Getting married for all the wrong reasons

Getting married for all the wrong reasons
Photo by Ewen Le Borgne, Flickr

Fraudulent marriages in Canada happen on a regular basis. However, the numbers, the impact and preventative measures are not very well known.

Richard Kurland is one of the top immigration lawyers in Canada. He says the topic of marriages for the sake of convenience is popular in many ways.

“The subject of fraud marriages has gained a lot more public attention,” says Kurland, “even if it’s in the hundreds of files every year, you have two types of files; the ones where both people are conspiring and the bogus files where someone’s heart gets broken.”

Kurland added that fraudulent marriages have become very visual in the media. He works in collaboration with The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, CTV, CBC, and many more media outlets.

“If you are trying to attract eyeballs…what kind of story do you want to run? It is a question of news worthiness,” says Kurland. The presence of stories of fraud marriages in the media has forced and will continue to force some hard questions and answers.

Kurland says preventing fraudulent marriages takes a lot of effort, money and human resources.

“The real issue is who is going to pay for all of those resources. If you put two or more people in an office to do those interviews that means [fewer] people on the refugee side,” says Kurland. “As a result, refugee processing times double. Are you willing to do that? Or do you have to increase taxes, or [do] you have to take resources away from the health system and put [them] into this immigration system or away from drug trafficking counter-measures?”

Johanne Nadeau, spokesperson for Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Canada, emphasized the relevance of the fraudulent marriages problem.
“Marriage fraud can victimize Canadian citizens or permanent citizens and poses a serious challenge to the integrity of community and citizenship and immigration programs,” says Nadeau.

She added that Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Canada takes all tips, complaints and reports of alleged marriages of convenience seriously.
“Our department focuses on detecting marriage fraud at the visa application stage. Visa applications are often refused for more than one reason. That’s why it’s difficult to specify how many people are refused solely on the basis of marriage fraud,” says Nadeau.

In terms of international students that might have ended up in a fraudulent marriage, the numbers are just as hard to predict.

A senior staff member at SFU International Student Services, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says that “what happens in the students’ lives outside studying [is unknown]. Definitely some international students do marry Canadians, but I think that is really an exception.”

The staff member told The Source that students who come to SFU have a family commitment, where their family supports them throughout their studies in Canada and they are expected to return once their studies have ended.

“Many students come from Asia where these kinds of marriages are not appropriate anyway,” says the staff member.

Nadeau says that, in light of these circumstances and concerns, steps have been taken to address the problem of fraud marriages.

“Regulatory changes are being proposed to crack down on marriage fraud and to deter people from using relationships of convenience to circumvent Canada’s Immigration Laws,” says Nadeau.

This compliments the current requirements that if you are going to sponsor someone as a spouse, you are asked to provide that person with basic needs and necessities for a period of three years. Even if the relationship ends, a new person cannot be sponsored during this period. CIC  recently launched short videos to warn people not to be drawn into a relationship of convenience. This is part of their larger Public Awareness Campaign.

“Canada has also increased the number of interviews overseas, where marriage fraud seems to be more prevalent,” says Nadeau. “While this process is resource intensive, these interviews have been proven successful to detect fraudulent marriages.

“For example, in 2008 [there was a high] rejection rate for applications in the spouses and partners category originating from southern China.

Processes that are commissioned in Hong Kong increased by 50% as CIC increased their interview rate for applicants that did not prove legitimate relationships,” says Nadeau. “In the following years the number of applications in this category did decrease significantly. We see some improvements there.”