Canada beats the U.S. on spousal abuse and family reunification.
On April 28, 2017, the Government of Canada announced it has removed the condition (for some sponsored spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents) to live with their sponsor in order to keep their permanent resident status.
25 years and 11 months after the United States imposed a two-year conditional resident status to foreign nationals who are petitioned by the U.S. citizen spouse within two years of being married, Canada followed suit.
On April 28, 2017, Canada eliminated the conditional permanent residence requirement to “uphold the Government’s commitment to family reunification, support for gender equality and combat gender violence.”
The United States, however, retains the immigration tool that U.S. citizen spouses use to keep the foreign spouse in an abusive relationship.
On November 10, 1986, the U.S. passed the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act (Public Law 99-639 - Act of 11/10/86 imposing conditional resident status to aliens who were petitioned by U.S. citizens before two years of marriage.
In addition, the foreign spouse and the same U.S. citizen spouse must file a joint petition to remove the alien spouse’s conditional resident status. In certain cases, the alien spouse may request a waiver to file the joint petition without the U.S. citizen spouse, a difficult, tedious and harrowing process.
In 1995, the Center for Disease Control in the U.S. reported that 4.8 million women suffer intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes while 2.9 million men are victims of physical assault from their partners.
Three years later, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) indicated that about 876,340 violent crimes were committed in the U.S. against women by their current or former spouses, or boyfriends.
A U.S. non-profit and advocacy group – Futures Without Violence – put an immigrant spouse-face into the numbers:
victims were foreign-born, while 45 percent were born in the United States.
them had increased since they immigrated to the United States
unmarried immigrant women, 59.5 percent compared to 49.8 percent, respectively.
Canada reunites families
After assessing the impact of the “conditional permanent residence” rule for foreign spouses, Canada determined that, “on balance, using conditional permanent residence as a tool to deter marriage fraud had not proved to outweigh the potential risks to vulnerable sponsored spouses and partners”.
As a result, the conditional status of spouses or partners sponsored shall no longer be subject to this rule. Those in Canada would have their conditional status lifted. The elimination of this condition applies not only to spouses and partners but also to the dependent children.
Canada, however, stresses the fact that the Government “takes marriage fraud seriously and continues to have measures in place to safeguard against it.” Spouses, partners being sponsored by Canadian citizens or residents should expect intense scrutiny as immigration and visa officers must be satisfied that a relationship is legitimate before granting permanent residency to the sponsored spouse or partner.
As a further deterrence to marriage of convenience, Canada imposes a five year bar (from the date of granting permanent residency) to sponsored spouses/partners before they become eligible to sponsor a new spouse or partner.
What happens now
Effective today, conditional permanent residence no longer applies to anyone, whether the individual:
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) previously known as the “CIC” says affected persons need not do anything. The announcement was made simply to make the public know about the new government policy.
Still, IRCC issued the following announcement:
“If you receive your Confirmation of Permanent Residence on or after April 18, 2017 and it indicates that you “must cohabit in a conjugal relationship with your sponsor or partner for a continuous period of 2 years after the day on which you became a PR”, this requirement no longer applies to you.
If you were under investigation for not complying with the requirement to live with your spouse or partner, you are no longer under investigation.
In order to uphold the integrity of the immigration system, the Government will continue to investigate allegations of marriage fraud. To report fraud, including marriage fraud, contact the Canada Border Services Agency Border Watch Toll-Free Line at 1-888-502-9060.”