International students and recent graduates are sometimes hurried into marriage or common-law partnerships by boyfriends or girlfriends who suggest that a deeper relationship will help them obtain legal status in Canada. This can have very negative consequences.
This is a brief outline of the potential problems created by a premature or poorly timed spousal sponsorship. For a full understanding of the issue, read my column here.
Entering into a relationship too early can lead a relationship to break down, which can create many serious legal problems:
- The Canadian partner can withdraw the sponsorship.
- The couple might be investigated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for misrepresentation, which carries very serious consequences.
- An estranged or former partner may threaten to accuse the immigrant spouse of misrepresentation.
- The immigrant spouse cannot sponsor someone else for immigration for five years, even if they have divorced their first partner.
- The Canadian partner is financially responsible for the immigrant spouse for three years, even if the relationship has ended.
Even if the relationship remains strong, there are other legal dangers:
- The student might have trouble staying in Canada if the student has given up their own studies or did not apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit and if there is a delay or error that leads to processing the sponsorship.
- Couples often choose poorly when deciding the sponsorship category. The in-Canada sponsorship option carries extra risks; there is no right to appeal and a chance that the application will fail if the couple is forced by circumstance to spend time apart.
- It is difficult to prove that a marriage or common-law partnership is both genuine and that it is not primarily for immigration.
- Couples sometimes are misinformed and believe that they will qualify as common-law partners just because they lived together for a year.