Is Your Marriage a Sham?

By the time Albertan Surjeet Singh Nahal was on his fifth marriage, he was already on the Federal Court of Canada’s radar. The court decided his latest trip down the aisle was immigration fraud, a sham that failed to meet the test of true marriage. His was just the latest of many. 

Applying for PR Status by Marrying a Canadian

Nahal’s newest wife, an Indian citizen like his previous four, came to Canada on a temporary foreign worker visa in 2012. It expired five years later. By then Gurpreet was married, had applied for permanent residency (PR status) within a month and had a daughter with Nahal.

No PR Status in Fake Marriages

All that was lost when the Federal Court ruled she failed to establish her marriage was real. Nahal’s four divorces were the result of adultery, mental cruelty and financial disagreements. The court was dubious hers was genuine. The sham marriage appeared to be purely for convenience.

Real Love vs. Marriage of Convenience

She said, he said. Who knows what the truth is? Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has seen it all before: foreigners in Canada on temporary visas who meet and “fall in love” with Canadians to get a PR card. 

Faking It for Financial Advantage

Nahal’s partner was all ready in Canada when they met and married. But that’s not the only way potential immigrants get a foothold on Canadian soil. Brief overseas flings that wind up in divorce court shortly after the couple return to Canada are a common ruse. More often than not, the loving spouse simply disappears as soon as they land at Toronto Pearson. Unlike a fake marriage for profit, no money passes hands. The jilted spouse is the victim of an elaborate fraud, meant only to get their foreign partner Canadian citizenship.

Ending a Sham Marriage in Ontario

Unless annulled, the marriage is legally valid. That means the distressed partner must go to divorce court to end the marriage before they can remarry in Ontario. Adultery and mental cruelty are expensive to prove, leaving a simple divorce as the only option and the wronged party waiting at least a year to qualify.

Fake Marriages Cost Accused $42,000

Operation Conjugal, a RCMP sting in Quebec, found plenty of fish when it stopped a massive immigration fraud in 2012. The perpetrators arranged over 315 sham marriages, most between North African nationals whose visas to stay in Canada had expired and Montreal women. Helping orchestrate the sorry affair netted Sengalese national Amadou Niang a $42,000 fine.  

How Ontario Courts View Marriage

Niang’s crime was a shell game. But a Cargill man who accused his Chinese wife of tricking him into a sham marriage discovered there’s a difference between fantasy and real life drama. The couple met over the Internet and married nine days after he visited her parents in China. Their divorce tale was a study in opposites.

Cruel Treatment or Beleaguered Hubby?

The bride testified she had been treated cruelly and often went hungry after arriving in Ontario in 2014. He countered he paid for dental work, bought her a car and encouraged his wife to learn English. A brief 2016 reconciliation faltered, he said, when he couldn’t raise $30,000 for her parents to immigrate to Canada. She says a bitter, late night argument ended it for her. Ontario family court found it may have been a failed marriage, but it was definitely no sham.

Proving Your Marriage is Real

Canadian law allows immigration officers to decide if a marriage is genuine based on:

  • how long a couple knew each other before they married
  • their ages, interests and finances
  • how well they communicate
  • and whether they have sponsored a spouse before.

If your marriage comes under investigation, you could be visited in your home and interviewed by the IRCC. You may even be charged with a crime if you colluded with your partner. Your new spouse, on the other hand, may be deported or prohibited from entering Canada for five years for arranging a sham marriage for immigration advantage.  

Paying the Price of a Sham Marriage

Sham marriages have financial consequences. While it’s a crime to use marriage to get PR status or citizenship, legally you must support anyone you sponsor for three years. Or repay government for social assistance payments, even if they walk away. Moral of the story: Be careful who you love. If a foreigner you barely know professes their undying love, proposes a quick marriage and is secretive about their past, you may not be living happily ever after.

Get a Valid Marriage Certificate

Axess Law Ontario family lawyers can notarize your marriage certificate if you need a valid copy to prove you are legally married. Our virtual lawyers are available 7 days a week, day or evening, via online video call. Make a video conference appointment by dialing 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. In person meetings are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.

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