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Plenty of potential pitfalls for sponsoring foreign fiancées

Sponsoring a fiancée from another country can be more complicated than one might think.<br />

Q: I am engaged to a woman in Vietnam. I’ve been doing some research online and understand that Canada no longer has a fiancée class. Should I have my fiancée come here as a visitor and have her apply for permanent residence from within Canada? Or should I go to Vietnam to get married and then sponsor her? Which option is better?

A: Your question is more complicated than you think, and for reasons you may not have considered.

Of course, you are right about the fiancée class. It was killed off in June, 2002. Since then, couples can no longer process their immigration applications at the same time that they are making their wedding preparations. Now they must wait until they are actually married before filing an application. This has unnecessarily forced a lengthy separation on many couples at precisely the time when they should be building a new life together. The reasons for this change have never been adequately explained by CIC, and this development persists as one of the most regressive amendments to the 2002 overhaul of our immigration laws. In contrast, the Americans, who also tightened up their immigration laws after 9-11, did not drop their fiancée class.

Obviously, it is almost always more desirable for people in your situation to bring their fiancée here to get married and start the process from within Canada. But many make a terrible mistake when they do so. The word that people hear on the street is that when you apply for a visitor’s visa at a Canadian visa post oversees, you shouldn’t tell them that you are engaged since this will almost certainly lead to the refusal of the application. Applicants who follow this advice often conjure up unrelated or false reasons for coming to Canada. If successful, however, a marriage ceremony is usually held here soon after the fiancée arrives and is then quickly followed by an inland spousal sponsorship.

Now the couple faces a serious dilemma.

The application forms ask for details about the evolution of the relationship. How you met, where you met, and when you met. If you tell the truth, this will inevitably lead to a question from CIC:

“Why didn’t your fiancée mention your relationship when she applied for a visitor’s visa?”

The withholding of this information will likely be used by CIC to substantiate a finding that you and your fiancée lack credibility. CIC may reason that if you were prepared to lie to them once for immigration related reasons, you may be lying to them now in connection with the application for permanent residence. This could easily lead to a refusal of the application for permanent residence. If you lie and say you met here, you will have to abandon real evidence about your relationship in favour of weaker, fabricated evidence.

Since this would be an inland sponsorship, as opposed to an overseas sponsorship, you will have no right to appeal to the IRB. Instead, your only recourse will be to the Federal Court where your chances of success are likely to be a fraction of what they would have been at the IRB.

By all means try bringing your fiancée here as a visitor. Make sure that she discloses that she is engaged to you. In my view, her visitor’s visa application will be a bit of long shot since the Canadian High Commission in Singapore will be more inclined to refuse it than to accept it.

However, at least she won’t mess up her chances of living permanently with you in Canada.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an
immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at

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