As of June 10, 2015, a number of new regulations have come into force regarding spousal, common-law, and conjugal partner sponsorship for Canadian immigration.
The first amendment refers to minimum age of eligibility. Previously, a 16-year-old foreign national was able to immigrate to Canada as a spouse or partner of a Canadian permanent resident or citizen. However, as part of the new regulations, the minimum age of eligibility has been raised to 18.
This is part of the Canadian government’s attempt to protect women and girls from child, early, and forced marriages following the government’s recent focus on addressing the vulnerability and victimization of women in the context of immigration. This amendment aligns with Canada and the United Nations’ definitions of a child being anyone under the age of 18.
However, there are two exceptions to this amendment. In the case of spouses and partners under 18 who are still dependent on their parents, the individuals will be considered as dependent children and/or de facto family members, rather than spouses.
For spouses and partners under the age of 18 in refugee camps, officers are advised to assess individuals on a case-by-case basis offering flexibility and sensitivity to vulnerable applicants. These applicants can be considered de facto dependents. If they do not qualify as such, they may be considered on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Furthermore, a second new regulation makes proxy, telephone, fax, internet, or similar marriages inadequate for spousal sponsorship.
Proxy marriages refer to marriages in which one or both parties are not present at the marriage ceremony, and are thus represented by another person. Telephone, fax, and internet marriages refer to marriages in which one or both parties are not physically present, but participate in the solemnization of the marriage via telephone, fax, internet, or similar. This can include Skype and FaceTime.
Previously, an individual who took part in one of these forms of marriage could be eligible to immigrate to Canada as a spouse as long as the marriage was valid in the country in which it took place. However, under the new regulation, these forms of marriage are referred to as “excluded relationships” and are no longer sufficient for spousal sponsorship.
Similar to the first amendment, this new regulation was made in an attempt to protect against the victimization of vulnerable women. These forms of marriage can facilitate forced marriages because of the increased difficulty of ensuring consent since one or both parties are not physically present.
Again, there are exceptions to this amendment.
If the individual who is not physically present at the solemnization of the marriage is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and was not present due to travel relating to his or her service, the marriage may still be considered valid.
If the marriage falls under the category of “excluded relationships” but the individual meets the definition of a common-law partner, the application will continue to be processed under the relationship status category of common-law partner rather than spouse.
Lastly, in the case of humanitarian and compassionate considerations in which an individual’s safety and/or wellbeing is at risk, officers will be sensitive and flexible with the new regulations.
Additionally, minor modifications were made to the five-year sponsorship bar for persons who were previously sponsored to come to Canada as a spouse or partner. The modifications read as follows:
“A sponsor who became a permanent resident or a Canadian Citizen after being sponsored as a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner […] may not sponsor a foreign national […] as a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner, unless the sponsor has been a permanent resident, or a Canadian Citizen, or a combination of the two, for a period of at least five years immediately preceding the day on which a sponsorship application […] is filed by the sponsor in respect of the foreign national.”
All new changes apply only to applications received on or after June 10, 2015. Any applications received before this date will be subject to the previous regulations. These amendments apply to all permanent and temporary immigration programs.