Fake Marriage Canada – Sham Marriage for Immigration Purposes

Fake Marriage CanadaRafiq is a Lebanese national. Like many Middle Eastern citizens, he believes Canada is a great country to make your dreams reality. However, all Rafiq’s efforts to immigrate to Canada have failed so far. One of his friends advised him to find a wife in Canada. Rafiq’s friend suggested marriage would be the best option. Of course, this means he needs to find a fake wife for a sham marriage. Therefore, he wonders if this is even doable. What are the consequences of a fake marriage?

One of the three major immigration options to Canada is Family Reunification. Of course, this option involves a Canadian citizen or permanent resident as the sponsor and their close family members as the immigration applicants. Nonetheless, we may divide these applicants into two major groups.

Spousal immigration is popular

Referring to the Minister’s annual report to the Canadian Parliament, the following statistics grabs our intention.

  • In 2017 a total of 286,479 immigrated to Canada.
  • A total of 82,470 people immigrated under the Family Reunification.
  • The number of people who immigrated under the spousal/children group was 61,646.

Considering this report, out of every five people who immigrated to Canada in 2017, one of them was a sponsored spouse or child. Interestingly, about three-quarters of Family Reunification immigrants fall under this group. Of course, this could be tempting to those who are seeking a fake marriage to immigrate to Canada.

Fake marriage and immigration to Canada

The process seems to be rather easy. All you need to do is to find a Canadian or a permanent resident of Canada who accepts to marry you. Of course, since this is a fake marriage, you need to pay them money or make some other arrangements in exchange for their sponsorship. However, the amount you need to pay is significant. According to an immigration hearing (Yeh v. Canada), it could be as high as $80,000 for Chinese citizens. Since this is the black market, the real amount could significantly vary for each nationality or occasion.

Fake marriage and immigration regulations

It is no surprise that a fake marriage is against Canadian immigration laws and regulations. Section 4 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations calls this type of arrangement “Bad Faith.” Consequently, if the main purpose of the marriage is immigration to Canada or the marriage is not genuine, the officer refuses the sponsorship application. In fact, I located more than 4500 hearings related to fake marriages, a.k.a. marriages of convenience, on the CanLII website.

An immigration officer looks into several factors to identify fake marriages. Here are some examples:

  • What are the ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the spouses?
  • What was their length of relationship before marriage?
  • Did they visit each other in person? How many times? Where?
  • Who knew about their marriage before it occurred?
  • Was there a formal recognition of the marriage? Was there a ceremony?
  • How many people attended their ceremony, if any?
  • How often and how did they contact before and after the marriage?
  • What is the financial dependency of the spouses to each other?
  • Have they lived together? Where and for how long?
  • Do they have common children?

Of course, they may even look into the financial status of the sponsor and whether they were financially desperate. Nonetheless, this list is neither inclusive nor exclusive. The officers rely on the documents and forms you submit. They could also invite the applicant to an interview to double-check everything. While interviewing the sponsor is not out of question, it rarely happens.

Fake marriage and consequences for the sponsor

So far, it seems significantly rosy for the sponsor. Imagine! You may receive several thousands of dollars from a foreign national for a fake marriage. If the sponsorship application goes well, you have a spouse and extra cash in your pocket. If the application goes wrong then, you can easily spend the money without the hassle of your fake spouse. Of course, this couldn’t be far from the truth, for the following reasons:

  • If someone pays you several thousands of dollars to you, they have expectations. Therefore, if you do not meet their expectations you could face consequences. Think about…
    • filling out the forms,
    • collecting documents,
    • lone and behold, forging documents,
    • waiting nervously for the outcome of the application,
    • attending an interview,
    • filing for an appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division,
    • filing for a Judicial Review, or
    • receiving threats from the payee.
  • When you sponsor a person, you sign an undertaking agreement. Thus, for the first three years (and if they have children beyond three years), you are financially responsible for your spouse. If they receive social welfare you have to pay it back to the government. Unfortunately, your obligations remain even if you divorce the applicant.
  • What if your fake spouse is a threat to our national security or a violent person?

I recall a town hall between the Minister of immigration and several Canadians who shared their horror stories of the fake marriages with him a few years ago. While not every fake marriage causes harm, the potential is there.

Fake marriage and the applicant

Let’s look at this from the applicant’s perspective. Of course, a successful fake marriage could make you a permanent resident of Canada. However, you are not safe. Consider the following scenarios:

  • You are cheating the system to be a permanent resident. However, if the authorities find out about your arrangements in the future they could terminate your permanent residence and even your citizenship. We’ve had cases in the past that the government identified the mastermind of a series of fake marriages. Consequently, they went after every person who had immigrated with their help.
  • What if your Canadian spouse is abusive or worse a sex offender? What if they harm you physically or emotionally? Although there are tools to protect you in Canada, the abuser will threaten you to share your “secret.” You are always prone to threats by your sponsor.

A not-so-fake marriage!

Sometimes when a family is immigrating to Canada, they realize they may apply only if they get a divorce. As weird as it seems, this could be true under certain circumstances. Therefore, they get a divorce and one of them immigrates to Canada. Upon becoming a permanent resident, the immigrant marries their ex again. Of course, that opens the door for the sponsorship application. Well, don’t get too excited. Section 4.1 of the immigration regulations call such arrangements “New Relationship.” Consequently, they exclude such marriages from legitimate sponsorship applications. While not a fake marriage, sponsorship is not an option for these arrangements.

Conclusion on fake marriages

Immigration to Canada is not easy, but please consider legal options. Work hard and you will hopefully immigrate to Canada one day.

If you wish to visit or move to Canada, please fill out our free assessment form. We will review the form for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal advice from a licenced practitioner.

Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada


This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice. Do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. We cannot be held responsible for the content of these articles. If you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in Toronto, Canada. He also teaches the official immigration consulting courses at Ashton College in Vancouver, Canada. Al who holds a Masters degree from Yorkville University is a member of ICCRC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented hundreds of applicants from more than 30 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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