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Moses Law Office

Providing Canadian Immigration Services since 1988

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Issues in Spousal Sponsorship

In this section, I will focus on spousal sponsorship, and on some of the common problems encountered by one sponsoring an overseas spouse.

I have heard of many cases where one returns to their home country after migrating to Canada, in order to marry. After meeting and knowing someone for a few weeks to a month, they marry and upon return to Canada, a sponsorship application is made. Very often, the application fails. The question: "WHY?". "We have a legal document stating that we are married" is often the words I hear. While this may be so, Canadian immigration requires much more. The marriage must be shown to be more than a marriage of convenience for the mere purpose of immigration to Canada by the overseas spouse. What does this mean? First, questions are asked to determine how long the two persons know each other before marriage, what proof of correspondence they have, and what kind of marriage ceremony they had. While "love-at-first-sight" is sometimes true, for Canadian immigration, it is usually unacceptable. And while, in Canada, couples sometimes keep the marriage ceremony very simple, often no more than a mere city hall ceremony, with perhaps one witness on each side, -- for Canadian immigration, it may not be acceptable for someone going overseas to marry this way. Why? The presumption is that a real marriage, for more than the purpose of immigration to Canada, would involve expenditure of money, as well as more than a simple paper ceremony. While this is true for the traditional view of marriage, and while in modern times, it is not uncommon for there to be a simple paper ceremony, -- different perceptions and rules seem to apply when it comes to sponsorship.

It should also be noted that in some offshore spousal cases as well as in most inland spousal cases, both spouses need to undergo an interview -- each on their own -- where very intimate questions can be asked by the immigration officer -- all with the purpose of testing whether the two persons really "know" each other, as is expected of two persons who decide to marry. What "know" means, is open for debate, -- especially since when two Canadians marry, often they really do not "know" each other. At the very least, if you plan to marry someone overseas, "whirlwind affairs" should be handled carefully. One can easily conclude from this that the standards for those sponsoring a spouse through marriage are higher than that of two Canadians who marry. Immigration's response -- it is necessary due to the high number of false marriages for the pure purpose of immigration to Canada.

One last problem encountered is the fact that the process can take a long time. Immigration states that the sponsor of a spouse is given priority, but the process can still take six months to a year. Further delays can occur when the forms are not correctly completed, or improperly filed or instructions from immigration not complied with fully.

One should also be careful when the spouse is successfully sponsored and then divorce proceedings are attempted. This is often seen in cases where the marriage was just for the purpose of immigration. Ontario divorce law requires that in a non-contested divorce that at least one of the parties to the proceedings be resident in Ontario for at least one year prior the commencement of the proceedings. More importantly, the couple must have been legally separated for at least one year in order to receive a divorce.

As an example of the implications, I have seen several couples come in to my office, ask for a divorce. I would ask when did they marry and they would respond they were married overseas four months ago. The wife just received her landed papers last week. Now they want a divorce. False marriage?? Possibly. Divorce possible? Not yet. If divorce did occur so quickly, however, there may be a future problem with the newly landed spouse's status.

Please refer to the comments under the section of “More Common Pitfalls in Immigration Applications” and specifically the sub-section “Misrepresentation”, wherein there is a discussion of the effects of a misrepresentation investigation on a sponsorship application.

Sponsorship applications are very common, but many do not succeed due to poor preparation and presentation of the application to immigration. Although many cases are easy, many more are complex. Although it is common to see delays and mistakes made by Sponsors in these easy cases, it is these latter ones that really require skill and expertise in preparation to ensure that the application is successful. However, even the simpler cases can benefit from proper guidance from a lawyer. Receiving proper and honest legal advice from a lawyer is critically important to avoid losing the opportunity to sponsor someone to come to Canada.

Final Note:

Immigration authorities have become stricter in applying the sponsorship rules and regulations. As always, the prospective immigrant and/or his/her sponsor, should seek proper and honest legal advice in order that the prospective immigrant does not lose the opportunity to come to Canada.

For further information please contact Marvin Moses Law Office.