|Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)|
I could open this article by quoting from one of the thousands of love songs purporting to ask or answer a question about genuine love. Instead, since this is a column about immigration law, I’ll try to put it in simplified legalese. A person intending to immigrate to Canada as sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse will not qualify for immigration if the underlying relationship is not genuine and was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring status in Canada. Simpler yet, fake marriages don’t cut it and Citizenship and Immigration Canada is on the lookout.
Under Canadian immigration laws, Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor their husband or wife, common-law partner or conjugal partner. A successful and thorough sponsorship application will land your better half in Canada relatively quickly, as compared to other types of immigration applications. At the same time, a flawed, incomplete application can keep genuine spouses apart for an indefinite amount of time.
Aside from the many forms, police record checks and medical testing that an applicant must endure, CIC has made it a priority to keep fake marriages out of Canada. These regulations have been strengthened over the years to combat the high number of fraudulent cases, also known as marriages of convenience. As a consequence of these regulations, many applications based on genuine relationships are refused, forcing the applicant and the sponsor to appeal the decision, adding up to an additional year to the application processing times, plus the stress and cost of an appeal.
Prove it’s genuine
So when you complete an application to sponsor your spouse, make extra effort in gathering and submitting evidence to prove that your relationship is in fact “genuine.” I typically categorize evidence into two groups, “sentimental evidence” and “hard evidence.”
The primary type of sentimental evidence used is photographs. Submit a selection of photographs that capture the essence of your relationship. Photos of spouses together on vacation, with each other’s close family and at major life events (birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc.) are usually well received by the government. Do not make the mistake of only submitting photos from a single day or only photos where you are wearing the same outfit. Your photos should represent different milestones in your relationship and not just the wedding.
Other sentimental evidence to submit includes copies of birthday/holiday cards, email printouts, Facebook printouts, love letters, wedding invitations and reference letters from close friends or family that confirm the nature of your relationship. I had a client once who wanted to submit a racy video that he said confirmed beyond doubt that his relationship was real. I told him he was taking it too far.
I classify all legal and third party documents as “hard evidence.” Hard evidence that you should plan to submit include copies of a power of attorney, copies of wills or life insurance policies, naming each spouse as the other’s beneficiary, copies of leases or land title certificates, showing both spouses as tenants or owners and copies of bank statements, showing both spouses as joint account holders.
It is also worthwhile to submit copies of boarding passes, hotel reservations, receipts for gifts and dinner, and passport stamps to prove that visits between spouses actually took place. Phone bills are an excellent way to confirm communication between spouses while separated.
My final tip is to be thorough in explaining your evidence. Explain what each piece of evidence is and why you are submitting it. Handing a visa officer a pile of evidence without any explanation makes their job difficult. In submitting your application, your goal should be to make the visa officer’s job as easy as possible to approve your application as quickly as possible.
A thorough and complete application, leaving no questions to be answered, may even get you out of an interview and thereby speeding up your application processing. Visa officers are empowered with the discretion to waive interviews for applications where it is clear that the relationship is genuine. As such, the extra time that you put into gathering and explaining evidence will save you much hardship and hassle down the road.
While we all know that finding and maintaining true love is a lot of work, there is no need for an immigration application to follow suit. As when searching for that special someone, when completing a sponsorship application, be honest, open, convincing and thorough.