When a marriage falls apart it can be heartbreaking for all involved. However, when a marriage to a sponsored spouse falls apart, it can involve more than just the emotional, and yes financial, pain typical of separation and divorce.
It may sometimes involve what is called sponsorship fraud.
If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who has been abandoned by your sponsored spouse, you may find yourself wondering if more than just a failed marriage was involved. You might ask yourself: did you get tricked into entering a marriage of convenience? Rather than having found the partner of your dreams on a sunny beach, are you instead a victim of a marriage of convenience?
In this tutorial we’re going to help you answer that question and find out what you can do about it and how to prevent it happening in the first place.
Step 1: Keeping Your Marriage in Perspective
The first thing you should realize is that more than likely you are NOT a victim of spousal sponsorship fraud who’s been tragically lured into a sham marriage. Divorce rates for marriage in general nowadays are high. It’s not a pleasant fact but it is a hard, cold statistical reality. And yes, divorce rates for sponsored marriages can be quite high as well, sometimes even higher than the average rate.
Let’s consider the evidence. Here are divorce rates (in general) for some of the top and lowest countries in the world.
The difference between so-called Western societies and other societies around the world when it comes to divorce is dramatic. While divorce rates vary widely from country to country the difference between rates in Canada and in India, for example, are enormous. This is clearly a reflection of differences in cultural perspectives regarding the institution of marriage.
Imagine bringing a sponsored spouse from Hyderabad, India to Toronto, and having them adapt to life in Canada, especially views on relationships and marriage. You may of course end up having a solid and wonderful marriage. However, you may also find they have great difficulty when they are surrounded by views other than what they are used to. Could this affect your marriage? Could this make your sponsored spouse doubt their choosing to get married? Yes, it can.
Is that marriage fraud if they change their mind?
No. It is not.
Now in fact, the NRI (Non-resident Indian) community is well-established around the world and the overwhelming majority understands perfectly that coming to live in a new country means adapting to a different culture, a culture they are already reasonably familiar with through family, friends, and acquaintances who have lived happily and successfully in Canada for generations. But sometimes our above scenario can happen.
Again, changing your mind and wanting to separate because of cultural differences is not marriage fraud.
So, keeping this in mind, if you genuinely believe there is good reason to suspect that your sponsored spouse planned on leaving you all along and just used you to immigrate to Canada, what can you do?
Step 2: Who do I Report Marriage Fraud to?
You can start by calling Canada Border Service Agency’s (CBSA) Border Watch Toll-free Line found here.
The number in Canada (or the USA) is 1-888-502-9060.
The information you give will be confidential, so you don’t have to give your name and personal data. However, this operates more like what is called a snitch line and you will need to do much more than that to follow up on your claim of fraud.
Please do not think that you can make a phone call and within a few weeks your sponsored (ex) spouse will be deported. Not a chance, sorry. In fact, in most cases DON’T start by phoning up the CBSA fraud line without having a well-thought-out plan.
This is where you start thinking about getting legal help.
Regardless, if you do decide to call the CBSA number listed above, you should have the following information written down so you can effectively and efficiently communicate the relevant information:
Regardless, if you do decide to call the CBSA number listed above, you should have the following information written down so you can effectively and efficiently communicate the relevant information:
- Name of your sponsored spouse.
- Their age and a physical description.
- A brief list of facts (that you will put together in your affidavit in more detail as we explain in the next chapter) that state how they committed marriage fraud.
- This includes when and where as well as what they did to make you believe they committed marriage fraud.
Tip: DO NOT MAKE THE CALL, YET!
One big shortcoming you must recognize is that you are emotionally compromised. Yes, in fact you are, and it will come through when communicating with different departments, as sure as you may be that you have been used by your spouse.
While the law is interested in facts, you, however, will end up bring emotional baggage to the conversation. The worst thing you can do right now is end up using this opportunity as a therapy session. On the other hand, it can also be to your advantage that your anger and resentment will come through, dramatically decreasing your credibility.
So only dive into the process of registering a complaint on your own if you really don’t care if it has an impact towards your case. In other words, when you just want to get it off your chest and then try to put it all behind you.
However, if you want to get results, here are two workable solutions:
- Ask for help from the smartest person in your phonebook, and get them to take over all that thinking and planning that your emotionally charged mind has been trying to handle.
- Book a consultation with a professional. At this meeting, you both will get to know each other and come up with a realistic gameplan.
There are also places like the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre (GTEC) run by the CBSA and located at 6900 Airport Rd, Mississauga, Ontario, right next to Pearson International Airport. However, this is where people accused of immigration violations or other illegal activities are sent and begin the process to be deported.
We DO NOT recommend starting at the GTEC in order to announce claim of marriage fraud
Frankly, if you just show up at GTEC and start ranting about your spouse, you could find yourself sitting in a room with a couple of CBSA officers deciding if you are the suspect.
Before you do anything like this, or even call the CBSA number listed above, we highly recommend you get legal help. Whether a lawyer experienced in marriage law and/or immigration law or an immigration consultant who might also work with lawyers, you really need someone to guide you step by step and inform you about the process before you begin to put together a plan.
Where might a lawyer or consultant have you start?
Step 3: What do I have to do to prove Marriage Fraud?
Usually you have to show pre-meditated intention on the part of the sponsored spouse to use the marriage and accompanying sponsorship in order to gain permanent residence (and presumably citizenship) in Canada. We’ll get into the details of how to do that later, but please be aware that it is never easy to prove this.
|Reason for Divorce||Percentage of Divorces|
Look at the top 3 reasons for divorces across a number of countries. Remember, of course, that these statistics often use surveys to compile at least part of their data, so there is subjectivity here. However, you can clearly see that nearly half of divorces fall under what in legal terms are called no-fault divorces.
In Canada, however, there is another key factor that is related to incompatibility and that is financial problems: A BMO Bank Survey in Canada showed financial problems as an aggravating factor and even a main factor in just over two thirds of all divorces. A spouse coming to Canada might not realize how competitive the economic environment is here and how hard you have to work at buying a house in large cities like Vancouver or Toronto, for example.
So, the sponsored spouse’s financial disappointment is something that can easily play into their decision to leave the marriage. But again, that is not marriage fraud and really no one’s fault.
In other words, in a no-fault divorce there is no specific blame towards either partner in the marriage. It’s a case of no longer being able to co-exist for any number of possible factors, often but not always financial ones. That is, it’s a case of incompatibility. So, you may very well find that authorities decide that your sponsored spouse left you because of nothing more than incompatibility – something understandable when the sponsored spouse is also adapting to what may be a very different culture from what they’re used to.
So how to convince authorities that there was intent to commit marriage fraud?
Let’s look at the third reason in our table: infidelity.
This is something that is often a key factor in marriage fraud. However, you need to prove much more than infidelity. You need to convince the authorities that the infidelity is part of a larger pattern of intentionally using the marriage to get to Canada, after which they quickly leave you to start a relationship with someone else. Someone they may have planned to do previously.
Step 4: Where do I start with a sponsorship fraud report? Affidavits
You have to understand something very important that maybe you don’t realize when you’re dealing with the anger and shock at having a marriage fail and feeling it is due to spousal sponsorship fraud. What you will now be attempting is to reverse the process of spousal sponsorship.
In other words, you are now trying to unwind the decision-making process of immigration authorities that led them to approve your sponsorship in the first place and put that prized Permanent Resident Visa in your sponsored spouse’s passport.
All that evidence – messages on social media, wedding photographs, emails, letters, travels together you may have taken, marriage certificates, registration of marriage, letters of support, shared bank accounts, leases, etc. - now has to be ignored OR viewed in a negative light by authorities in order for them to decide against the spouse and the validity of the marriage.
Because that is now your goal, to have the sponsorship declared invalid due to fraud and have your sponsored (ex)spouse deported from Canada.
And you have to do so without implicating yourself as a willing participant in the scheme who would then be liable for criminal charges and fines and even some jail time in extreme cases.
This means you should try to show that the fraud had been planned before they even left their home country to join you in Canada, and perhaps before they even met you.
What you’re going to need is a detailed Affidavit.
An affidavit is a sworn statement of facts that has been written down and sworn to by you (the affiant) before a person authorized to administer oaths in Canada. For example, a commissioner of oaths or a notary public in Canada would have you swear to the written affidavit.
Here’s what your affidavit should contain:
- A list of facts that you personally know of and that are relevant to the proceedings (in this case, an examination of whether there was marriage fraud on the part of your sponsored spouse).
- The facts should be organized in numbered clauses with each clause only containing one or two ideas at most. They should be written in simple, easy to understand but complete sentences.
- They must convey the relevant facts clearly and support your accusation of fraud.
- Be as precise as possible with the DATES involved. This will be key. What did you observe and when, and how does this fact show fraud? When a sponsored spouse for example begins to engage in an intimate relationship with someone else is important in determining if there was fraudulent intent from the start.
- Make sure you clearly state WHO said or did what as well as when.
- Social media printouts of screenshots for example can prove helpful.
And of course, you should think carefully about having a lawyer or immigration consultant who specializes in marriage review your affidavit and even help you put it together.
Here’s a tip: Before hiring an immigration firm, check out their website. If it’s confusing or lacks the information you need, come see us at Immigroup. We think of everything!
Step 5: Why it is Tough to Convince IRCC of Marriage Fraud
Another jagged little pill you have to swallow is the reality that IRCC officials were on the lookout for marriage fraud when you first applied to sponsor your spouse. Reversing a spousal sponsorship is not just admitting that you were duped by a scheming spouse but, more importantly, inferring to IRCC that immigration officials were duped as well.
The problem is that they were on the lookout for marriage fraud all along while you were falling in love and planning your life together with that person.
According to IRPR (Immigration & Refugee Protection Regulations) 4(1):
- 4 (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered a spouse, a common-law partner or a conjugal partner of a person if the marriage, common-law partnership or conjugal partnership
- (a) was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act; or
- (b) is not genuine.
So, it’s clear that officials first looked carefully at the details of your relationship as soon as they began assessing your application to sponsor your spouse. Not only that, IRCC clearly states on their website that the sponsor and any other foreign third party that are deemed to have used the marriage for the purposes of acquiring status or privilege (usually permanent resident status for the spouse but it may also involve other benefits they might obtain from the Canadian government) will result in the marriage being declared invalid.
In other words, anyone linked to the relationship and using the marriage for benefits/privileges from the Canadian government may also very well result in the sponsorship being rejected.
Kerry Abrams, in his review of Marriage Fraud in the California Law Review in 2012 wrote:
Many of these doctrines have developed only recently, as the law has grafted more and more benefits onto marital relationships. As a result, courts have increasingly found themselves playing the role of the "marriage police," trying to determine whether a couple is "really" married or whether, instead, the couple married solely for the extensive benefits attached to marriage. Husbands and wives have also found themselves in the awkward position of trying to demonstrate that they married in good faith by producing documentation of their marriage, such as joint bank accounts and co-owned property, in addition to evidence of a shared life together and even evidence showing that they married for love.
This shows that courts in the USA as well as enforcement agencies like the CBSA have been dealing with marriage fraud as an increasingly central issue in the USA, Canada and elsewhere, and have had to increasingly act like “marriage police.” It’s a broad theme and officials at the IRCC and CBSA have been trained to seek out and detect spousal sponsorship fraud. It’s why the previous administration in Canada inserted a 2-year conditional permanent resident visa for newly arrived spouses. This was dropped in 2017 by the current government, of course.
But you’re insisting they missed the bad faith intentions of your sponsored spouse. You’re insisting the marriage police themselves were fooled.
By now the need for a well-planned strategy to convince authorities that you were honestly duped should be painfully clear.
Finally, how do you know if your strategy has been successful at convincing immigration authorities to take another look at your sponsored spouse?
Simple: If IRCC requested an interview with your spouse, then you’ve at least shown them that the possibility of fraud exists, and they need to find out more. So, this should be a goal of yours when putting together your strategy to report your spouse – getting the IRCC to interview your spouse.
It’s only a first step to getting a deportation order, but at least it’s a start and shows that your sponsored spouse’s file is being reviewed by officials.
Why use Immigroup?
We’re accurate. You can relax, knowing your application is right.
We’re alert. We’ll monitor your application through every step of the process.
We’re advocates. We’ll deal with the government and handle all correspondence on your behalf.
Step 6: What About the Financial Pain of sponsorship fraud?
Notice the headline of this section. If there was fraud, there are two possible scenarios regarding you the sponsor:
- You were fooled by a sponsored spouse into marrying and bringing them to live with you in Canada under permanent resident status, OR
- You were a willing participant in a case of immigration fraud.
As insulting as it might seem to you as you try to get your mind around the fact that you were duped by your spouse, you have to realize that immigration authorities will often look at the possibility that you participated in marriage fraud – assuming they deem your spouse to have used marriage and sponsorship to obtain permanent residence status in Canada.
Consider the following scenario:
- You and your first wife (both born abroad say in China) decide to divorce after 12 years of marriage. You’re both Canadian citizens by naturalization.
- On a business trip back to China you meet someone and begin a relationship that ends with a marriage proposal being accepted and a marriage in China.
- You’ve both been married before and are under no illusions about how much work it takes to keep a marriage going.
- After a year and a half, you both mutually decide to separate and divorce. You end the marriage on fairly friendly terms.
- Over a year later, you find your second spouse had been cheating on you with one of your former business partners and suddenly you feel betrayed and angry, especially when she marries your former business partner.
- You feel overrun by doubts about their true intentions and after brooding for a few weeks, you decide to file a complaint and accuse your ex sponsored spouse of marriage fraud.
- As well, you previously filed a lawsuit against your former business partner alleging they financially cheated you – this was before you realized your sponsored spouse had been unfaithful with him.
- In your anger, you file a hasty and poorly-put-together affidavit against your ex sponsored spouse that gets some of the key dates wrong.
Now, ask yourself this question: how innocent do you think you look to an immigration official? You would have to admit that they very well could view you as a jilted husband who participated in an immigration fraud and then tried to hit back at his business partner to avenge financial losses.
You might even find yourself being interviewed before your sponsored spouse is interviewed. And you realize you now have to prove you weren’t an active participant but rather a victim of marriage fraud. To do that you have to prove that your divorce was a run-of-the-mill soap opera that happened to involve people who immigrated to Canada while also proving that your spouse’s affair with and marriage to your former business partner were part of a deliberate scheme to defraud immigration authorities and to use you to achieve that.
While this is a very elaborate and very unusual scenario, it does point out the grey areas between deliberate fraudulent behavior and behavior that has nothing to do with the validity of your sponsorship. And in this unusual scenario, immigration officials might have to take a little time and do a little digging to find out if you were a victim or a participant.
Taking this a step further, let’s say it was in fact a sham marriage agreed to by both you and your sponsored spouse. It subsequently got ugly because of a dispute with a business partner and the supposed cheating was hardly cheating seeing it was a marriage used for immigration purposes and nothing more. Now under this scenario, suppose that you end up being charged with immigration fraud.
What can happen to you if you’re accused of immigration fraud?
- You can be fined up to CAD$100,000.
- You can even face jail time of up to 5 years.
In other words, you could lose your home (paying legal bills and the fines), you could lose your business or job (jail time tends to do that) and find yourself with a criminal record. Admittedly, this is a very extreme scenario we present in order to make a couple of points.
- If you’re going to file a complaint, do it as clearly and convincingly as possible.
- If you’re going to deliberately engage in marriage fraud, you risk ruining your life and those of others as well.
Step 7: Access and to Information Requests and Prevention
If your marriage fraud complaint is denied you won’t be given the reasons why. Unfortunately, the best option you may have is to find out why IRCC decided your marriage breakdown did not involve fraud is to file an Access to Information Request to IRCC. To do this, go here to file an online request. You’ll need the following:
- A valid Credit Card (Visa, Master Card or American Express) or Canadian Debit Card to pay the $5.00 fee for filing, and
- Proof of Canadian citizenship (a passport for example) OR proof of permanent resident status (a permanent resident card for example), and
- If filing on behalf of someone else, form IMM5744 – Consent for an Access to Information and Personal Information Request.
You will be asked a series of questions in sequence which you have to answer in one session. You cannot save information and you cannot use the forward and back buttons in your browser. Doing so will delete what you have entered. At the end of the questions, you’ll be shown a document checklist. You will then have to scan and upload those scanned images in the same session. Have any documents you may need handy.
Step 8: Be on the Lookout For Marriage Fraud
Of course, prevention is always preferable to seeking recourse. So, how can you as a sponsor be on the lookout for possible marriage fraud?
- Get a prenuptial agreement and have your sponsored spouse sign it.
- Set up separate bank accounts.
- Set up separate investment accounts.
- File separate tax returns.
But as well, you should always be on the alert for warning signs that someone might be using you to immigrate to Canada rather than being genuinely interested in marriage with you.
Here are some signs that your potential spouse may in fact be a fraud:
- Do they display a lack of interest in sharing the details of their lives and culture with you?
- Do you always end up meeting the same couple of people when they take you out rather than meeting different people from their work or friendships?
- And do they delay and make excuses when you ask to meet family members?
- Does the person become reluctant to introduce you as their spouse or to-be spouse?
- Do you find they make excuses to suddenly disappear and not be with you?
- Do you notice that their friends and acquaintances don’t pry and ask curious questions about whom you are and your life in Canada?
- Does it ever slip from someone’s mouth that your soon-to-be spouse is leaving their home country for a reason other than marriage to you?
- Do you find that when you finally get to meet their family, they act as if they’ve known you all along? Maybe they’re just being gracious. Or maybe they have a script to follow.
- Does your spouse’s personality change when you get to Canada? Do they become more demanding?
- Do they suddenly run into an old friend they thought was not living in Canada?
- Do they continually pester you about when they’ll have all their documentation (permanent resident cards for example)?
- Does their need for intimacy suddenly lessen when you are both in Canada?
- Do they engage in behavior typical of a cheating spouse? Hanging up the phone when you enter a room. Being defensive when you ask where they were during the day.
We all need to believe that there is someone who we can build a life together with. But sometimes, you have to be careful that your dream partner isn’t a fraudster looking for a sham marriage who’s in fact manipulating those needs of yours.
Immigroup offers several services when it comes to the issue of marriage fraud and sponsorship. But before you jump headfirst into one of our services, we ask all our clients to first set up a paid consultation with a licensed immigration practitioner.
Licensed immigration consultant: The cost of this service is $225 + Tax.
What this meeting will provide to you is the following:
- Your consultant will get to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and communicate clearly to you what they are.
- A game plan will be put together on how to proceed.
- Cost and timelines will be discussed.