Marriages of Convenience

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Canadian Souvenirs

Citizenship & Immigration Canada is currently consulting the public on marriages of convenience and ask those interested to fill out an anonymous questionnaire. As a former immigrant who was sponsored, I sat down and starting sharing my thoughts.

Immigration is a myth-prone topic. Some think that getting married to a Canadian citizen automatically gives them Canadian citizenship. This is far from being true. Indeed, foreigners married to permanent residents or Canadian citizens are not automatically granted an immigration status. However, they may be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the sponsorship category. That’s a big difference since you have to go through the immigration process.

For a lot of people, the skilled worker category is the “honourable” way to immigrate since newcomers are, in theory, supposed to fill the labour gap. On the other side, those who immigrate under the family category may be seen as opportunists or even cheaters.

Various groups and associations regularly denounce marriage fraud and call for a complete overhaul of the immigration system. For instance, Stop Marriage Fraud, Immigration Marriage Fraud, Fraud Marriage, Canadians against Immigration Fraud and many others speak from the point of view of victims.

It’s the same old story. A Canadian meets a foreigner during a business trip, while on holidays or even online. They fall in love and soon the question arises: should they live together? Occasionally, the Canadian moves abroad. Sometimes, it is just not practical because of the local regulations, job market, economic conditions or simply because of the languages barrier.

If a Canadian citizen or permanent resident decides to sponsor a spouse or a common-law partner under the sponsorship category, they must prove the union is genuine. Tons of pictures, emails and other proofs are mailed to the office visa and an immigration officer will ultimately make a decision on the case.

The sponsor has legal obligations:

  • 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.

Those who denounce sham marriages claim that once the visa is granted, the person sponsored can land in Canada and put the sponsor in a lot of trouble. Indeed, Citizenship & Immigration states that: “As part of this commitment, sponsors must support their spouse or partner for three years, even if the relationship fails. If the couple breaks up and the sponsored person gets social assistance, the sponsor must pay back the amount of social assistance the former spouse received.”

So sponsor are strongly encouraged to know what they are getting into. Yet, from my experience on immigration forums, love is blind. I know countless Canadian who met their partner online and had him/her come to Canada in a matter of months, sometimes without even meeting in person first. That sounds crazy to me but hey, who am I to judge? Sometimes, the relationship works. If it doesn’t or if one of the parties feels cheated, why should it be the government’s fault?

So, should the sponsor have more “power” over the person sponsored? I don’t think so. Foreigners can take advantage of Canadians but it can also be the other way around. How about if a Canadian decides to order a mail-order bride and the relationship doesn’t work? You can’t just “ship” your spouse back home! Making someone come to a foreign country is a responsibility and should stay this way.

There will always be cheaters and marriage of convenience. I believe both parties should know what they are getting into. Like Citizenship & Immigration says, “sponsorship should not be taken lightly, and everyone is responsible for ensuring that their marriage is genuine.”

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About Author

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

12 Comments

  1. I would not even sponsor my Bf when he first came to Canada, I felt that I did not know him well enough at that time. Today I would sponsor him for his citizenship but I would much rather have him doing it alone. It may sound selfish but it scares me to be responsible for someone else!

  2. it scares me to be responsible for someone else!

    It looks like Cynthia is not ready to be a mom! Anyways…

    Let’s see…Marriage of convenience… There will always be cheaters. In every system. But what can you do? You must just add more responsiblitites to the involved guys but you cannot stop it.

    See you!

  3. Interesting post Zhu and yes, almost the same criteria here for sponsoring. Of late there is a lot of foreigners here because the Govt wants to attract foreign talent. Plus, lots of migrant workers and I do know that some ‘savvy’ foreign workers will try to get local sponsor for their people back home thereby earning some quick bucks.

  4. How is it that if one is against a fraud marriage, is a xenophobe?

    I don’t think it’s right for people to be married to Canadians just to enter the country, nor be part of a forced marriage. That’s why Canadian government needs to crack down like any other country.

  5. Citizenship by marriage is so serious here in the UK.
    People would travel all the way to their home countries to get local wives (mainly female) and bring them back to UK. Most of them cannot speak English and constantly threatened by their husbands.
    Leaving them hanging in limbo: they don’t know/ don’t want to report their case to the police and the don’t want to go back to their countries of origin.

    It’s actually very complicated.

  6. This reminds me of the romantic comedy ‘The Proposal’, where Sandra Bullock’s character was almost deported back to Canada because her visa (for America) expired… and then she married her assistant in order to stay in America + keep her job. (And then they fall in love… which probably wouldn’t happen in real life)

  7. Tough one! It’s a big responsibility. It’s impossible to know how a relationship is going to turn out, but then, if you love someone, you want to be with that person. I don’t know what I would do if I were in that situation…

  8. @Cynthia – It doesn’t sound selfish at all, I can perfectly understand! It wasn’t an easy decision for us either.

    @Mr.G – It may be easier to be responsible for a baby than for a spouse 😆

    @shionge – I can see why, Singapore is a pretty wealthy place in the region.

    @khengsiong – I see your point but I don’t think it’s the case here. It’s mostly people who had a bad experience and a lot are immigrants themselves.

    @Poem – But I’m not sure what the government can do, really. There will always be cheaters… and sometimes the line is quite blur between coming to Canada for a new life, including a spouse, and coming to Canada and using that person.

    @London Caller – I bet it is! It’s not clear cut and I can se the dilemma.

    @Lydia – I saw that movie too! But yes, it is a movie and unfortunately things are usually more complicated. Thank you for your comment!

    @Em – We didn’t know either to be honest and I wasn’t too comfortable with being sponsored myself but I didn’t really have another option. Turned out okay for us but again, we knew each for a long time and I got a work visa on my own before immigrating just to see if I liked the country enough to stay.

  9. The sponsorship route is also taken for doing international adoptions in many cases. My husband and I filled out all the paperwork for it initially, and then the South African government changed their rules about issuing passports so that we would have to spend two months there waiting to leave with our baby on an SA passpor. We had to redo all the paperwork and follow the new citizenship route that has been made available to adoptive families: we will receive the baby’s Canadian citizenship (and temporary passport) before leaving South Africa. This route was created in order to be a big help to adoptive families. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper’s government has just gone and messed it up recently in their bid to prevent “citizens of convenience”. They want to make sure that people who have never set foot in Canada don’t inherit citizenship from their parents who didn’t stay in Canada. Which is fine. The dumb part is that they decided to include adopted babies in the law, so that our child, when she grows up, will not automatically be allowed to pass on her Canadian citizenship to her child if she gives birth outside of Canada. (If the father is Canadian, it’s ok, but…what if??) They’ve essentially created a second-tier type of citizenship – the non-pass-onable kind – and applied it to babies adopted through the new route, but (crazily) not those adopted through the sponsorship route. Parents’ groups have been complaining but there has been no change to this ridiculous law yet. It makes me angry that my daughter will be stuck with a lesser form of citizenship than my sons. Anyone doing an international adoption needs to think about this. Oh, how unfortunate that this comment links to a blog post I wrote when I was slightly drunk…hmm, that may detract a bit from my gravitas!

  10. I have a friend who has a Hungarian boyfriend, and she was applying for a Hungarian long-term visa. She was so afraid and after the interview, she was crying. She told me that she didn’t feel it was appropriate for the officer to ask every single private detail about her relationship with her Hungarian boyfriend, but I told her that she just has to accept that since the officer has no other method of seeing whether the relationship is legit or not. I suppose when it comes to marriage and immigration, the same problems occur.

  11. fraud is fraud,it is fair that using marriage certificates as a document to get the PR and & not live with their supposed partner is opportunistic, but saying that family immigrants are seen as opportunists is not a precise statement, immigrants bringing their spouses and children in an effort to give them a better life is the most honourable category in my view.
    the biggest fraud in my opinion is canada’s skilled labour program which no matter what skill you have, it’s just not worth a damn in the labour market, and all you get is hard labour as a sweeper after contacting & confirming your work experience with your old employer back in your village in Laos or Cameroon, and it has ruined many lives.even those with qualifications from the US go though hell in Canada while Canadian degrees are highly regarded elsewhere,be it in the UK, Europe, the Gulf (or middle east)& Asia and they are not refused by trade unions.
    as a matter of fact these “trade unions” or “ordre des professions” never interfere in the access to jobs anywhere but in Canada.
    as an example, Canadian teachers get to work abroad easily without any recommendations from the host country except their own qualifications,while the same is not true for foreign teachers entering the Canadian labour market which puts an end to their careers.
    Canadians are aware of this & they can relax the compliance issue but they wont do anything about it. because apparently the immigration goal is not the foreign immigrant per se, but it’s his/her future canadian born children who will populate the frosty lands (just a personal view).

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