Spousal Permanent Residence

Conditional status removed

This is good news for sponsors and their spouses. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed in late April  2017 that the period of conditional permanent residency, imposed since October 2012, on sponsored spouses and partners has now been removed.  All spouses and partners, upon landing will now have full permanent residency status.

In October 2016, the  current government  in its Forward Regulatory Plan resolved to change this condition in the spring of 2017.  Many of our clients have been asking about the changes that we first talked about in an earlier article on this website  Silly Spousal Sponsorship Rule. We are happy to report that this change is now in force.

Initially the last government, in its effort to address the problem of fraudulent marriages to achieve immigration status and  non-genuine marriages of convenience, imposed a two-year conditional permanent resident status on all sponsored spouses and partners. This condition. to the degree that it was ineffective as a deterrent or not, also  gave rise to situations of domestic abuse from which vulnerable partners remained trapped for the duration of the condition, for fear of losing their residency.  Although there were exit clauses written into permanent residency conditions to protect  spouses and partners from staying in volatile and abusive relationships, victims continued to endure the harsh conditions rather than risk losing their status. By removing this condition from all sponsored spouses and partners upon landing, there is now a  greater chance of individuals facing  physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse at the hands of their partners, of confidently seeking safety and help outside of their home.

Commitment to family reunification

This change means Canada has reinforced its commitment to family reunification under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). It represents a more humane approach to spousal applications, while also embracing gender equality.  Canada will protect  vulnerable spouses and partners from  willful neglect and gender-based abuse.  For foreign nationals sponsored as spouses and partners, repeal of the permanent residency condition indicates a level of trust that the family-class immigration program applicants are assumed to be honest and trustworthy. The change recognizes that people are overwhelmingly involved in genuine relationships, and are interested in coming to Canada to be honestly reunited with their loved ones for a better life.

One can, however, expect  visa officers to be as vigilant and as thorough as ever in ensuring that the small percentage of  phony spousal applications by unscrupulous individuals are quickly identified, and summarily tossed out.

Silly Spousal Sponsorship Rule

Fear, ignorance and perception: welcome rule changes

Since 2012, Family Class immigrants sponsored by their Canadian spouses were obliged to live with their spouses (if they have no children together) for two years, under a conditional agreement undertaken at the time of acquiring permanent residence status. In what was supposedly an attempt by the former government to put an end to fraudulent marriages, then Minister of Citizenship Jason Kenny, slammed on the brakes.

“The jig is up on marriage fraud”, he declared. It was nothing more than a selfish move by a hateful system to force couples to “prove” that their relationship was genuine, with little thought for the human lives that would be affected. It gave rise to an oppressed existence for some extremely vulnerable individuals, the majority of whom were female.

The conditional PR rule kept couples firmly entrenched in cruel domestic conditions and abusive relationships, and drove fear into their hearts of ensuing consequences, should they leave their relationships.

Now that there is a proposed plan to repeal this rule in the spring, it brings to light the underlying assumption that most reasonable people make: that individuals enter into marital relationships with sincerity and good intentions. However, just like life itself, you never know what’s in store for you. Love and marriage, supposedly going together like a horse and carriage, but where sadly, some overzealous circumstance places the carriage before the horse, stuff happens.

Everyone knows that being in love or having known each other for several months or years does not guarantee a successful marriage. Thus, when there is a breakdown, or when there is abuse or violence in a marital relationship, there should be no impediment to seeking protection, safety and a complete dissolution of the marriage.  The conditional PR was an impediment for many sponsored spouses. Government statistics from 2013 to 2015 indicate that 58,218 spouses and partners, along with their dependants, were given conditional permanent resident status in Canada.  Seventy five percent of those who knew about, and applied for an exception to this rule, were women. Approvals were granted to 205 of the 260 cases, representing 79 percent of those that received a decision by IRCC.

In many cultures, arranged marriages are the order of the day. Match makers are highly revered, whether it is an esteemed auntie or the local self-appointed matchmaker who knows every body’s business. And the vast majority of these marriages often work beautifully. So why should unreasonable and illogical assumptions drive policy-making in Canada?

Will this repeal of the rule then give way to a system that will be fraught with irregularities, scheming applicants and a complete breakdown of integrity? Let’s give the government the benefit of the doubt on this for now, and remember, this is a different government. Here are the safeguards:

  • The rules that apply to a spouse who comes to Canada and then leaves the marital relationship soon therefter will still be enforced. Such sponsored spouses will not be able to sponsor a spouse until after five years of having become a permanent resident irrespective of having acquired citizenship;
  • As well, if it is found that misrepresentation or deception with an intent to acquire status was at play, then the government has the right to revoke such status under Section 40 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

At the end of the day, what has been achieved? Not much in the way of ascertaining whether or not marriages are genuine. But it can be reasonably assumed that because of this silly rule, many sponsored spouses stayed with their abusers for fear of losing their status.  Sadly, these newcomers started off their lives in Canada feeling helpless without information about possible remedies, with a perception of having been been horribly let down by everyone. Hopefully, not any more.