Will the Canadian government recognize my foreign marriage?

Generally, your foreign marriage will be recognized by the Canadian government, if the marriage:

  • Is legal according to the laws of the place where it occurred; and
  • Complies with Canada's federal laws on marriage.

According to Canada's federal laws on marriage:

  • Close relatives by blood or adoption (grandparent-grandchild, parent-child, brothers-sisters) cannot marry each other.
  • You can be married to only 1 person at a time.

You can find more information about how Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) evaluates foreign marriages in sections 5.27-5.32 of OP 2 - Processing Members of the Family Class [PDF].

If there is any doubt as to whether your marriage is legal in the place where it occurred, it is your responsibility to prove that it is legal in that place.

If your marriage is illegal where it occurred, or if the laws of that place do not allow you to get married (for example, you are in a same-sex relationship and your country of origin does not allow same-sex marriage), IRCC will not recognize your relationship as a marriage.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada might recognize your relationship as a common-law or conjugal relationship for sponsorship purposes.

If your marriage meets the requirements above, and you want to sponsor your spouse for immigration, your spouse must be at least 18 years old at the time that you apply to sponsor them.

Planning a Wedding Outside Canada

If you are planning to get married outside of Canada, you should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country where your marriage will take place to find out the legal requirements.

It is important to know that marrying a citizen of another country may automatically make you a citizen of that country. This doesn't affect your Canadian citizenship, but the other country might not recognize your Canadian citizenship and could prevent the Canadian consulate from providing you with assistance. In some countries, spouses are allowed to impose travel restrictions on their partner and children. This means that your spouse could stop you from returning to Canada. In some situations, spouses are allowed to keep your possessions or passport as well, even if you get divorced.

Although same-sex marriages are legal in Canada, they are not recognized in many countries. For country-specific information, consult the government of Canada's Travel Advice and Advisories, the destination country’s embassy or consulate in Canada or Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travel information.

For More Information

  • Getting Married - Information about marriage licences, marriage certificates and more from the Government of Ontario.
  • Sponsoring Your Family - General information about sponsoring a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner to immigrate to Canada. From Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
  • Getting Married - Financial Planning - Tips and information about financial planning and managing your money with a spouse. From the Ontario Securities Commission.
  • IRCC Help Centre - A tool that helps answer frequently asked questions on immigration matters. It offers several ways of searching through the information available, including search by keyword. From Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Last updated: June 2, 2021 4001020