Family Reunification

Notice: As part of special measures for Afghanistan, effective 23 August 2021, Canada is prioritizing family reunification for Afghan nationals under the following categories: family class applications, applications from protected persons in Canada and their dependents overseas, and applications from dependents of resettled Afghan refugees. For more details, please consult: Program delivery update: Special measures for Afghanistan – Canada.ca

The protection of family unity is an important human right. If you were separated from your family before or during your flight, you may apply for them to join you in Canada, under specific conditions. Whether your family can join you ultimately depends on the type of legal status you are granted and the nature of your relationship.

Who is eligible for family reunification?

Newly arrived resettled refugees may take advantage of the One-Year Window of Opportunity Provision, which allows resettled refugees in Canada one year to apply for reunification with  family members who were left behind and whose whereabouts were unknown at the time of the refugee’s arrival in Canada. To be eligible for this program, dependent family members (spouse or common law partner and dependent children) must have been identified on the resettled refugees’ original Canadian application, few exceptions apply. Family in Canada applying to reunite through the One-Year Window of Opportunity Provision do not have to meet financial requirements. Those joining family in Canada through this program may benefit from services for resettled refugees.

If you are an asylum-seeker in Canada, you are not eligible for family reunification until you are recognized as a refugee by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). When you are recognized as a refugee, you may include your dependent family members (spouse or common law partner and dependent children) from whom you were separated in your application for permanent resident status. Your applications will be processed at the same time. Dependent family members must have been declared during your asylum process to be eligible, few exceptions apply. Typically, you, as a principal applicant, will be granted permanent residence before your family members. 

If you, as a recognized refugee in Canada, decide not to include your dependent family members at the time of your own application for permanent residency, you will have up to one-year from the date of receipt of permanent resident status to start the process for the dependents without having to meet the financial requirements of the Family Class sponsorship, but there will be a requirement to pay processing fees.

If you are a permanent resident  in Canada (including refugees) and meet certain requirements (including that you are not receiving social assistance for reasons other than a disability and that you can provide for the basic needs of any persons you want to sponsor), you may apply and benefit from the Family Class Immigration program. You may apply to be reunited with the following family members:

  • Spouse:  legally recognized spouse, common-law, or conjugal partner (including same-sex relationships).
  • Child: unmarried dependent child (and their children’s dependent children, if applicable). Dependent children must be under 22 years of age and cannot have a spouse, common-law, or conjugal partner.
  • Parents and Grandparents: There are limited spaces available in Canada for the sponsorship of parents and grandparents. Prospective sponsors may submit “expressions of interest” during predetermined intake periods, following which eligible sponsors are randomly invited to apply.

* Important Note: Those admitted under Canadian family reunification programs are admitted as permanent residents. As such, they must meet Canadian medical, criminal, and security requirements. Additionally, Canada does not have family reunification programs for extended family members, including adult siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Exceptions apply for minor orphaned siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. If your extended family members are refugees themselves, they may be eligible for Canada’s private sponsorship programs.

How to apply for family reunification?

All family reunification processes must start from within Canada. You can find detailed information about requirements and application packages, including the forms that can be downloaded for free at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website:

Sponsor your spouse, partner or child: about the process – Canada.ca

Sponsor your parents and grandparents: About the process – Canada.ca

Guide to Reunite Family Members Abroad under the One-Year Window of Opportunity Provision (IMM 5578) – Canada.ca

Who can help you in the family reunification process?

You can seek assistance and individual counselling free of charge from organizations listed on our Where to seek help page.

Please be informed that UNHCR in Canada does not offer individual counselling on family reunification.

If you do not know where your family is, you can contact the Canadian Red Cross, Restoring Family Links program, which helps people in Canada connect with immediate family members after separation due to armed conflict, natural disaster, migration and other humanitarian crises.

Further information on family reunification

UNHCR – Reuniting Families of Refugees

Government of Canada – Family Sponsorship

Government of Canada – Guide to Reunite Family Members Abroad under the One-Year Window of Opportunity Provision