What happens if sponsored marriage gets sour

Love hurts sometimes. Literally.

Imagine the following quite probable situation. Lena lives in Russia, and while looking for an exit to a better life, she finds David, a Vancouver native, online. They exchange a number of emails or talk via Skype. Lena's English is poor, but she's obviously smart and very attractive. They really begin to hit it off. David books a flight to Russia, excited to visit the remote small town where Lena lives. They meet, the attraction is confirmed offline; David pays for a week-long vacation in Saint Petersburg, Russia's cultural capital. Things are going great, other plans begin to emerge and conversations about Lena's eventual move to Canada swirl in the air. Life is good, and about to get better.


LyndaSanchez / Foter.com / CC BY-SA


Question 1: How can David bring Lena to Canada?

AnswerAs a Canadian citizen, David has the right to sponsor Lena to come to live in Canada. The sponsorship is nothing more than an agreement between David (the sponsor) and the Canadian government that he will financially support Lena (the applicant) for 3 years, until she becomes a permanent resident. Here are some of David's options:

  • Bring Lena as his fiancee. The Canadian government may not permit him to sponsor his fiancee unless David qualifies as a conjugal or common-law partner. This particular way is especially complicated, so initial contact with a Canadian immigration services company is essential.
  • Bring Lena as a common-law partner. In this case, the couple has to prove that it has lived in a conjugal relationship for 12 months without interruption; that it has a household together and they must provide any other proof of a mutual life. The common-law partner can be of the same or the opposite sex.
  • Bring Lena as a conjugal partner. In this situation, the authorities will want to see a solid proof of commitment on both sides to show that the relationship is not only physical. That proof may include, but is not limited to, joint bank accounts, owning a property together, etc. It should be mentioned, however, that this type of sponsorship works when the partners have not been able to live together due to immigration constraints, current marital status (if the applicant is married to someone else in their native country or is waiting for the divorce to be finalized), or sexual orientation. If the partners could have lived together, but decided not to, then the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will begin to question their level of commitment.

During that period, however, the sponsored partner has the same rights and benefits as other permanent residents. They can work and study without a permit; they will pay equal tuition fees at colleges and universities; they will be entitled to health coverage and social benefits; they can travel outside Canada and re-enter without a problem.

If the relationship breaks down before the 3-year period is through, the sponsor still has the same financial obligations towards the sponsored partner.


hang_in_there / Flickr / CC BY

Now, let's go back to our story. We assume that all has gone smoothly for the two birds in love, and Lena is now a sponsored spouse or a partner in Canada. All is fantastic at the beginning, David is caring, helps her get around Vancouver and she even begins evening English classes. Life is good. Then one day, something changes in David's behavior. He becomes easily irritable, restless, verbally abusive at times and often yells at her for no obvious reason. Lena's language barrier is still an obstacle for her to understand what seems to be the problem. He becomes withdrawn and distant, except for the times when he wants sex. And if Lena is unresponsive, he calls her “a Russian slut” and then the slaps, the pushes, and the forced penetration follow. He begins to treat her as an object that stands in his way when he returns home from work. David pays the bills, but aside from that, Lena has no money. He threatens her that if she complains to anybody, he'd have her deported from Canada, or kick her out of the house.

Question 2: If my relationship breaks down, can my sponsor make me leave Canada?

Answer: No. Only the federal immigration authorities decide who has to be deported. Let's be clear about something.  All physical and sexual abuse is a crime in Canada. The abuse can be also psychological or financial, and may be in the form of acts, words or overall neglect.

That said, Lena cannot lose her permanent resident status and be deported only because she has left an abusive partner, even if he is her sponsor


hang_in_there / Flickr / CC BY


Whatever the situation, the help of a lawyer will be needed. Lena should get legal advice about how to recount the abuse that took place which led to the breakdown of the relationship.

It is also good to know that in case of emergency, when the abuse is out of control and threatens someone's life, victims of domestic violence have two options. So Lena can turn to a women's shelter or community legal clinic and request a free two-hour consultation with an immigration lawyer. Or if she had called the police for help, they may direct her to the right legal or humanitarian entities where she can be accommodated.

The truth is that victims of whatever abuse are scared and quite vulnerable in the new country, plus they often don't speak the language. Most feel helpless and trapped, but Canada is an immigrant-friendly land that has set up its system in such a way as to provide help in all kinds of situations should they arise. Seeking proper advice is vital before things get complicated beyond any point of return. The most important thing is not to be afraid.


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