Family reunification

Once sponsored persons arrive in Canada, they are often thinking about other family or friends left behind. Certain family members might qualify under a family reunification program, or other sponsorship options could be available. The One-Year Window program is available for spouses and dependent children, while other family members have fewer options. 

Topics covered

Options for loved ones still overseas

Sponsorship of parents or grandparents

Refugee sponsorship options

One Year Window 


Options for loved ones still overseas

Many sponsored persons still have family members or friends in difficult situations overseas and often have questions about how they could be brought to Canada.

Canada’s options for family reunification are quite narrow and only include a spouse and children under the age of 19. It is not possible to bring children over 19, siblings, parents, or other family members through a family reunification program. If a refugee has been sponsored, then the family reunification is normally done through the One-Year Window (OYW) program (see below).

If the friend or family member is a refugee themselves, then it is possible to also look at different refugee sponsorship programs. Several are outlined in this resource.

If the family member is a parent or grandparent of the sponsored refugee, then they can assess if the Sponsorship of parents or grandparents could be an option (see below). This program is open for anyone, not just refugees.

Lastly, it is possible to come to Canada under an economic immigration program, although there are many restrictions on this option as well. For more information on the requirements of different programs see here for immigrating to Quebec, and here for immigration to the rest of Canada. 


Sponsorship of parents or grandparents

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has a program called Sponsorship of Parents or Grandparents, but it is difficult to access. Applications can be submitted starting in January of each year, however there is a strict maximum number of applications accepted and the spaces often run out in a matter of days. Also, there are income requirements which can be difficult to meet.

This program could be a good longer term option, or an option if the parents or grandparents are not refugees themselves (making them ineligible for refugee sponsorship).


Refugee sponsorship options

If the friend or family member is a refugee, then refugee sponsorship might be an option. To understand what programs are available see the section Different program options to sponsor refugees.

To sponsor a refugee, a person normally needs to be well established in Canada with a stable living situation and income. It can take several months or years before a sponsored person is in a position to bring over loved ones.

There are also challenges to accessing these programs, such as long waiting lists with organizations and long processing times at visa offices overseas.


One Year Window (OYW)

In some cases, a sponsored person’s family members (spouse or dependent children) may not be able to travel with them to Canada. This might be because the family was separated for reasons beyond their control in two different countries, or because a family member was missing and their location is unknown.

If the location of the separated family member(s) is known, then after a sponsored person arrives in Canada they can apply for their non-accompanying family members to join them as long as they were declared on the refugee’s immigration forms. This family reunification application is called the One Year Window (OYW) and must be submitted by the sponsored person within one year after their arrival to Canada.

The OYW program does not mean that the family members will be in Canada within one year. There is no official processing time for OYW applications and it can often take more than one year for the family members to arrive.

The family members coming through OYW will have to complete an IMM 6000 package similar to what the principal applicant completed to come to Canada. 

Example of a OYW case

Semhar is a refugee who fled Eritrea and traveled to Israel. While in Eritrea, her husband was arrested by security forces and he had not been seen since. She thought he could have been killed but was not sure. Semhar was sponsored to Canada. On her application she included her husband even though his location was unknown. A few months after arriving in Canada she found out that her husband is alive and in a refugee camp in Sudan. Semhar’s husband completes a OYW application and submits it before the end of her first year in Canada.

The instructions (except for Quebec)

The undertaking and instructions

The IMM 6000 package

For questions about the undertaking or the IMM 6000 package related to OYW applications please contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP).

Useful information

RSTP fact sheet

RSTP site on the OYW

The instructions for Quebec

The undertaking and mailing instructions

The IMM 6000 package

For questions about the undertaking and mailing instructions please contact the Client call centre of the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion.