Rule changes are preventing spouses immigrating to Canada
17 August 2012
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A crackdown on marriage fraud is preventing genuine spouses from settling in Canada, lawyers fear. One Toronto based lawyer, Jacqueline Bart, said earlier this week, 'No question, decisions on spousal sponsorships are getting tougher.'
The Canadian government came to suspect that many of the marriages involved were 'marriages of convenience', where the main purpose of the marriage was to acquire residency for the foreign national. As a result, since 2010 they have introduced a series of changes to the rules in an attempt to root out fraudulent claims and prevent the system being abused.
In March 2012 for example, the government introduced a new rule which prevented a spouse who had gained residency by marriage, then divorced and married again, from sponsoring their new spouse for residency for a period of five years.
The Government continues to make changes to the rules. A new rule introducing a period of 'conditional residency' has been proposed. Under this proposal, a sponsored spouse would have to reside with his/her sponsor for at least two years. If this did not happen, the residency permit would be revoked. This rule is likely to come into force in the autumn.
The country's courts too have begun to enquire much more closely into the personal lives of the couples concerned in an attempt to ensure that they are genuine. Some of the criteria against which couples are judged have been changed to make it harder for applicants to succeed. Ms Bart said 'We have to work harder as lawyers to make sure the application package is very strong.'
Indeed, some Canadian lawyers believe that the system is already unfairly strict and is denying genuine husbands and wives from joining their Canadian partners. Canadian lawyer Cecil Rotenberg said 'we are losing sight of the humanity.' Another lawyer, Mary Lam, said 'We're in an age where cross-cultural marriages are not unusual. We're in an age of technology. You have to take that into account in relationships and marriages.'
Lam and Rosenberg referred, in particular, to a case they had been involved in. Canadian Neil MacDonald, 60, met Chinese Zheng Qun Huang on the Chinese Lovelinks dating site in 2006. He visited her in China on several occasions in 2006 and they were married in 2007. MacDonald applied to sponsor his wife's Canadian residency application in 2008. This application was dismissed by an adjudicator in December 2008. He appealed against the decision. After spending years exhausting all the appeal processes which were open to him, his application was finally dismissed last week.
At the final hearing, Mr MacDonald brought evidence which showed that the couple still exchange emails every day and that Mr MacDonald visits his wife twice a year in China. Mr MacDonald's son from a previous marriage vouched for their relationship. Nonetheless her residency application has been refused.
In a decision reached last week, a federal judge dismissed Mr Macdonald's appeal against the original decision to allow Miss Zheng residency. He said that the original decision of the adjudicator had been reasonable. The adjudicator said that Zheng had sought a 'new life in a new land … with one of the first persons she met over the international website despite the ongoing and considerable language barrier,"
One Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland denies that there is any trend towards the refusal of spousal sponsorship applications. He added that the tighter rules might protect credulous Canadians who marry in good faith from the attentions of unscrupulous foreigners seeking residency in Canada by any means.