June 22, 2015
Changes to Spousal Sponsorship Eligibility
Recent amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations came into force on 10 June 2015. These changes affect who is considered to be a spouse or common law partner. For sponsorship applications filed on or before 10 June 2015, the old rules will continue to apply.
From 11 June 2015 forwards, the foreign national spouse, common law, or conjugal partner is required to be at least 18 years old in order to be sponsored to Canada. Prior to this amendment, the age was 16. In explaining the reason for the change in policy, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has advised that this policy is intended to protect children from entering into forced marriages. As the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as being individuals under the age of 18, the Regulations were amended to account for this definition.
A marriage that was entered into when the foreign national spouse was under the age of 18 will not be an invalid marriage, if it is valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction in which it took place and under Canadian law. However, the sponsorship application cannot be filed until the foreign national spouse turns 18 years old.
Also from 11 June 2015 onwards, proxy marriages will no longer be eligible marriages within a sponsorship application (except for members of the Canadian Forces). A proxy marriage is a marriage that is entered into when one or both parties are not physically present at the marriage ceremony, as for example by having a family member stand in his or her place or by having the ceremony conducted by telephone or over skype. Citizenship and Immigration Canada explained the reason for this change as one which is to help ensure that both parties to the marriage have consented to the union.
If a marriage was entered into by proxy, it will be important to highlight whether the union may also be defined as a “common law relationship” as this may allow the sponsorship application to proceed. A common law relationship is one where the couple has cohabited in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. If the couple meet the requirements for being in a common-law relationship, then this would allow processing to continue on the application.
As the intention of the prohibition against proxy marriages is to protect against forced marriages and to help ensure that both parties have consented to the union, humanitarian and compassionate considerations can be considered to overcome this new rule. If the relationship is a genuine one, this can be considered by officers even where the marriage was entered into by proxy.
For more information on and assistance with sponsorship applications, please contact us.