Ottawa to eliminate rule used to crack down on marriage fraud

March 1, 2016

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun |

The federal Liberals are about to remove one of the major components of the previous government’s campaign against marriage fraud that typically involved immigration applicants from China and India.

Immigration Minister John McCallum was quoted in The Hill Times newspaper saying he plans to move in “a matter of months” to fulfill a 2015 election promise to end the two-year probation period before overseas spouses sponsored by their Canadian partners obtain permanent residency status.

That measure was brought in by the former Conservative government in 2012 in response to a growing number of fraud cases that eventually resulted in the Canada Border Service Agency warning in a 2013 report that “marriages of convenience,” especially from India and China, represented a “threat to the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.”

A second component of that 2012 initiative, which prevented anyone who has sponsored or has been sponsored under the spousal program from using it again for five years, isn’t being changed.

One Vancouver immigration lawyer said Monday that anecdotal evidence (the government has yet to make public the official data) suggests that the 2012 measures have been effective.

The two-year delay has had “the desired effect of discouraging this kind of behaviour. So if you eliminate that, I wouldn’t be surprised if (marriage fraud) went back up again,” said Andrew Wlodyka, a former assistant deputy chair with the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

“But the government has made this decision, and they’re going to have to live with the consequences.”

Geeta Ghardwaj, a settlement worker for Punjabi immigrants at Abbotsford Community Services, said she noticed a “significant” reduction in marriage fraud cases as a result of the 2012 policy changes.

But other immigration specialists praised the pending move, saying the two-year delay had unintended consequences that put new immigrants, especially women, in a vulnerable position.

Marriage fraud “was a problem, there is no question about that,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Alex Stojicevic, past-chairman of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration section and an adjunct professor at the University of B.C.

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