Ottawa to eliminate rule used to crack down on marriage fraud

Good range of commentary on the Government’s recent announcement on its planned removal of the two-year delay on spousal permanent residency:

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.

But the policy “caused more problems than it solved (by creating) incentives (for sponsored spouses) to stay in abusive and bad relationships simply to keep their status.”

He said the separate prohibition on a second spousal sponsorship less than five years after an initial marriage should be an effective deterrent.

Stojicevic noted that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has also developed sophisticated tools in recent years to detect marriage fraud, making a “Draconian” measure like the two-year delay unnecessary.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said there are other tools to discourage fraud, like a mid-2015 regulation that excluded “proxy” marriages executed via telephone, fax or the Internet.

But he said the government should maintain the two-year ban as a discretionary option for visa officers when they have suspicions about a spousal sponsorship, but want to give the couple a conditional benefit of the doubt rather than reject their application outright.

The Conservatives brought in both the two-year and five-year provisions in 2012 after Jason Kenney, the immigration minister at the time, told of “thousands” of victims who had their hearts broken by marriage fraudsters.

A year later, CBSA documents obtained by Kurland indicated that roughly a third of spousal immigration applications from China and India were fraudulent.

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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