Proxy marriages and how they affect Canadian partner visa applications

Published: 07/08/2012

Recently there has been some concern regarding the legitimacy of foreign marriages, particularly the concept of “marriage by proxy” whereby one partner is not physically present at a marriage ceremony but it is still officially regarded that a marriage took place. It was reported in the Toronto Sun that 40% of cases involving women bringing their Muslim male partners to Canada marry their partners in ceremonies conducted over the phone, on the internet or via webcam chats.
This is a concern for Canadian immigration officials as a growing number of proxy marriages can result in people marrying for convenience purposes so that people can enter into Canada as opposed to being a legitimate couple who wish to live together. There are also legal concerns that a lot of the documentation involved could potentially be fraudulent or that the documents were not issued in the correct way.
As the rules currently stand proxy marriages are accepted by Canadian immigration officials if the country in question legally accepts proxy marriages. The law states that “At a proxy marriage one of the participants is not present and has named a proxy to represent him or her. If the law of the country in which the marriage ceremony was performed permits proxy marriages, they are legal marriages for immigration purposes, provided they are legal under Canadian federal law.”
This has been further complicated by recent rules (that were brought in after September 2010) whereby Canadian immigration officials can reject applications if they can sufficiently prove that immigration status is the main reason for a marriage or that the relationship was not genuine. In previous years both of these would have to be proven.
If you are concerned that this may affect your application there are ways to prove the legitimacy of your relationship. For example, if you are married overseas, whether in person or by proxy, then you should be able to provide a marriage certificate proving that your marriage has been recognised. If an initial Canadian marriage visa application is turned down then you can appeal. One way of proving the legitimacy of a marriage is to get a statutory statement declaring your marriage and the length of time you have been in a relationship. This should be witnessed by two people (close friends or anyone who can ascertain your relationship status) and you can then return it to the officer dealing with your visa application process along with other supporting documentation.
Another aspect is if the person who has applied to enter Canada has made an effort to learn English. In a recent case a Canadian sponsor applied to bring his partner from China. However, the application was turned down as the sponsor only visited his wife twice a year over the course of five years. During that five year period (and despite keeping in contact via email) there was evidence that she had not made efforts to learn English. This led the examining immigration officials to conclude that the relationship was not sufficiently legitimate to allow her entry into Canada. Therefore proving that the intended immigrant under the family immigration route has made an effort to learn English and learn more about Canadian culture may improve their chances of a successful outcome in the partner visa application process.
It is also important to ensure that the sponsor meets any financial requirements. As with other forms of marriage visa sponsorship you have to be able to prove that you can financially support your partner. Other factors that may affect the eligibility of your application include any recorded convictions, whether you receive financial assistance from the government for anything other than a disability and if you have been recently declared bankrupt and have not been released from it yet.
Discussing your application with one of our consultants should help you present your partner visa application to the appropriate Canadian Consulate or High Commission in the best possible light, and improve your chances of a positive verdict.

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