Marriage Fraud in the News Again


Work in Progress, Ottawa, March 2012

Mar­riage fraud is in the news again, with a recent announce­ment by Immi­gra­tion and Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism Min­is­ter Jason Ken­ney that aims at tight­en­ing the rules for sponsorships.

Relax, there is noth­ing earth-shattering here. This is the Harper gov­ern­ment we are talk­ing about.

I must admit that when I heard the news, I was slightly curi­ous. It’s no secret that Feng, my part­ner, spon­sored me to get a per­ma­nent res­i­dence sta­tus in Canada. In 2005, when I was about to immi­grated to Canada, I toyed with the idea to immi­grate as a skilled worker but it would have been a risky choice given my age (22) and my lack of expe­ri­ence. So we went with what we jok­ingly dubbed “the other solu­tion”—the spon­sor­ship.

The spon­sor­ship cat­e­gory basi­cally aims at reunit­ing fam­i­lies. Indeed, con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, being the common-law part­ner or the spouse of a Cana­dian cit­i­zen does not give the prospec­tive immi­grant any kind of sta­tus in Canada. It only gives you the right to apply for per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the spon­sor­ship cat­e­gory, where you have to prove that your rela­tion­ship with is genuine.

Of course, some peo­ple see it as an easy way to immi­grate to Canada and var­i­ous groups and asso­ci­a­tions (most of the time, “vic­tims” of a sham mar­riage) reg­u­larly denounce mar­riage fraud and call for a com­plete over­haul of the immi­gra­tion system.

In 2010, Cit­i­zen­ship & Immi­gra­tion con­sult­ed the pub­lic on mar­riages of con­ve­nience. I guess we now see the result of it.

So, what’s the big news? Well, the new law will force spon­sored spouses to wait five years from when they are granted Cana­dian res­i­dence sta­tus before they can spon­sor a new spouse.

Let’s take the fic­tional case of Mr. Jones (from the US) and Mrs Smith (from Canada). If Mrs Smith spon­sors Mr. Jones and then divorce once he obtains the per­ma­nent res­i­dence sta­tus in Canada, Mr. Jones must wait five years to spon­sor Mrs. Doe, the new spouse from the US.

Accord­ing to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Cana­di­ans Against Immi­gra­tion Fraud (yes, appar­ently there is such an asso­ci­a­tion), “These mea­sures will def­i­nitely pro­tect the integrity of our immi­gra­tion system.”

Yeah sure, if you think so.

Really, this mea­sure is hardly earth-shattering and shouldn’t change any­thing for the large major­ity of cou­ples about to apply for spon­sor­ship or cur­rently in the process.

From what I see in immi­gra­tion forums, the most com­mon kind of “mar­riage fraud” is when the spon­sor doesn’t take his/her respon­si­bil­i­ties seri­ously. Being someone’s spon­sor is a big com­mit­ment and the require­ments are clear from the start:

  • You and the spon­sored rel­a­tive must sign a spon­sor­ship agree­ment that com­mits you to pro­vide finan­cial sup­port for your rel­a­tive, if nec­es­sary. This agree­ment also says the per­son becom­ing a per­ma­nent res­i­dent will make every effort to sup­port her or himself.
  • You must pro­vide finan­cial sup­port for a spouse, common-law or con­ju­gal part­ner for three years from the date they become a per­ma­nent resident.

Yet, I keep on read­ing mes­sages from peo­ple who ask how they can spon­sor their boyfriend/girlfriend they have never met in per­son! These peo­ple are often those who post again a few months later to describe how they were lied to, and to ask how they can get out of the spon­sor­ship agree­ment (quick fact: you can’t).

This is not to say that there aren’t bad peo­ple who take advan­tage of their spon­sors, but I think edu­ca­tion is the key: know what you are get­ting into, and accept it.

So, is this recent announce­ment going to make the sys­tem bet­ter? I doubt it. I think it’s just a buzz and a quick fix to please those who com­plain about hav­ing being cheated.

What do you think?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. All the right wings politi­cians seem to have the same (dumb) ideas. The only rea­son why I can live in France is because my boyfriend is French but the gov­ern­ment is look­ing to crack down on that because “we’re only here to ben­e­fit from the French’s social system.”

    If we were to lis­ten to them, we would have to ask per­mis­sion to the state before we become spouses!

  2. I think that with the upsurge in on-line dat­ing & rela­tion­ships, peo­ple must be very, very care­ful as to who they get involved with & why. Women seem par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to scam­mers – men who sim­ply desire either money or the oppor­tu­nity to immi­grate. Be sus­pi­cious! It seems odd/crazy to want to spon­sor some­one you’ve never even met.
    There should be some rules & reg­u­la­tions in place — par­tic­u­larly in regard to spon­sor­ship. Imag­ine the num­ber of mar­riages of con­ve­nience that would take place if there weren’t!

    • But there are rules and reg­u­la­tions in place, that’s why I’m not sure the lat­est announce­ment will do any­thing at all.

  3. Hi Zhu,

    This is a very impor­tan issue to address. The same thing hap­pened in Por­tu­gal (what we call “Casa­mento Branco” = mar­riage of con­ve­nience): for­eign peo­ple would marry Por­tuguese women (yes, they were the major­ity of cit­i­zens doing this “busi­ness”) after a down-payment of €500 [after leav­ing the reg­is­trar those women would get the rest of the pay­ment] so that they could have a res­i­dence and later-on the nation­al­ity — Catch: most of those men never lived in national ter­ri­tory, but the Por­tuguese res­i­dence would allow them to travel around the Schen­gen nations and the US (after the 9/11 this posed a huge secu­rity issue).
    Result: the gov­ern­ment tight­ened the laws con­cern­ing mar­riages with for­eign peo­ple (out­side the EU) and now it seems to be harder for them to get the res­i­dence and even much harder to get the nationality.

    It is a com­plex issue that per­tains national secu­rity as well. That’s all I can say.


    • I think it’s harder to get into the EU as a spouse of a res­i­dent or national now. It cer­tainly seems to be for France, anyway.

      But it’s not that easy for fam­ily mem­bers to come to Canada either. You still have to pass back­ground checks, secu­rity checks, etc. There are only so many “checks” you can do though, and dis­hon­est peo­ple will always find a way to cheat the system!

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