Immigration and Spousal Sponsorship

This week, some of the guide-lines that have been used for assessing whether marriages are “disingenuous” for immigration purposes in Canada have made the news. As Nicholas Keung reports, one manual in use at least during the years of 2011-2013 contained such racist and culturally imperialist (not to mention classist) supposed indications of fraudulent marriage as:

  • University-educated Chinese nationals marrying non-Chinese
  • Photos without parents or any family members, just a small group of friends
  • Private marriage ceremony performed by either a minister or justice of the peace
  • Informal reception in a restaurant
  • Sponsor is uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare
  • The couple do not kiss on the lips in photos
  • Couples who do not have a honeymoon, not even a couple of days away, usually because of university and/or no money
  • There are no “diamond” rings
  • Wedding photos done professionally but pictures are very limited
  • Some submit photos dressed in pajamas or cooking, to show they are living together
  • Photos have them wearing the same clothes in various locations
  • Are they touching each other in the photos, or trying not to touch?
  • Photos of activities taken in the Niagara Falls area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto

For, um, “fun”, I’ve put the items (or parts of items) here that apply to my marriage in bold. Our wedding was totally private. In fact, we eloped to Vegas when we’d known each other for less than two years, approximately four months before my now-husband’s post-graduate visa was set to expire. And we didn’t set up a joint banking account or move in together until after we were married (so, again, all of these things happened less than three months before his status expired). We knew it was going to look to bad. And honestly, the timing of our marriage (though not the fact that we wanted to marry) was actually influenced by his immigration situation.

We had an informal house-party wedding reception when we got home, with friends, but not much family. And a second informal house-party wedding reception the next time I visited my parents. Neither of us wears a diamond ring (or even a “diamond” ring, whatever that is.) There are, to this day, very few photos of us as a couple at *all*, and only minimal ones from the basic wedding package we got in Vegas. We just aren’t photo-y people, I guess. And we only had a honeymoon in the sense that we flew to Vegas to get married – we were there for less than 72 hours total, I think?

But none of this is really what I wanted to write about right now. What this whole thing has reminded me of is the absolute weirdness of the experience of sitting down to try and figure out what documentary evidence we had to “prove” that we loved each other to some government agency.

Like, the idea that we were going to go through that process was very different to me than the reality of doing so. It felt fundamentally wrong to me to have to do so, and I drew the line in a bunch of places because some of the standard things that people send (email transcripts and the like) just seemed way to damn personal and a serious violation of my privacy. It was viscerally upsetting to think about the pile of documents we did eventually assemble and think about someone looking at them and trying to decide whether we “really” wanted to be married to each other. And to make matters worse, the timeline for spousal sponsorship applications at the time meant that we had to wait nearly a year before the CIC even opened our application for a preliminary judgement (i.e. to decide whether they needed more info, or wanted to send out an investigator, or whatever else). The wait times are much longer now, even.

It turned out, for us, that the application got rubber-stamped yes the same day it was opened. Which, I genuinely chalk that up entirely to the fact that we are white, and that my husband is from the UK (not exactly a red-flagged country). He also probably would have been eligible to stay under different grounds on his own steam, although we didn’t realize that at the time. (Also, I was working for a law firm that did (US) immigration at the time, so I had some idea of how to put together an application that looked good and would be easy for the immigration officer to navigate (never underestimate the value of making the person’s job easier for making them like you)) Nevertheless, I want to write out the list of documents we *did* include in the application, to the best of my memory, since I think some of them did perform damage control on our apparent shotgun wedding, etc, and they might be useful for some people:

  • Letters from other Canadian citizens attesting to the validity of our relationship. Gross, right? But yeah, these carry some weight and are highly recommended – you can even find templates online. Specifically, I had one from my mom, and we got one from my husband’s landlord (whose home he had been living in for the entirety of our relationship, and where I practically lived too for most of it).
  • A print-out showing that we had a joint bank account (though as I said, it was very new. I don’t know if the newness was apparent though? It certainly didn’t have much money in it.)
  • A copy of our shared lease agreement (which, I should mention was for a 2-bedroom apartment shared between us and a third person, so not the best evidence, even).
  • In terms of photos, we included maybe three professional photos from the wedding (which all would had just been of the two of us, though we might have included one of us kissing on the lips come to think of it. So there’s that), one selfie we’d taken in the airport on our way to the wedding, and one photo from each of our informal wedding reception things. I think that was actually it. Photos, I think, just aren’t the most important evidence, especially since they can be easily staged, as per the guidelines above.
  • Itineraries for flights we had taken together (in our case, this included the flights for the whole wedding thing, as well as a couple of visits we had made to the East coast of Canada, where my parents live.)
  • Copies of some pairs of concert tickets from shows we’d gone to together (although our names weren’t on the tickets, obviously, so this evidence was probably near to worthless).
  • A photo-copy of a handwritten postcard/save-the-date note about a larger, more formal party we planned for our first anniversary, in lieu of any formal wedding do. Again, there was no proof we even sent these invites to anyone, or that said party was being planned, so it’s unclear how valuable this was as evidence of anything.

I think that might have been it? Really not all that much taken together. But we got in, and it was mid-2011 that our application was opened and approved. So maybe that’s reassuring to someone?


  1. Oh boy, this is something I get to look forward to as soon as I can get my damn fingerprints accepted by the FBI. And lol, we basically eloped too. Fuck immigration. Fuck borders.

  2. Interesting and really informative (even though I know this will be somewhat different in my US context). Thanks for sharing!

    And yeah — I’m totally with you on the ICK! factor.

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