed copies of these documents.

      I am 100% sure that the eTA is simply an electronic authorisation to enter Canada. 🙂 Visitors from visa waiver eligible countries are still assessed at the Canadian border for visitor status, which is something completely separate to the eTA.

      eTAs are valid for 5 years yet visa waiver visitors can only stay for up to six months at a time.

      See the below info from the CIC website –

      An eTA doesn’t guarantee entry to Canada. When you arrive, a border services officer will ask to see your passport and other documents – for example, a U.S. Green Card. You must convince the officer that you are eligible for entry into Canada.


      The basic requirements to enter Canada can be found here https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/eta/after-apply-next-steps.html#basic

      Think of people with work permits (such as those on the working holiday program, which I know quite a lot about) – they still need eTAs.

      If your girlfriend made a short trip to the USA during her visit to Canada that would have been within her six month visitor allowance, so that is why entry was easy. Even if it had run out, most visa waiver visitors do not have issues entering Canada for short periods of time anyway.

      • Thanks Gemma.

        Good info on the eTa.. and also, added confusion. My understanding (as i was told by staff at Canada Immigration) was that she doesn’t need a (tourist) VISA as she has an eTa. When i pressed them on achieving common-law status, they also wrote me: “Yes, cohabiting with you as a visitor (on an eTA) would count as living with you in Canada.”. BUT.. i have also seen the page you referenced which states she may have to interview with a border agent and “convince an immigration officer that you have ties—such as a job, home, financial assets or family—that will take you back to your home country and convince an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your visit”.

        This seems to be the biggest contradiction in all of this. On one hand she needs to prove she is planning to return to her life in Japan and on the other, she needs to prove she lives here with me. I am almost 100% confident this will eventually all get messed up because of this contradiction.

        Above i said she “may” get interviewed as she was interviewed once when we returned from a weekend trip to the US. She had to do a private 30 min interview coming back into Canada. Her English isn’t 100% and it seemed she might get stuck in the US – so very stressful for her. In the end they gave her a very formal looking piece of paper telling her she had to leave Canada on a certain date. Of course doesn’t say for how long. When we do trips now we try to fly out of Montreal (we live in Ottawa) as the return crossing at Trudeau airport is usually simple. She simply scans her passport at machine and it asks how long she is staying. We say 6 months and i assume that means it has just been reset.

        I do know she can be here for 6 months “at a time”.. there is just no definition as to what the time between stays is; other than whatever the border agent decides that day, . I also know we can apply to have it extended for another 6 months at the end of this (another quote from Canada Immigration: “If your partner is intending to only remain in Canada with an eTA, she’d have to apply to extend her stay in Canada as a visitor in order to reach a full year [for common-law status]”). These things combined, lead me to think you need to seek extension only if you have no way of leaving Canada for some unknown amount of time.

        • Hi Peter,

          My understanding (as i was told by staff at Canada Immigration) was that she doesn’t need a (tourist) VISA as she has an eTa.

          No, she doesn’t need a visa to enter Canada and that is because she is from a visa waiver country. People from visa waiver countries only need an eTA. If she wasn’t from a visa waiver country, then she would need a visa. She has visitor status.

          Yes, I can see why you’re seeing that as a contradiction. But your girlfriend is in a grey area that affects a tiny minority of people visiting Canada. The vast majority are NOT going to be applying for common law PR so the rules state what is true for most people visiting Canada.

          Unless specifically told otherwise, visitors from visa waiver countries can stay for six months on visitor status after entering Canada. Before this ends, they would then need to extend their visitor status. The easiest way to do this is online. It costs $100 but saves the trip to the border and it has a higher approval rate. If no extension is applied for and the person does not leave the country, then they’d lose legal status in Canada and that is not a good thing to have.

  40. Hi Gemma,

    It was great to read a story so relatable that we can use to help us in our process. Just wondering if you got the letters from your family and friends notarized? We have friends in the US who went through a similar process but with the US instead and they had to have their letters notarized so we are unsure since it doesn’t state in the checklist.


    • Hi Kirsty!

      I’m glad my experience has helped you. We did not get any of the personal letters from friends and family notarised, only the two from our friends/supervisors.

      • Hi Gemma,

        Thanks for getting back to me. There is one more thing we are unsure about, as we have heard different answers from different sources. Did you get your photocopied documents certified?

  41. Hello ; I met my fiancée that would like to sponsor me on common law route but the challenge is I meet him while on a visit and in april 6 2018 we were together for 6 mo this and while on my way to the Us entry was denied and was given an extension and was with him till Oct 30 till when I revisited now on the 7th and my permitted time is to stay till 4th Nov 2019 . Fast and for most I can’t stay for one year consecutive as my visa can not permit me too . So abit stranded on how to go about this but he is willing to sponer me for that. He doesn’t have a lot of money but we met our basics with no struggle .any advise would be welcomed To note is we have no shared bails together as all the bills are in his names neither travel documents together as he basically stays on the farm and goes no where . He is an elderly partner. Can our application stand a chance and what do I do in case in case I apply inland and my time of stay runs out on my permitted time

    • Hi Natalia,

      Unfortunately, your case is a little more complex than the average so I would suggest talking to an immigration lawyer. If you apply for your PR inland however, I do know that you’ll be on implied visitor status.

  42. Hi Gemma,

    I’m about to submit my common law application after completing one year of my two year work permit. I read in the online application guide that a permanent residency visa is only valid for the length of your passport and I would have to reapply for sponsorship. Was that the case as my passport expires in two years and my work permit expires in one?
    https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/application-forms-guides/guide-5289-sponsor-your-spouse-common-law-partner-conjugal-partner-dependent-child-complete-guide.html It’s immediately above criminality section.


  43. Hi Gemma,

    Thanks for this helpful info! Not sure if you will have the answer to my question but figured I’d give it a shot!

    I will be sponsoring my common-law partner in a few months. We’ve been together for 3 years and have a shared apartment lease in Toronto since Oct 2018. For the first 6 months of that lease, my partner was here on a tourist visa. After that, he activated his Working Holiday Visa (in April 2019). My question is – does the type of visa that he was on matter in terms of proving that we lived together for a year? Is it fine that he was here on a tourist visa for the first 6 months of that lease? We lived together the whole time consecutively.


    • Hi Sharon,

      No, that is absolutely fine. The type of work permit or visitor visa doesn’t matter, as long as you were living together ‘as if married.’ They do not discriminate in terms of legal immigration status.

  44. Hi i just found your article and my situation is pretty similar to yours except I’m from mexico hah. Anyways… i have a question and is, how long did it take for cic to contact you telling you they received or were reviewing your package? I sent my application on may 14 2019 and it’s been quite long and haven’t heard from then not even to know if they rejected my application, they haven’t sent it back either, I’m in the limbo… they are supposed to send you an email or letter once they open or have your package, mine for sure reached the office but have no clue what’s going on.

  45. Hi Gemma! English boy and Canadian girl here about to embark on what you have gone through. No questions just wanted to say thank you for the blog! It’s so good to read someone’s experience of going through the motions. You’ve made our evening.

  46. Hi Gemma,

    Thanks so much for this super informative blog post! I’m in the midst of preparing documents to sponsor my common-law partner and I over to Canada (I’m a citizen, she’s American). Ideally, we’re hoping to apply for the sponsorship and open work permit together so that things might move along a bit quicker. But I’m a bit confused about whether it’s two (sponsorship and open work permit) or three (sponsorship, PR, open work permit) applications that go in together.

    For example, regarding the open work permit, one of the FAQ’s says “Put the sponsorship, permanent residence and open work permit applications into one envelope.” However, from reading your blog post, it seems like you apply for the sponsorship and open-work permit together, and if your sponsorship is approved, then you kind of just automatically are approved for PR?

    Thanks in advance for your time and help–looking forward to your reply!


    • Hi Jess!

      That’s a good point. I would describe my application being in two main parts, split into three sections – the open work permit application and then the permanent residency application. The latter contained the application to sponsor (to get approval for my Canadian partner to sponsor me) and sponsorship evaluation (to get approval for me to be sponsored). I received three approvals total – once for my sponsor, once for my work permit app and then the final one for my sponsorship evaluation that also equaled my permanent residency.

      Keep in mind that the above is my own understanding of the application, I’m not sure how it is referred to on the application website now. Perhaps the sponsorship evaluation (of the immigrant) is referred to as Permanent Residency application technically? Which does seem odd as the sponsorship approval is an integral part.

  47. Hi Gemma, how did you organize your documents, in a simple folder? did you print one picture per sheet of paper? Also, I don\’t share bills with my boyfriend, we only share the same address, tons of pictures and passport stamps. Is that enough?

    Thank you for this blog you are definitely helping a lot of people 🙂

    • Hi Dariana!

      As far as my understanding goes, you need to show that you have (in some way) combined finances with your partner. This is considered to be evidence that you have been living ‘as married’ (I know, not all married couples combine finances either….) Put it this way, you need to prove that you and your partner are more than just housemates. Sharing the same address, being in the same photos and having the same passport stamps is not enough. Making shared financial decisions shows ongoing commitment and a relationship beyond housemates.

  48. Hi Gemma,

    Came across the gem after trying to find answers online for an hour! I’m in Canada on an IEC and my boyfriend and I have been talking about getting married. I’m 6 months in and wondered if we were to get married in a year (got to make sure I can put up with the accent or the rest of my life! 😉 ) would I still be able to work when we apply for spousal sponsorship? I’m looking to finally be able to change all my teaching documents over and be able to teach here, but I worry that because my IEC will be up in a year and half, I’ll lose some kind of working permit. What happens with the whole working thing?



    • Hi Milly,

      If you apply inland, you can apply for an open work permit at the same time and will receive this after four months (approx) processing time. You have to physically be in Canada to be able to apply inland. So, if I were you, I would apply inland (if you decide to) with at least 6/7 months left of your IEC. Allow some room for delays – if they send your application back for being incomplete, the work permit processing will be delayed.

      If you apply outland (which can be done inside or outside Canada), there is no work permit available.

  49. Hi Gemma,

    Thank you for your post! We just sent in our inland spousal application last week. Just a quick question, my spouse is from a visa exempt country and has an eTA. He is allowed to stay in the country for 90 days as a Singaporean. He might have a job in LA for 2 days end of this month and was wondering if that is a risky move? We have not yet received AoR. Thanks!

    • It’s hard to say honestly. If he goes, you have to be aware of the issue that he may not be allowed re-entry into Canada which would then make the application null and avoid.

  50. Hi Gemma!

    Your post is amazing! I’ve been looking for something this descriptive about this process for a bit now.

    I’m from Nigeria and me and my girlfriend have been living together (in Nigeria) for about 2 years now, but neither of us is Canadian or have PR.

    Can we apply for PR under common law partnership from Nigeria?

  51. Hello! I\’m so happy to have read that everything worked out for you, this gives me hope for my partner and I. I\’m Canadian, and my partner is from the UK. We\’re looking at sponsorship as a common-law couple, but my partner is on a tourist visa and needs to leave in February. I understand that you were on the IEC , but what would you have done if you weren\’t on the IEC. Could you have applied while on a tourist visa and been allowed to stay? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hi Ally,

      Your partner can apply to their stay as a visitor. That usually adds 6 months, plus the processing time. Be sure to send the extension application off before their tourist status runs out and then they’ll have implied status, so they can stay legally while the extension application is being processed. It is perfectly fine to apply for permanent residency while holding visitor status in Canada.

  52. Hi there!
    I’m just about to send my application off and I can’t find, what order i should be putting my application in. Like the work permit at the top.. do i put the receipt on top or bottom of work permit, as well as the fee for the whole common-law application

  53. Hi, I’m on my open work permit in canada working full time. I’ve been living with my girlfriend for more than 2 years now. Same address. She is a Canadian citizen. How can I apply for this procedure? And what exact documents do I need?

  54. Hi Gemma,
    this is super helpful! I really love the simplicity of you’ve outlined everything.

    I do have one question about the Fees though because a friend of mine forget to pay one fee and because of that the entire process took even longer.

    I’m applying for PR through the common-law in Canada family class route. My common-law partner is a Canadian citizen and we’ve been living together for over a year and even a have beautiful labrador mix dog called Marvin. In addition the PR I will also need to apply for a new ‘open’ work permit because my VISA is running out early next year. I’ve been on two International experience Visa – first German and British. So I’ll have lived in Canada for nearly 3 years now.

    From my understanding the following fees need to paid:

    – Open work permit holder fee ($100)
    – Sponsor your spouse or partner ($1,050 – see below)
    Sponsorship fee ($75), principal applicant processing fee ($475) and right of permanent residence fee ($500)
    – PR Card ($50)
    – PR Travel Document ($50)
    – Right Of Perminant Residency ($500)

    I already have a valid Biometrics from my understanding so that shouldn’t apply but what about the medical examination- I gather they will advice where to go? Further, my current health insurance is OHIP I gather that is my proof of Health Insurance?

    Thanks in advance.


    • Hi Chris,

      Good to hear from you! It’s awesome to hear that you’re trying to apply for PR.

      I don’t actively follow changes to this PR route at this time but I can try to point you in the right direction. My total fees were:

      Sponsorship fee $75
      Principal applicant processing fee $475
      Right to permanent residence $500
      Open work permit holder fee $100

      I also paid –

      Approx $400 for the medical (it was expensive on Vancouver Island)
      Approx $15 for PR photos

      Back then, biometrics were not a thing. I also needn’t need to show health insurance so I’m not sure of the specifications regarding that.

      I did not have to pay for the PR card (I think the $50 is just for a renewal) or for a travel document. I would double check with your friend which fee it was that they forgot, to make sure you don’t do the same.

      For the medical, you need to go to a Panel Physician – use this page to find one near you.

      • Thanks, Gemma! Super helpful. We actually sent off the application yesterday!
        I was advised to wait to do my medical until I receive instructions from the Government on where to go.
        The biometrics are mandatory but due to Covid and because I only recently just got Biometrics I won’t need to get it done.
        Fingers crossed everything gets approved as quickly as possible.
        Keep up the great work!
        Best wishes from Toronto,


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