The government of Canada has announced that amendments have been made to regulations regarding spousal sponsorship. These amendments apply to all permanent and temporary immigration programs.
Minimum age of eligibility
The first change announced to be mentioned is raising the age eligibility for spousal or common-law partner sponsorship from 16 to 18 years of age. As of June 10, 2015, individuals applying to immigrate to Canada as a spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian permanent resident or citizen must be at least 18 years old in order to be considered eligible. This new regulation was put in place in an effort to protect women and girls from forced marriages.
There are two explicit exceptions to this amendment:
Spouses and common-law partners under 18 who are still dependent on their parents: rather than being considered a spouse, these individuals will be considered dependent children and/or de facto family members and can be sponsored as such.
Spouses and common-law partners under 18 who are in refugee camps: these individuals can be considered de facto dependents, or may be considered on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Officers will assess these applicants on a case-by-case basis, offering flexibility and sensitivity to vulnerable applicants.
Proxy, telephone, fax, internet, or similar marriages
The second amendment makes proxy, telephone, fax, internet, or similar marriages inadequate for spousal sponsorship. A proxy marriage is one in which either one or both individuals are not physically present at the marriage ceremony.
Prior to this amendment, any proxy, telephone, fax, or internet marriage was considered acceptable for immigration purposes as long as the marriage was valid in the country in which it took place. they are not considered legally valid in Canada.
Again, there are exceptions to this amendment:
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces: if an individual was not physically present during the marriage ceremony because of travel due to his or her service in the Canadian Armed Forces, the marriage may still be considered valid.
Common-law partners: if the marriage is considered an “excluded relationship” but the individual qualifies as a common-law partner, the application will continue to be processed under the relationship status category of common-law partner rather than spouse.
Humanitarian and compassionate considerations: in certain cases, if an individual’s safety and/or wellbeing are at risk, officers will be sensitive and flexible with the new regulations.
Five-year sponsorship bar
The third and final amendment was made to the five-year sponsorship bar for persons who were previously sponsored to come to Canada as a spouse or common-law partner.
Since these amendments came into force on June 10, 2015, they apply only to applications received on or after this date, whereas applications received prior to June 10 will be processed under the previous regulations.