Spousal Sponsorship: Combatting Marriages of Convenience

By Pace Law | April 21, 2011

Karen Kwan Anderson

Karen Kwan Anderson – Pace Law Firm: A nightmare scenario: you meet someone overseas or online, and you fall in love. You decide you want to live together, and you sponsor them to come into the country as a permanent resident. After a lot of time, money, and red tape, the government signs off on it. Now you’re at the airport, waiting for the love of your life to arrive. When they do, you give them a hug. In return, they give you the shaft. They hop into a cab and disappear. And it hits you: you’ve been had.

It happens more often than people may think. Every year, I receive about 10 phone calls from persons whose sponsored spouses leave them in the dust after arriving in Canada.

Sometimes, as in the scenario above, the sponsored spouse doesn’t even go home with their sponsor after meeting them at the airport. In other cases, the sponsored spouse leaves after a very short period of time. In all cases, the sponsor is left hurt and upset, and they want their spouse deported back to the home country.

Unfortunately, I have to tell these people that nothing immediate can be done to deport a sponsored spouse. Regardless of the allegations against them, the sponsored spouse has procedural rights, including the right to appeal. As a result, it can take a minimum of 3 years to deport a person once they are a permanent resident of Canada.

Still, a new solution may be on the way. On March 26, 2011, the Harper government proposed a conditional permanent residence of two years or longer for those persons who are in a relationship of two years or less at the time of the sponsor application.

Opponents of this proposal say that sponsored spouses who face abuse in a marriage would be stuck in the marriage in order to fulfill the condition. I counter that a sponsored spouse is not prevented from reporting the abuse to police and/or social service agencies, and that a conditional permanent residence program might help decrease fraudulent marriages.

What remains to be seen is how the government plans to supervise the program. We need details on how sponsorship reviews will be carried out, how long such reviews will take, and how much it’s all going to cost.

You can read more on the proposal here.

Input from the public is being welcomed until April 26, 2011. Please direct input to: Justine Akman, Director, Social Policy and Programs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada.