Conditional Status for Sponsored Spouses – “Is the Jig Up on Marriage Fraud”?

The Minister of Immigration tells us that the new amendments to the Immigration Act will ensure “the jig is up on marriage fraud”.

The changes to the Act which are ostensibly intended to deny permanent status to persons who abdicate their marital obligations soon after they land in Canada on a spousal sponsorship may appear reasonable to some. The law will require spouses to cohabit for a period of two years for their conditional status to be commuted and made permanent.

There are several problems with this amendment. We now have a situation where there is a presumption of guilt. All couples have to endure one spouse’s conditional status, just because a few may have married for the purposes of obtaining their immigration. There is no empirical evidence as to the numbers of these fraudulent marriages for the Minister to back up this amendment to the law.

We also don’t know whether the perpetrators are the sponsors, the sponsorees or both. I just know it will inhibit bright young professional men and women with busy lives and international careers from moving here. They usually meet through dating sites and start their relationship upon marriage.

I have nieces who are professionals and will choose not to court men from Canada or to move here now just because of the risk to them, or their spouses, of giving up a promising career for what would be for them tentative status since it is not clear if an employer will invest in someone with conditional status. Potential immigration status in the destination country ranks very high among criteria to enter into marriage because lack of connectedness and insecurity around career prospects impact both parties’ commitment to the relationship as a whole.

From a policy stand point are we inhibiting Canada’s ability to attract and keep the best and brightest? Rather than put in foolproof measures when assessing applications for genuineness or following up on those who abused the system, the Minister has taken the radical measure of shifting the burden of proof on the immigrant. The end result is a stratified society where immigrants once again start out as second class citizens. Immigration to Canada may be a privilege.

  However, we need bright young men and women to move here as much as they need Canada and by creating all these barriers we do ourselves a huge disservice, shunning human capital that will help transform an ageing society into one that is young, vibrant and viable.

Reference: Operational Bulletin 480 – October 26, 2012, Conditional Permanent Residence

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