On March 9th, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney announced measures to further strengthen the Government of Canada’s ability to crack down on marriage fraud.
Under the new proposal, now open for further public input, a spouse or partner being sponsored by a Canadian or permanent resident would be required to live together with their sponsor in a legitimate relationship for two years following receipt of their permanent resident status in Canada. If these steps are not pursued, the sponsored spouse or partner’s status could be revoked, possibly leading to their removal and in some instances, criminal charges could also be laid. For all legitimate relationships, the condition would cease to apply once the conditional period has elapsed.
The proposed conditional measure would help deter people from engaging in a relationship, such as a marriage or a common law partnership, for the purpose of acquiring status or privilege under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This measure would apply to all spouses in relationships of two years or less who have no children with their sponsor at the time of the sponsorship application.
“Our objective is to weed out people trying to use a phony marriage as a quick and easy route to Canada,” said Minister Kenney. “In town hall meetings I held in 2010 with victims of marriage fraud, I heard first-hand from victims who were still suffering the consequences years later. They implored me to do something to stop this from happening to others.”
This follows on the heels of a separate measure last week. Effective March 2, sponsored spouses or partners are ineligible to sponsor a new spouse or partner for five years from the day that they are granted permanent residence status in Canada.
“The problem of marriage fraud is serious and will only get worse if we don’t put measures in place that protect the integrity of our immigration system while deterring people from trying to use a marriage of convenience to cheat their way into Canada,” added Minister Kenney.
Other countries, such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, use a form of conditional status as a deterrent against marriage fraud and the lack of a similar measure increases Canada’s vulnerability to this type of unlawful activity.
The proposed regulations, which were prepublished today on the Canada Gazette website, will appear in the March 10 edition of the Canada Gazette (Part I) and are open for further public input for a 30-day comment period, ending April 9, 2012.
A Notice of Intent proposing the development of this conditional measure was published in the Canada Gazette on March 26, 2011. A number of respondents expressed concern that a conditional measure could increase the vulnerability of sponsored spouses and partners who are in abusive relationships.
Given these concerns, the proposed condition would cease to apply in instances where there is evidence of abuse or neglect, or of a failure to protect from abuse or neglect by a person related to the sponsor, whether that person is residing in the household or not, during the conditional period. Working with stakeholders and other interested parties, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is also developing guidelines to assist spouses and partners who could be victims of abuse or neglect in such situations.
For additional information on the proposed conditional permanent residence measure or to provide comments, please visit the Canada Gazette.