Last October, the Government of Canada took steps to fulfill a campaign promise by announcing the impending repeal of conditional permanent residences, a program put in place by the Stephen Harper administration to prevent marriage fraud and “marriages of convenience.”
Under the rule, “the permanent residence of some sponsored spouses was conditional on their remaining in the conjugal relationship and living with their sponsor, for a period of two years,” explains an April 25 release from the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR). Individuals who failed to fulfill these rules were at risk of having their citizenship revoked and being deported.
Exceptions were granted to spouses whose sponsor died during the two year probationary period, or who faced abuse or neglect at the hands of their sponsor. However, of the more than 58,000 spouses and partners who were admitted to Canada as conditional permanent residents from 2013 to 2015, only 57 submitted exemption applications, about 75 per cent of which were granted.
Advocates and some immigration lawyers were understandably critical of the rule, saying that newly landed spouses were vulnerable to abuse for many reasons, including age, gender, language, isolation, and financial dependence.
On April 28, the government officially repealed the Harper-era regulations, to applause from rights groups and immigration lawyers.
“We’re doing away with a measure that could have made a bad situation worse by possibly making people feel they needed to stay in abusive situations just to keep their status in Canada,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
Avvy Go, a lawyer for the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, said: “We are very pleased that the Government of Canada has repealed the conditional residence requirements in its entirety. The requirement increased the vulnerability of immigrant women who often stayed in abusive relationships of our fear they would lose their status.
Much of the response from rights groups and immigration lawyers to Ottawa’s announcement has focused on the impact conditional permanent visas had on women, who made up 64 per cent of all sponsored spouses under the conditional residency system, according to a 2015 University of Toronto study.
“Conditional permanent residence has had a devastating impact on women in abusive relationships, and its elimination can be celebrated by all who oppose violence against women,” said CCR president Loly Rico.
“By eliminating conditional permanent residence, we can help ensure that people coming to Canada are kept safe from gender-based violence as they seek a chance at a better life,” added Maryam Monsef, federal Minister of Status of Women.
Effective immediately, immigrants to Canada who are sponsored by their spouses will have full permanent resident status upon arrival. And while the Liberal government acknowledges that “some instances of marriage fraud may exist,” they believe the majority of relationships and spousal sponsorship applications are genuine and in good faith.
If you have questions or concerns about how the elimination of conditional permanent residencies could affect you or your family, feel free to contact the immigration lawyers at Nanda & Associate today for more information.