If you are planning a marriage to a Canadian citizen in order to immigrate you better be prepared to live together for at least two years, better yet truly be in love, or you will find yourself facing possible deportation from the country.
The Citizenship and Immigration Department’s proposed revisions of Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations regarding permanent citizenship for foreigners who marry Canadians seek to reduce cases of marriage fraud. Canadians have been victims to a spouse who marries them, immigrates, then leaves the marriage within a few weeks or months. The sponsoring spouse is still responsible for the absent individual and that leads to further complications and problems for the Canadian sponsor for which he or she may need the services of an immigration attorney.
The proposed changes require that sponsoring and sponsored spouses must stay together for two years. If they do not, the sponsored spouse faces deportation from the country. In other words, the couple must be living as a married couple for at least a two year period after they receive permanent residence status in order to retain it. This change in immigration law should deter those who seek to fraudulently marry for residency.
Those who seek spouses, conjugal partners or common-law partners would do well to consult immigration lawyers to be sure they will not run afoul of the rules and regulations. They impose a “conditional residency” of two years duration on the sponsored individual. Fail to fulfill the requirement and the Canadian Border Services Agency will find and expel them.
Critics of this requirement feel it places spouses who are victims of a violent partner in even greater jeopardy than they already face from their abuse. Women’s and Newcomers’ advocates fear the rule will impede the ability of victims to escape from their abusive relationships. They make a compelling point.
According to Barbara Judt, the executive director of Winnipeg’s Osborne House, ten per cent of abused women seeking shelter there are newly come to Canada. Judt explains that the most vulnerable of these victims arrive in Canada not knowing anyone. They have no family or other support system to which they can turn for help out of an abusive relationship. Women are brought over all the time, many through arranged marriages, and literally become prisoners in their own residences. They cannot seek help in their community because they do not know or understand the new community. They do not know who they can trust to help them without fearing their abuser will learn of their report.
The executive director of Welcome Place, Wanda Yamamoto, who is also president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, agrees. She maintains the new regulation forces women to stay with their abusers for fear of being deported. This means they become twice abused, first by their spouses and then by the threat of punishment from the Citizenship and Immigration Department. Both Judt and Yamamoto ask immigration officials to clarify how they will handle abused spouses who come forward to report their abuse, in relationship to the new ruling.
The government understands these concerns and is reported by Citizenship and Immigration representatives to be working on developing a process whereby spouses may come forward without threat of expulsion. No details have yet been worked out. Spouses already in Canada and in trouble with an abusive relationship need the assistance of an immigration lawyer once they do come forward to report their abuse.
While the government strongly maintains it needs to do more to protect citizens for becoming victims of marriage fraud, there are some who question whether or not the problem is really that great. Although the Citizenship and Immigration Department admits there are no firm figures available for measurement, they state that of the 46,300 applications from immigrants received last year as many as 16 per cent of them were denied for various reasons. Many of those rejected were due to evidence indicating relationships were not bona fide.
A Canadian citizen who truly wishes to marry and sponsor a foreign spouse is advised to protect him or herself by seeking out immigration lawyers from which to select a personal representative to assist them in following all regulations under the law.
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