Last week I received a letter from a woman who found herself in what appears to be a bigamous relationship and would like to obtain permanent resident status in Canada through sponsorship. Her situation is not as uncommon as many of my readers may believe.
I have heard of several cases of married men from the Caribbean who came to Canada and remarried without obtaining a divorce. However, the situation becomes complicated when a married person has remarried without obtaining a divorce and is seeking sponsorship. Let us look at the case of a woman who calls herself “undivorced.” She writes as follows:
Dear Mr. Ram:
I am a Trinidadian and I am 40 years of age. When I was about 25 years of age, I married a native of my country and after living together for several years, we decided to part. We just could not live together in peace and harmony. We have no children. My husband told me that he would be filing for a divorce and that his lawyer advised him it will be a simple process. About a year later, he told me that the divorce was finalized. Although I did not receive any divorce papers, I thought that my husband did in fact obtain a divorce and I was therefore free to remarry.
Since my husband and I broke up, I met a wonderful guy from my country who is a Canadian citizen and who usually visited his relatives back home. We fell in love and recently got married in our home country.
I have now been in Canada for several months and my husband was told that he can sponsor me but I would have to produce documented proof of my divorce before remarriage.Well, here is where a big problem arises. I have now been informed that although a divorce was filed, no further action was taken to have it finalized and therefore I am still legally married to my first husband. Now what I am to do?
Mr. Ram, can you kindly tell me what are my chances of getting to stay in Canada. Can my Canadian husband sponsor me?
The circumstances in your case point to some very complicated factors that need to be properly addressed before your husband submit a sponsorship application.
At a quick review of your case, it appears that you may have committed bigamy and apart from this, there are also inadmissibility problems.
The Canadian criminal code defines the offence of bigamy as follows:
290 (1) Every one commits bigamy who
(a) in Canada,
(i) being married, goes through a form of marriage with another person,
(ii) knowing that another person is married, goes through a form of marriage with that person, or …
(b) being a Canadian citizen resident in Canada leaves Canada with intent to do anything mentioned in subparagraphs (a)(i) to (iii) and, pursuant thereto, does outside Canada anything mentioned in those subparagraphs in circumstances mentioned therein.
In Trinidad, there may be similar laws with respect to bigamy and there may defenses for these offences depending on the circumstances. You should seek advice from a qualified criminal lawyer in Trinidad with respect to this. It may sound serious, but I cannot hide the facts.
You must also look at the validity of the second marriage as it may be invalid as you were not divorced when you got married a second time.
Section 2 of the Regulations defines a valid marriage as follows:
marriage, in respect of a marriage that took place outside Canada, means a marriage that is valid both under the laws of the jurisdiction where it took place and under Canadian law.
Under Canadian law, a person who is married is legally incapable of marrying a second person. Therefore, the second marriage would not be recognized under Canadian law.
Furthermore, section 5 of the Regulations specifically excludes the second wife from being considered a “spouse” of the sponsor:
For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered
(b) the spouse of a person if
(i) the foreign national or the person was, at the time of their marriage, the spouse of another person, or
You may have to annul the second marriage, and after you obtain a divorce from the first marriage a Decree Absolute or Certificate of Divorce re marry.
In the meantime, if an annulment – according to the law of the country in question – means that the marriage never happened at law, an argument can be made that you do not fall under the inadmissible class.
As I explained this issue is very complex and need to be properly addressed when submitting a sponsorship application. Otherwise the application may be refused. Or, on the other hand, you may also consider submitting a sponsorship application on
Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds, fully explaining the reason why you married the second time when the first marriage was not dissolved.
As I explained, this issue is very complex and need to be properly addressed when submitting a sponsorship application.
The information provided in this column does not constitute a legal advice.
SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of ICCRC and specializes in Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario. M6A 2A4 Phone 416 789 5756.