I do and the meaning of spouse

Community News & Features Opinion & Analysis Feb 16, 2006 at 3:49 pm

Canadian Immigration News and Views

I do – two simple words that capturing the essence and sentiment of the participants that would bind them together in matrimony and combine their lives. By saying “I do” we state our commitment and intention to share our lives with our partner, share our most intimate of feelings and emotions, our hopes and dreams, the air we breath our very lives to become one. Perhaps a bit too romantic, but the core of those words is the combination of lives toward mutual goals. What those simple words mean and the impact on the lives of those who utter them is at the core of the definition of spouse for immigration purposes.

The institution called “family” is the cornerstone of any society. As the nature of the society changes so does the description of the family.

Canada has adopted a more liberal view of what constitutes a family. The first level of family now includes married couples, common-law partners and conjugal partners including traditional male/female relationship as well as same sex relationships. Canada has come to recognize a variety of relationships that can form a family unit but in each relationship and at its root must be the essence of “I do.”

It is possible to sponsor a spouse or a common-law partner or a conjugal partner, same sex or opposite sex, to come to Canada as a member of the Family Class or if already in Canada as a member of the Spouse or Common Law Partner in Canada Class* (*this does not include conjugal partners) as long as at the core of any of these relationships is what I refer to as the principal of “I do” as I describe above. That is that they are genuine relationships and not entered to for the purpose of gaining any benefit of immigration.

What is the difference between all of these? A spouse is a married person of the opposite sex or same sex if same sex marriages are allowed in the jurisdiction of the marriage. The marriage must be legal in the country where it took place as well as being legally recognized in Canada.

A common-law partner is a person with whom you have been cohabitating for at least one year and are in a conjugal relationship with. Conjugal partner is a person with whom you have a conjugal relationship and are separated from but would really rather be with.

What does “conjugal” mean? It means essentially, of or relating to marriage or married persons and their relationship. Basically, it refers to the “married like” relationship enjoyed by two people who have devoted their lives to each other in keeping with the principle of “I do.” The qualities of the relationship should have the same qualities of a marriage such as exclusivity of partners as well as emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and financial dependencies between partners. These qualities can exist between person of the same sex or opposite sex. These qualities can exist between people who live together or who live apart. These qualities can exist for a short time or a long time (although it may be difficult to provide sufficient proof of a relationship that only started a short time ago).

With the complexity of relationships of modern times it is quite possible that a person could be legally married to one person but living common law with another and also have a conjugal partner. Obviously, it would only be possible to sponsor one of these since the level of relationship is the key to any of the definitions (the “I do” principle once again). So if, for example, a person was married but had been separated from their spouse for some time (more than a year) and had a conjugal or common law partner for more than a year it would be possible to sponsor your conjugal partner or common law partner.

The complexity of relationships and the complexity of the issues that arise from a simple principle is what make for the need for guidance and direction from the very early stages. Perhaps even before the first thoughts or feelings of “I do” enter into the relationship between a Canadian and a foreign national.

Have a question? Send them to Berto Volpentesta or to the editor.

Berto Volpentesta of Cannex Immigration Specialists has been a practicing consultant in Toronto since 1991 and is a Member, Director and Secretary of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants and a Member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. You can reach him at: (416) 398 8882 or (416) 787 0612 or by email at berto@canneximmigration.com or check: www.canneximmigration.com