Weddings and marriages are supposed to be joyous occasions.
However, in the immigration context, they can spell heaps of trouble and the end of an immigrant’s Canadian dream.
Sarah (not her real name) is from a country that has had its fair share of unrest, poverty and misery. Sarah was sponsored to Canada by her Canadian father, and though the paperwork took time, it was eventually gathered and submitted. It also took time for the visa to finally be issued. When the flight was booked, Sarah and her dad couldn’t wait for their reunion on Canadian soil, far from the turmoil of their country of birth.
When she arrived here, she was asked a few routine questions by a border officer, which she answered truthfully. She couldn’t stop thinking of her father who was waiting to embrace her on the other side of the arrivals area. She was asked if there have been any changes in her circumstances since her visa was issued. She readily answered that after her visa was issued, and just before her departure for Canada, she married a young man back home whom she plans to sponsor to Canada.
She was right to tell the truth. The law requires it. But the truth spelled enormous trouble for her.
As a Canadian, her father had the right to sponsor his “dependent child,” which includes a child who is younger than 22 years of age and who does not have a spouse or common law partner.
Sarah was younger than 22 when she was sponsored and so her age was “locked in” for immigration purposes on the date that her application for permanent residence was received. Even if during the processing of her application, she surpassed the age of 22 she would still be considered OK for the purposes of her age. However, her marital status cannot be locked in. To qualify as a “dependent child” she must continue to be single, not only at the time of visa issuance, but also at the time that she appears at a Canadian port-of-entry to become a permanent resident
The bottom line is that now that she is married, her sponsorship is completely dead.
But that’s not the worst of it.
When she signed her application for permanent residence, she signed a declaration stating that all the information she provided in the form was true. It was. However, buried in the fine print (i.e. in teeny-tiny letters similar to those you might find in a car rental agreement and which you might never actually read) was another declaration stating “I will immediately inform the Canadian visa office where I submitted my application if any of the information or the answers provided in my application forms change.”
When her marital status changed, she was required to “immediately” inform the visa post that was processing her application of this change.
The fact that she didn’t immediately do so likely renders her “inadmissible” to Canada for “withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration” of our immigration laws.
Sarah, who never lied to immigration officials, now faces a one-year exclusion order from Canada for “misrepresentation” and the prospect that, following her removal, she may never get a visitor’s visa to visit her father here.
It is very common for young people who are about to leave their country and culture behind to become nervous about their marriage prospects in a strange and unfamiliar land. This may lead them to decide, at the last minute, to commit to a person back home who they are familiar with rather than to take a chance with romance Canadian-style.
Such marriages, whether inspired by the dependent child’s genuine love, their uncertainty about the future, or by their parents, must be disclosed immediately to the visa post in question or disaster is sure to strike.
It is clear from the number of people I see fall into this trap that our immigration forms should be enhanced to specifically inform all such applicants that marriages, and common law relations which exceed one year, can render them ineligible for sponsorship and to expressly remind them of this again when their visas are issued.
After all, marriages should be about building futures…not destroying them.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is
certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration
specialist. For more information, visit www.migrationlaw.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org