Canadian Immigration Department Enacts New Marriage Sponsorship Rules

Under rules announced today, sponsored spouses will receive conditional permanent residence upon arriving in Canada and be required to live with their spouse or partner for two years to receive full permanent residence

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced new spousal immigration sponsorship regulations today to reduce the incidence of marriage fraud. The new rules require sponsored spouses who have no children with their sponsor to be in a live-in relationship with their spouse for two years to get full permanent residence status.

Under rules in place until today’s announcement, a sponsored spouse received permanent residence on the day they arrived in Canada, and subsequently could leave their spouse and retain their residency status in Canada.

Calls to reform immigration sponsorship rules have increased as several high-profile cases, like those of Lainie Towell and Heinz Munz, have brought the issue of foreign spouses leaving their Canadian husbands and wives soon after arriving in Canada to the public’s attention.

The new rules will not apply to sponsored spouses who have a child with their sponsor on the date of their spousal sponsorship application submission. The regulation also includes an exemption for sponsored spouses or partners who suffer abuse or neglect from their Canadian partner or someone related to their partner.

Those not exempt from the regulation must be in a relationship with their sponsoring spouse or partner for two years from the date that they receive their permanent residency or have their status in Canada revoked.

“I have consulted widely with Canadians, and especially with victims of marriage fraud, who have told me clearly that we must take action to stop this abuse of our immigration system,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in announcing the new rules.

“Sometimes the sponsor in Canada is being duped and sometimes it’s a commercial transaction. Implementing a two-year conditional permanent residence period will help deter marriage fraud, prevent the callous victimization of innocent Canadians and help us put an end to these scams.”

Until today’s announcement, Canada was one of the few countries that did not have an initial conditional permanent residence period for foreign nationals sponsored for immigration by a spouse, and consequently, CIC says was considered a “soft target” by criminal organizations seeking to exploit Canadian immigration rules.

Several large-scale marriage scams have been uncovered in recent years, including the case of over 600 people involved in trading marriage sponsorships for money between 2007 and 2009.

Release of Convicted Fraudster Highlights Serious Problems with Canada’s Refugee System

A photo of Gyula Kolompar released by the Coquitlam RCMP in a March 2012 news release seeking help from the public in locating him

According to a CBC report, the Immigration Division (ID) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) released Gyula Kolompar, a refugee facing deportation, from federal custody on Tuesday, despite his conviction last week on six counts of fraud, 12 counts of fraud over $5000, and one count of mail theft, for his role in a mail theft and bank fraud operation that netted him, his wife, his son, and allegedly his brother, $345,000 in stolen funds.

His wife and son were found guilty last week as well, while his brother is still in custody.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) hearing officer Kevin Boothroyd argued that Kolompar should be held in custody until his admissibility hearing, scheduled for November 7th, as he fled BC for Ontario when the police issued a warrant for his arrest for the fraud operation and is unlikely to show up for next month’s hearing.

Kolompar’s lawyer countered that his client went on public assistance in Ontario, and that this shows that he made no effort to hide from authorities, and that he was not aware of the outstanding warrant for his arrest.

ID member Leeann King agreed with the defense, saying the federal government failed to show that Kolompar is likely to not appear at next month’s hearing. She told Kolompar, “I have no evidence of you being aware of warrants and trying to flee.”

According to evidence presented in the fraud case against Kolompar, the mail theft operation involved 30 Hungarian nationals coming to Canada as refugee claimants, opening bank accounts, giving their bank cards to Kolompar family members, and then returning to Hungary.

Gyula Kolompar, his wife Katalin Kolompar and his son, Gyula Kolompar Jr., then deposited 267 stolen cheques into the 30 accounts over a course of three years, defrauding four banks of approximately $345,000.

Seeking Deportation

The federal government is seeking to deport Kolompar from Canada for his involvement in an organized crime group. He has a long record of criminality in the country, which started soon after his arrival in Canada as a refugee claimant in 2000.

He was accepted as a refugee in 2004, but lost his bid for permanent residence in 2009 due to a 2005 conviction of being in possession of stolen property.

The sophistication and scale of the Kolompar family criminal operation, involving over 30 foreign nationals all entering Canada through the refugee claim system, shows the inadequacies of the refugee program in preventing abuse by disingenuous claimants, quickly filing deportation orders for criminals, and effectively enforcing those orders.

A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) director testified to the Federal Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in February that 80 percent of the approximately 44,000 outstanding warrants in Canada are for individuals who got into the country through a refugee claim and are evading deportation orders after having their claim rejected.

Correction and Clarification Oct. 12, 2012

An earlier version of the story incorrectly referred to Kevin Boothroyd as a Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer rather than a Canada Border Services Agency hearing officer. It also did not specify that the detention review was conducted by the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, stating only that it was done by the Immigration and Refugee Board.