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Members of the Family Forming Part of the Household: The Case of Spouses and Unmarried Partners

Circular Note NO. XDC-3196 of November 12, 2004

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade presents its compliments to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Chargés d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada and has the honour to clarify Canadian policy on the processing of requests for accreditation relating to spouses and common-law partners. This action, which constitutes an extension of Circular Note XDC-1309 (PDF Version, 265 KB) * dated August 12, 1992, is designed not only to harmonize departmental policy with Canada’s immigration policies but also to facilitate as far as possible the reunification in Canada of foreign representatives and the immediate members of their families during the period of accreditation.

1. Definitions and administrative requirements relating to accreditation

1.1 Meaning of “spouse”

In future, when requests for accreditation of “members of his family forming part of his household” are processed, the Department will use the term “spouse” only in the case of a married person (in accordance with Canadian law governing marriage) who in fact physically resides in the home of the foreign representative.

Although a marriage that is legally recognized in the country in which it was contracted is usually recognized in Canada, the Department does not exclude the possibility of requesting proof of the legitimacy of the marriage1, especially in the case of a marriage contracted in Canada during the period of accreditation.

1.2 Meaning of “common-law partner”

Unless reciprocal measures are in effect, the Department recognizes common-law partners as “members of the family forming part of his household”. A “common-law partner” is a person who cohabits with the foreign representative, whether he or she is of the opposite or the same sex, in a conjugal relation with the foreign representative and has cohabited in this manner for a period of at least one year. It is the responsibility of Diplomatic Missions seeking accreditation of common-law partners to provide, in respect of each couple and in accordance with the facts, proof that the persons in question live in a conjugal relationship and that they cohabit2.

Henceforth, the Department will cease considering opposite-sex common-law partners to be "spouses" and same-sex common-law partners to be “dependants”. Instead, the term "partner" will be used for all common-law partners, whether same sex or opposite sex, who are eligible for accreditation. This fact will be reflected on the acceptance and the identity card. Furthermore, privileges and immunities shall be applied in a manner that extends to common-law partners the treatment normally afforded to spouses in similar circumstances, unless there are limitations due to reciprocity3.

2. Refusal and end of status

Unless obligations arising under bilateral or multilateral treaties apply, the Department reserves the right to refuse accreditation facilities to spouses and common-law partners who are inadmissible to Canada without having to give reasons for such refusal.

Also, under paragraph (b) of article 10 and paragraph (b) of article 24 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Heads of Diplomatic Missions have a duty to inform the Department as soon as possible in the event that the conditions governing a spouse’s residence in Canada cease to comply with the foregoing, including definitive departures and cases of breakdown of relationships by separation or divorce.

3. Employment of spouses and common-law partners

Spouses and common-law partners wishing to join the labour force during the period of accreditation may be authorized to do so only if a reciprocal agreement concerning employment is in effect and a note of non-objection (from the Department’s Office of Protocol) has first been obtained. Any person who, in the absence of a reciprocal agreement and consent of the Department, nevertheless obtains an authorization of employment from Citizenship and Immigration Canada or works without a permit will have his or her diplomatic or official status withdrawn.

The Department is not able to facilitate employment in Canada of spouses and common-law partners who have been refused accreditation or whose accreditation has been withdrawn.

4. Other consideration

Official requests to include as spouses and common-law partners persons who must reside outside the employee’s home in order to carry on professional activities will be considered only if a framework of understanding between Canada and the sending State is in place.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and takes this opportunity to renew to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Chargés d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada the assurances of its highest consideration.

Ottawa, November 12, 2004


1 A spouse wishing to join a foreign representative who is already in Canada is responsible for proving that their marriage is recognized as legitimate when the application for a diplomatic or official Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) is made.

2 As in the case of spouses, the Department is not able to grant accreditation to a common-law spouse if the spouse does not in fact live in the home of the foreign representative.

3 When processing accreditation requests for common-law partners, the Department will seek written assurance of reciprocity if uncertainty exists.


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Date Modified:
2012-10-16