You would think that “true love” would be enough for Canada’s immigration department to conclude that a marriage is genuine.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Officers have little guidance from our Immigration Regulations as to what is a “genuine” relationship and so Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) publishes its policies and instructions to its officers in its immigration manual.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents who marry foreigners should be aware of what immigration officers are looking for when they are assessing the genuineness of a marriage or common law partnership for sponsorship purposes.

CIC’s somewhat dated policy manual expects Canadian citizens and permanent residents who marry foreigners to marry in a manner that “conform(s) to the beliefs and cultures of the participants” in order for the department to consider the union genuine.

Furthermore, the same policy manual expects marriages that are solemnized abroad to be consistent with the “cultural norms” of the foreign country in order to support a favourable decision.

These expectations create a number of different problems.

If, for example, arranged marriages are the cultural norm in a particular country, a Canadian immigration officer reviewing such a case may negatively view the marriage of two people who meet and fall in love in that country.

Similarly, in certain countries societal norms strongly dictate that a person should marry someone of similar economic, religious, educational, or cultural backgrounds. While these values have lost ground in Canada, our immigration department still uses these outdated values as a measuring stick to assess the genuine nature of a relationship involving a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Canadians who enter such marriages without complying with these foreign societal values may find themselves celebrating their wedding without the presence of key relatives and friends who would normally be on hand. The department’s policy manual suggests that officers consider the wedding itself, where it was celebrated, and who attended it in determining the genuineness of the relationship. Again, if this is not consistent with what the department feels is normal the sponsorship can be refused.

In Canada, the “cultural norm” is that we can marry any adult of our choosing without any legal consequence. Canadians who marry abroad are expected to conform to alien values or risk being separated from their spouse for a lengthy period of time or permanently.

The guidance given by CIC to its officers is archaic and should not require Canadian citizens and permanent residents to marry in a manner that complies with any standards other than our own.

Canadians who find themselves in these circumstances should not lie about how they met, or how they were married and who attended the nuptials. Where the relationship is genuine, it is always easier to overcome a refusal on appeal than it is to explain a lie that was intended to make a couple look more “normal”.

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