Immigration Law: Marriages of Convenience part 1 (Marriage Fraud)

Immigration Law: Marriages of Convenience part 1 (Marriage Fraud)

On September 27, the Government of Canada launched a national online consultation on marriage fraud. The purpose of this consultation is to determine how big this problem is and what can be done to solve it.

What is “marriage fraud”?
When a foreign national marries or gets into a relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident solely to immigrate to Canada, the union is considered a marriage fraud. Sometimes known as a marriage or relationship of “convenience,” it occurs when the foreign national pretends to be in love with the Canadian-based spouse/partner. After the foreign national has obtained a visa, s/he quickly leaves the relationship. In some cases, the foreign national does not even meet the Canadian-based spouse/partner when s/he gets to Canada.

In recent visits to the Philippines, China, and India, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration raised this as a concern.

How does marriage fraud affect the Canadian-based spouse?

When marriage fraud occurs, the Canadian-based victim is often heartbroken and has lost money in immigration fees and plane tickets for the spouse being sponsored. In addition to that, the victim may also suffer financially for years in the future.

When a person “sponsors” her/his spouse, the former signs an “undertaking” and “sponsorship agreement.” These documents make the Canadian-based sponsor financially responsible for her/his spouse even if the marriage breaks down. Under these agreements, the sponsor is obligated to pay not only for some of the spouse’s expenses but also for the latter’s claims for certain forms of government assistance. In view of this, the government can sue the sponsor for any monies it has paid out to the sponsored spouse.

Can I protect myself from marriage fraud?
Protecting yourself from marriage fraud is difficult. In many of these cases, the foreign national plays an elaborate game to hide their true intentions. The foreign national essentially pretends to be in love with the Canadian spouse. The best thing that the sponsoring spouse can do is be sensitive to any suspicious intentions and signs of deceit by the spouse being sponsored while the entire process has not yet been finalized.

Are all marriage breakdowns because of marriage fraud?
One of the difficulties in proving marriage fraud is that sometimes marriages simply break down. There are many cases in which two people think they are in love but then break up. If both people genuinely believed in their relationship when they got married but grew apart because of disagreements after the marriage, this may not be marriage fraud. As well, in cases in which spouses are abused, leaving that type of relationship does not mean that the marriage was fraudulent in the first place.

In my next article, I will discuss how marriage fraud affects immigration applications for genuine relationships.

This article is prepared for general information purposes only and is intended to provide comments for readers and friends of Filipino Journal. The contents should not be viewed as legal advice or opinion. If you have specific questions concerning immigration law, you should discuss them with a legal advisor of your choice.

Reis Pagtakhan is a lawyer with the law firm of Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson LLP. He practices in the areas of immigration law and corporate and commercial law. His direct line is 957-4640. If you like to know more about Pagtakhan or Aikins, you may visit the firm’s Web site: