I recently watched a documentary about Canadians who had been used by someone they fell in love with to gain Canadian citizenship. There was one story that was particularly touching: this Canadian woman had really immersed herself in her spouse’s country and culture, having her wedding there with very few of her family in attendance. Soon after they were reunited in Canada she found out that the guy had recently (if I’m not mistaken) fathered a child with one of the women she had become close to during her visits to her spouse’s home country, something he had not disclosed to her. I think he knew about the child but hadn’t disclosed the information on his application forms (the Canadian government requires you to declare your family members if you’re immigrating to Canada or coming here to study). I missed the first part of the show so there may have been other things too. Anyway you could tell that she was heartbroken over the way things had turned out and she still loved him, even as she was trying to get him deported.
You may be aware of people who marry citizens of the country they desire to gain citizenship to under false pretenses then divorce when they have what they want. In some cases the fraudster is already engaged or married to someone else, a fact they keep hidden from the person they are marrying, which just leads to more heartache in the end. Though the documentary focused on the couples being from different cultures, there were also examples of people of the same culture, one a Canadian citizen, the other not, where the Canadian had been defrauded.
(There is another group that makes a business transaction to exchange citizenship for money and that’s not what I’m talking about, though I suspect most governments don’t want to know that’s taking place.)
In Canada, once you marry someone you can file the application to bring them to the country as a permanent resident. The only thing a permanent resident can’t do is vote (as far as I know…). As the sponsor, you are obligated to support your spouse for the first three years he or she is in Canada. This doesn’t mean they can’t get a job (they can apply for the majority of jobs except those reserved for citizens) but this three-year rule is in place to encourage the Canadian citizen to “shine their eyes well” as Nigerians say: if your spouse decides not to work and to instead depend on the government for financial support, they can. The government will pay them what they qualify for…and send the bill directly to you. So if you get involved with a fraudster it could cost you more than the emotional pain of a terminated relationship: it could hit you hard in the pocketbook.
You can divorce your fraudster spouse but you’re still financially responsible for them as long as they’re in the country if they decide to collect welfare. You could try to get them deported but a lawyer in the documentary said it’s pretty much impossible to do that unless the person does something that Canada determines to be requiring deportation (lying to you or collecting government assistance won’t do it). As a result, these defrauded folks feel betrayed by their country too.
Those who have been defrauded have suggested that the Canadian government revisit its policy of giving permanent residency to spouses so that if things don’t work out, it will be easier to remove the fraudster from Canada and also eliminate the situation where the pseudo-spouse can collect government benefits at the expense of the Canadian. Instead they think a two or three year temporary resident visa would suffice, in effect putting the spouse on probation. Following this time, the person could apply for permanent residency, perhaps through an expedited process, as a reward for “good behaviour.”
I like this idea personally. I know it’s annoying to have a temporary status in a country and to be limited in what you can or can’t do as a result. It’s got to be annoying too to have to always make sure your documents are up to date but those who come to study manage to do it. If students decide to remain in the country after their studies, I hope they go through the proper channels to make that a reality. Some employers might be wary of hiring someone with a temporary status in the country but hopefully those would be rare cases. It’s a shame that we always have to make rules more stringent rules to accommodate the minority that is prone to exploiting situations but that’s just the way it is.
What are your thoughts? Do you know of other countries where the temporary resident thing is in place?