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Marriages of Convenience

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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