Thirteen years ago, Weiqing Li married a stranger in Toronto just so he could become a permanent resident. Then he left for University of Prince Edward Island and never saw his legal wife again. Hardly did he realize that nine years later he would almost be kicked out of Canada because of that brief wedding ceremony.
A removal order was issued against Li in 2013 by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. The reason was simple—he lied his way into this country. Li spent three years appealing that order, and finally succeeded in June, 2016.
“I was really relieved. I was not worrying about myself to be honest. I was worrying about my mom,” Li told Polestar News. Li said his mom didn’t know that his immigration status was in jeopardy and he was glad that he didn’t have to tell her and upset her.
Li, 34, is one of 29 international students who were caught staging fake marriages to immigrate to the country. He was 21 years old when he got married in Canada. Unlike most of the other 29 international students, Li was lucky enough to overturn his removal order.
The judge allowed the appeal for humanitarian and compassionate reasons.
Li has been devoted to giving back to society since he obtained his permanent resident status. He worked full-time as a translator and a settlement worker. His boss, the executive director of the Prince Edward Island Newcomers’ Association, came to Halifax to testify on his behalf, saying that Li was an important employee for the agency and that he had always been helpful to his colleagues.
“I find that all of these things are very positive factors that weigh strongly in favour of allowing the appeal. The appellant has invested a lot in the local community where he (has) live(d) since 2004,” the decision reads.
However, all the good behavior afterward doesn’t change the fact that Li broke the law.
“My family wasn’t very rich and the international student fee is pretty high…I wanted to support myself,” Li said in explaining why he married someone he didn’t love and didn’t know.
Didn’t Mean to Hurt Anyone
He said that back in 2003 when he came to Canada as an international student, the law didn’t allow international students to work at all. Now most international students in Canada can work up to 20 hours per week during school terms and full-time during holidays.
Although Li is now a regulated Canadian immigration consultant who is thoroughly familiar with the immigration law, Li said back then he didn’t realize how seriously wrong his action was.
“I know I did wrong. I didn’t know the consequences at the time. My intention was not to hurt anybody. I wasn’t even trying to take advantage of the system,” Li said.
James Morton worked as a lawyer on a judicial review for one of 29 international students who lost their immigration status because of similar marriage frauds. Morton has been practicing law for 13 years and is experienced with the federal court appeals.
Morton says it is quite tempting to “take a short cut,” but it is best not to do it.
“The recommendation I make to people is to not do it. In other words, to follow the rules in a complete way… because it can come back to haunt you,” Morton said.
Li says there is much less chance that students today will make the same mistake that he did.
“It’s different generation now…there are more ways to stay in Canada than before so I guess that’s why people are not looking into those (options) anymore.”
Morton also commented on the inhuman side of the law.
“You see someone who’s come to Canada, who’s put down roots, who’s got friends and family and who’s part of the community being removed. It’s difficult.”