Immigration officers do make mistakes

Immigration Matters       Sukhram Ramkissoon

Immigration officers do make mistakes

 Readers of this column may have come across the term  “marriage of convenience.”  What does it really mean ?

With respect to immigration,simply stated, it means one in which one of the parties  – husband or wife- entered into the marriage for the sole purpose of obtaining resident status in Canada.

Time and time again I have discussed this problem.There have been cases in which applications for permanent residence were turned down after an immigration officer found that the applicants had entered into ” a marriage of convenience.”

Of course, there have also been cases in which immigration  officers made ” the wrong call” – that the marriages in question were genuine and not ” marriages of convenience.”

Let’s face it: immigration officers do make mistakes.

Let us look at the recent case of a 58-year old Canadian citizen who was recently successful at the the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD), which overturned the negative decision rendered by a visa officer who refused to allow his 22-year-old spouse to join him in Canada as a permanent resident.

For the purposes of this article I will refer to the husband as James (not  his real name) and his spouse as Mary (not her real name).

According to the recent IAD decision, James had filed a

sponsorship application in January 2018 for  Mary. She was interviewed by an immigration officer in early October 2018 and the application was refused about one month later. The immigration officer had expressed concerns  about

incompatibilty between the couple,their vague plans for the future, and issues surrounding the birth certificate of Mary’s child.

James was born and raised in British Columbia. Mary is  a citizen of Vietnam. This is the first marriage for both the parties and Mary has a two-year-old child.

James had appealed the refusal of his sponsorship application to the IAD and at a recent hearing he testified

to the genuineness of their relationship.  At the hearing, James had to prove on a balance of probabilities that  his marriage to Mary was not entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring status under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and that it is genuine.

James and Mary had met through a Vietnamese dating website in June 2016. They were both in search of a life partner. James was in his 50s and longed for a family. Mary, on the other hand, was in her early 20s and was faced with the stark reality of becoming a single mother.

James and Mary both testified at the IAD hearing and, overall, the panel member found them to be credible and straightforward witnesses. They provided detailed and consistent information about how and why they connected in June 2016. They also provided information about the development of their relationship, their modes of communication, and their life circumstances. They also demonstrated that their individual intentions to their marriage are compatible.

James gained a family through Mary and her young child,  with the possibility of another child in the near future. Mary also has a family unit now and she is able to provide for herself and child with a safe and secure future. The panel member ruled that both James and Mary have serious and long-term intentions for this marriage.

Mary was pregnant when the couple met in June 2016 and had her child in November 2016. James named the child and has welcomed the child as his own. He financially provides for the child and the couple shares responsibility towards the child. One of the concerns of the immigration officer was that James is listed as the father on the birth certificate, even though he acknowledges that he is not the biological father of the child. He testified about his reasons for doing so and about his awareness and consent to the birth registration process.  The panel member accepted his action as a demonstration of the genuine commitment by him toward his wife and her child.

The couple also provided evidence of their on-going communication. The member also found that the frequency and content of the communication are consistent with that of a genuine relationship. Mary’s English ability is at a level to which the couple can communicate about daily events. They also use translation software and James testified that Mary’s English has improved since they initially started communicating.

At the hearing, James and Mary displayed a level of knowledge of each other’s lives, families, and circumstances that is compatible with the claimed levels of ongoing communication and the existence of a genuine relationship. They addressed their age difference and their future plans in a credible and consistent manner. James provides financial support to Mary and has made several trips to Vietnam to spend time with her. 

The  member ruled that she is satisfied that there is sufficient credible evidence before her to find the marriage is genuine and was not entered into primarily for immigration purposes and allowed the appeal.

The member set aside the officer’s decision to refuse a permanent resident visa to Mary and her child, and directed that a new officer must continue to process the application in accordance with the reasons of the IAD.

Good luck, James and Mary.

 SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of ICCRC and specializes in Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario.  Phone 416 789 5756.