In an attempt to crack down on fraudulent marriages, the new regulations introduce the concept of conditional residency to some spouses and partners sponsored to come to Canada.
Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, made the announcement yesterday in Mississauga, Ontario. Under the new regulations, certain spouses who immigrate to Canada will have to satisfy immigration authorities they have lived in a "legitimate relationship" with their sponsor for a period of two years. Although they will be "permanent residents of Canada" during the two year period, that residency will be conditional. Only when the requirement of establishing a genuine relationship is met will the spouse will become a true permanent resident.
In making the announcement, Kenney said, "I have consulted widely with Canadians, especially with victims of marriage fraud, who have told me clearly that we must take action to stop these abuses of our immigration system."
There are two types of marriage fraud. One is when the marriage and subsequent sponsorship is a commercial transaction entered into willingly by both parties. The other type of fraud is when a Canadian is duped into marriage and making a sponsorship application for a spouse, only to realize after the person arrives in Canada that the spouse has no intention of being married to or living with the sponsor.
The regulations apply to spouses who have lived in a conjugal relationship with their sponsors for a period of less than two years and where there are no common children. As well, any family members that accompany the spouse to Canada will be subject to conditional residency until the spouse fulfills the relationship requirement.
There are exceptions. Where there is evidence of abuse or neglect and the spouse ceases to cohabit with the sponsor because of that neglect or abuse, the condition will be terminated. The abuse and neglect can be at the hands of the sponsor or someone else under circumstances where the sponsor fails to protect the spouse. The condition will be waived if the abuse or neglect is directed at the spouse, the children of the spouse, the children of the sponsor, or any family member who lives in the home.
Should the sponsor and spouse be living in a legitimate relationship but the sponsor dies before the two year period expires, the conditional residency ceases.
Despite being praised by victims who entered into marriages they thought were genuine only to find out later they were being used, others are critical of the new measures. Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council of Refugees, is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, "Making permanent residence conditional for sponsored spouses gives power to the sponsor, who may use the threat of deportation to manipulate their spouse. This measure is a gift to an abuser."
And Toronto immigration lawyer Max Berger does not think it will solve the problem of marriages of convenience entered into for money. He said, "Determined fraudsters will just wait out the two years before declaring the marriage has ended."
The new measures apply to all sponsorship applications received by Canada Immigration on or after Oct. 25, 2012.