A wedding is such a wonderful thing. You plan it and pull it off and take that crucial step towards building your lives together. And nowadays, there’s so many ways to get married. For example, you can even get married online using a platform like Zoom or Facetime. By the way, did you know that various states in the U.S. accept online weddings?
Too bad that Canada doesn’t consider your online wedding valid, while at the same time currently restricting your ability to travel due to pandemic regulations.
So, are current COVID travel restrictions preventing you from travelling to marry your partner? Are you wondering whether a Zoom Marriage, or a marriage done using Facetime or any other type of online marriage is valid? Or whether using a representative for one of the parties involved is acceptable?
Unfortunately, if you wish to sponsor someone to come to Canada, while an online marriage may be valid in a foreign jurisdiction (like certain states in the U.S. for example), it is NOT considered valid in Canada. Remember, a marriage must be valid and legal in both the foreign jurisdiction and in Canada for it to be acceptable for immigration purposes.
As of July 11, 2015, the IRCC no longer accepts Marriages by Proxy, whether by Facetime, Zoom, email, telephone, fax, or using a Representative. The official reason IRCC gives is that they want to ensure both parties consent to the wedding and that neither party (especially women) is being forced into marriage. However, while early marriages and forced marriages are clearly a concern, the restrictions were also likely put in place to deal with what IRCC calls fraudulent marriages used to gain access to Canada rather than to consolidate a relationship.
So, the question is: how can you deal with this restriction? Let’s look at IRPR, Canada’s immigration regulations.
The Fine Print – What Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has to say.
First, a couple of terms you should know:
Remember, a Proxy Marriage is defined by IRCC as one where one or both members are not physically present and are represented by someone else.
Physically Present is defined as participating in person in the wedding ceremony. Virtual participation does not count.
Let’s now review the regulations that have been in place since July 11, 2015. The following sections of IRPR (Immigration & Refugee Protection Regulations) are the relevant ones:
- Excluded relationships
IRPR 5 For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered
- (c) the spouse of a person if at the time the marriage ceremony was conducted either one or both of the spouses were not physically present unless the person was not physically present at the ceremony as a result of their service as a member of the Canadian Forces and the marriage is valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction where it took place and under Canadian law.
2. Excluded relationships
IRPR 117 (9) A foreign national shall not be considered a member of the family class by virtue of their relationship to a sponsor if
- (c.1) the foreign national is the sponsor’s spouse and if at the time the marriage ceremony was conducted either one or both of the spouses were not physically present unless the foreign national was marrying a person who was not physically present at the ceremony as a result of their service as a member of the Canadian Forces and the marriage is valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction where it took place and under Canadian law;
3. Excluded relationships
IRPR125 (1) A foreign national shall not be considered a member of the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class by virtue of their relationship to the sponsor if
- (c.1) the foreign national is the sponsor’s spouse and if at the time the marriage ceremony was conducted either one or both of the spouses were not physically present unless the foreign national was married to a person who was not physically present at the ceremony as a result of their service as a member of the Canadian Forces and the marriage is valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction where it took place and under Canadian law;
In other words, if you got married by proxy:
- Your foreign spouse is not considered a spouse by IRCC if the marriage was a proxy marriage.
- You cannot apply under the Family class for Sponsorship.
- You cannot apply under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class for sponsorship.
Related Content: Get a free 38 chapter FREE spousal Sponsorship Course.
The Exception to these Restrictions
If the Canadian sponsoring the spouse was serving in the Canadian Military at the time of the wedding and was therefore unable to be physically present at the ceremony, in that case and only in that case, the proxy wedding is acceptable to IRCC.
Some Solutions to virtual marriages
Before attempting a proxy marriage, you need to consider whether you already qualify as a common-law couple. Ask yourself the following:
- Have you lived together for at least 1 year?
- Do you have evidence of so-called co-habitation?
- Bills in both your names listing the same address
- Joint rental agreements or leases
- ID that shows the same address including things like:
- Driver’s licenses
- National Identity Documents
If the answer is yes to these questions, then skip the marriage (as difficult as that may be when having planned the virtual ceremony with family and friends) and apply to sponsor your partner as a common-law partner rather than a spouse.
Not only that, if you do apply to sponsor your partner as a spouse, the IRCC case officer has the option to instead process your application as a common-law sponsorship if they believe that your spouse qualifies as a common-law partner. If they decide to do this, they will send you a request to submit form IMM 5409 Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union as well as any other documentation required for a common-law sponsorship.
As well, immigration officials at the airport (or other Port of Entry) have the option of issuing you a Temporary Resident Permit if they see that you were married by proxy AND they decide you meet the definition of a common-law partner AND you do not have on you supporting documentation (listed above) that shows you lived for at least 1 year with your Canadian/Permanent resident partner. HOWEVER, they may just as easily deny you entry if they have any doubts about your status as a common-law partner and/or spouse.
Related Content: Border Interview Questions – How to deal with CBSA?
Proxy Marriage under Humanitarian & Compassionate Grounds (H&C)
This option is trickier because unlike common-law partners, the deciding factors are not as clear-cut and it’s really up to the IRCC case officer. However, an important point to note is that if you have a child with your partner, officials are required to take into account the best interests of the child (BIOC) and to consider the importance of keeping families united. Unfortunately, some Canadians have had to raise a child by themselves for years with the foreign partner stuck outside Canada for various reasons.
So, if you can get H&C to work for you, great, but you need to keep your expectations in check because it unfortunately does not often work. Nonetheless, it’s an option you can always consider, depending on the specifics of your and your partner’s situation.
1. BIOC – Best Interests of the Child
Here’s what IRCC’s guidelines for their officers say about the best interests of the child (BIOC):
It must be sufficiently clear from the material submitted that an application relies in whole, or at least in part, on this factor. An applicant has the burden of justifying the basis of their H&C submission.
In other words, if you have a child with your foreign partner, then using H&C grounds makes a lot more sense than if you don’t. You will still have to provide sufficient proof to convince an IRCC officer that your case warrants being approved on H&C grounds.
Another key factor is hardship which is linked to any adverse conditions in the applicant’s home country or country of residence. This includes things like: war, natural disasters, unfair treatment of minorities, political instability, lack of employment, or widespread violence.
Please remember that even if one or more of these factors are present in the foreign spouse’s country it does NOT guarantee that your H&C submission will be successful. If the foreign partner has a child with the Canadian/Permanent Resident partner and the child is overseas with them and there are hardship factors, then your odds of success normally go up, but it is never a certain thing. Please remember that.
3. Compelling Circumstances
Finally, there are some cases that may fall under the CIC definition of compelling circumstances. For example, if you can’t travel to be at your wedding due to a medical condition, and you don’t quite have enough time together to qualify as a common-law couple, IRCC officials may take these factors into account to provide an exemption to their exclusion rule for online marriages. In these cases, you may be requested to go to an interview with an IRCC official to help them assess your circumstances to see if you qualify under H&C considerations.
Getting Married in Person
Related Content: How to Prove Single Status for Marriage Abroad?
The most secure solution, unfortunately given current travel restrictions, is to get married overseas in the foreign partner’s country of residence and then sponsor them as a spouse. Of course, you can instead wait in the hope that Canada will change their regulations, but that is a long shot at best and will likely never work out for you.
This means you’re going to have to deal with two problems:
- Dealing with all the travel restrictions and the bureaucratic procedures that are still in place as of December 2021, including new restrictions due to the Omicron variant of COVID.
- Ensuring that you have the necessary documentation to be able to marry in the overseas jurisdiction as well as translating and certifying the marriage certificate and any other paperwork you’ll need to sponsor your spouse.
Despite the hoops you have to jump through to get married abroad and then sponsor your spouse to come to Canada, this is the safest method and the one with the best chances of success. So, if you’re planning a Proxy Wedding using platforms like Zoom or Facetime, you need to change your plans and think about getting married in person, or as second and third best options, trying common-law sponsorship or using H&C grounds to apply.