On marrying for papers

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?

24 thoughts on “On marrying for papers

  1. What about if you are brought over by a spouse that is abusive and you divorce this person, if you are given temporary status, wouldn't that affect your ability to access progammes that could help you get back on your feet? I don't know how Canada works but it is something to consider. Just because of a fee bad eggs, other people should be screwed. You have to look at it from both sides of the equation.

    • (Speaking from the perspective of living in Canada alone): with a temporary status you could still work and many shelters and support services for abused folk (women mostly) and their families (if applicable) are not government run so you'd still qualify for those. I do see where you're coming from though: despite being careful, it is still possible to get into the situation you describe and certainly in the situation where the person who brought you to the new country is abusive, they deserve to pay, but honestly I keep hearing of this fraud and it just makes me that the situation where someone is brought to a new country, is abused and then forced to divorce is rarer than the folks who unknowingly enter a marriage that is false on the part of the defrauder.

    • I did some digging and it was fruitful! The show was called True Love or Marriage Fraud? The Price of Heartache and it first aired on Monday, November 15, 10pmET / 7&10pmPT on CBC News Network’s The Passionate Eye. I'll do a followup entry on this.

  2. how sad…it's bad enough that the defrauded spouse loses out emotionally, but financially too? I wonder though, how it's possible to date someone for so long, and NOT find ANY traces/signs of deceit or inconsistency, end up marrying that person, only to discover it's all been a lie.
    I think I support the temporary visa status idea…if you married the citizen for true love, you shouldn't really mind.
    Interesting Post GNG.

    • I've heard that in many of these marriages, the relationship has not been going on very long. Some are kind of like that movie/book, How Stella got her Groove Back, others are pen pal/e-bride/groom marriages and yet others are traditional arranged marriages made by Canadian citizens and someone back in the "old country."

    • I wonder though, how it's possible to date someone for so long, and NOT find ANY traces/signs of deceit or inconsistency, end up marrying that person, only to discover it's all been a lie.

      I kind of agree, but then you hear of it happening so I don't know! Maybe some people aren't dating long enough for these things to manifest themselves.

  3. I honestly cannot support the temp status. If you love someone enough to marry them, I don't think you should mind too much even when you guys are no longer together that you gave them a better chance at life. But it would make sense for the government to remove the clause on the citizen footing the bill of the spouse, even after divorce.

    • I don't think the people mind helping their partner from the point of view of allowing them to have the permanent residency status, it's more being financially responsible for them part that's tough to handle, especially in cases where you're defrauded. It's one thing for you to have an amicable separation and go your separate ways, or to have an agreement of a marriage of convenience (which I personally don't agree with but at least it's an agreement), but when your "marriage" is hellish or worse, false, and on top of that the person who made your life miserable gets to stay in the country AND you have to support him or her if they decide to go on welfare? That's the part I find hard to swallow.

      Your comment was great food for thought…thank you.

  4. This is very common in the UK and US. A lot of Nigerians are guilty of this.

    As for Justdoyin’s comment, dating someone long enough to find our inconsistency doesn’t cut it. Even in the same city! You will only know what the partner wants you to know, unless you stumble across information or follow up on a suspicion that pans out to a revelation.

    Good luck to all the people in this situation.

    • it's so scary to me that you could live in the same city or country as someone and not know these details. Do you think the length of the relationship prior to marriage makes a difference?

  5. oh i didnt know about this clause wit spouses, thats so not fair, one has to be very careful then

  6. well, people actually defraud people so and it is sad and bad

    However, my uncle recently paid about 10 million naira to a Canadian woman for a false marriage for papers. While i don’t subscribe to this form of desperation, it is actually better than deceiving innocent women

    • I don't support marriage for papers but I do at least like that the agreement is upfront and not meant to deceive the other party…I'm in full agreement with you in that regard.

  7. It's sad, but this things happen. We just pray that we or someone close to us do not fall into this type of situation. I think it is a wonderful idea too.

  8. I've heard so many stories like this one. I know that people get desperate and go into things, just for their papers, but I have never been, and will never be in support of marrying someone for papers (when the person doesn't know). It's very malicious.

  9. Deceiving people by pretending to love them because you want papers is a very bad thing. I agree with the writer that said a long term relationship is a way of avoiding this kinda fraud. Why it may a foolproof solution, it would however go a long way helping because you would definately see traces of deceit one way or the other.

  10. Let me just say that people marry nowadays for all sorts of reasons, immigration or 'papers' happens to be one of them. More often when issues like this are discussed, we only get to hear one side of the story. There are numerous cases where the spouse on a temporary visa is forced to live in emotional torture from their partner during the period of waiting for permanent residency. There are also incidences where they're subjected to all sorts of threats of not supporting their permanent residence application whenever there is a misunderstanding in the relationship.

    You may also like to know that even in Nigeria there are numerous stories of people keeping secret of their past from their partner, for example a child from a previous relationship; or sometimes a failed marriage. But unfortunately, a secret something known by one person alone and so by one way or another years into the marriage the cat is let out of the bag and many marriages are destroyed in this way.

    My point is that this issue is not just peculiar to marriages that rely on visa or papers but more of an issue when people marry for reasons other than love.

  11. i havent read the other comments but this temporary status kinda already exists in the UK with different terms – you can still work etc. I guess enuff fradusters have shown them well well. And i am with you. It makes sense

  12. wow things happen, i could never wish anyone to be in such a situation, but these kind of things happen in many other countries, its pathetic

  13. If I’m resident of the philippines then currently working and living in singapore for a years, then,i applied for a tourist visa to canada and it’s already approved,and i have girlfriend (were same woman) were going to meet each other in canada,she is already u.s citizen ,we meet each other in canada for pleasure,my FIRST question is WE ALREADY HERE IN CANADA,i wonder if there is a possibilty to we got marry each other here,even were not a canada citezen,if yes,how long it take the processing,if no,what can we do,to get marry here right away because we have a three weeks to stay here,and my SECOND question is,CAN i straight GO TO IN CALFORNIA after our vacation here in canada ,can i use this visa canada to go california and stay there for good thanks. .i will wait to your response,asap, thanks

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