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Sham Marriages Can Doom a Spousal Sponsorship – And Have Created an Excuse For Harsher Immigration Laws

Spousal sponsorships are a common and usually quicker way for those married to Canadian citizens or permanent residents to become permanent residents of Canada. As discussed in detail here, you are generally able to sponsor your spouse if your marriage is recognized as a valid civil marriage, meaning a marriage to someone of the opposite sex, or a same-sex marriage legally performed in Canada or legally recognized in the country where it was performed.

But given the appeal of spousal sponsorships, Citizenship and Immigration Canada keeps a very watchful eye and does some serious investigation as part of the sponsorship process to confirm that the marriages that the applications are based on are not simply marriages of convenience.

Jail Time Possible For Fake Marriages

Not only will a sham marriage, if discovered, sink an application or perhaps lead to removal from the country, it can result in criminal charges. An Edmonton man is currently facing the prospect of a $100,000 fine and up to five years in prison for accepting $5,000 from a foreign national in exchange for getting married solely so the Applicant could obtain permanent residence status.The Canada Border Services Agency has laid criminal charges in 10 marriage fraud cases across Canada since April 2013.

Sadly, this kind of immigration fraud, though fairly rare, has been used as one excuse for harsher immigration rules, like those embodied in Bill C-24 currently working its way through Parliament.

“Red Flags”

Once a spousal sponsorship application is filed, the application is transferred to a local office in Canada (if the application is being done inside Canada) or to a Canadian visa office which is responsible for applications in the spouse or family member’s country of citizenship. At this point, officers assess the relationship and admissibility of the Applicant.

As discussed in this article, during these assessments visa officers look for certain “red flags” that may indicate a sham marriage, such as:

  • Applicants who come from poor countries and need a visa to visit Canada and are from cities or regions of countries where fraud is common;
  • Couples who don’t have a common language of communication;
  • Couples who have not met before marriage;
  • Couples who do not know details in each other’s personal histories and current lives;
  • Couples who appear incompatible in age, physical appearance and values;
  • Applicants facing deportation who suddenly get married.

Once a spousal sponsorship has been approved, permanent residence status is conditional until a couple lives together for two years, and the sponsored spouse is barred from sponsoring another partner within five years.

To determine if you and your spouse, partner, or family member meet the qualifications for family sponsorship, and to ensure that your application is prepared and processed correctly, you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who can guide you through the process of bringing your family together in Canada. Toronto immigration lawyer Larry Butkowsky can help. His legal practice focuses solely on immigration law and he can assist you with all of your immigration questions, concerns, and issues.

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