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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?

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