Toronto Star Reports On Government Efforts Against Marriage Fraud

Efforts by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP seem to be reducing the number of fraudulent marriage sponsorships (Ra Boe)

The Toronto Star, the most widely circulated newspaper in Canada, published a story on Wednesday that describes the marriage sponsorship fraud that authorities are clamping down on and some of the obstacles the anti-abuse measures are imposing on Canadians seeking to sponsor foreign spouses.

The article, by the Toronto Star’s immigration reporter, Nicholas Keung, profiles Sarem Soomro, whose marriage sponsorship application was rejected by Canadian immigration officials due to the education and age gap between the younger, high-school educated, Soomro, and his Pakistani wife, who has a degree in economics.

Despite showing logs of Facebook chats, wedding photos, receipts, and a wedding certificate, authorities did not accept the sponsorship application.

In another case, a spouse who was already living in Canada while the sponsorship application was being reviewed received a surprise visit at her home which convinced the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that the marriage was a fraud:

That occurred in a case where border officers noticed the address on Xiu Yi Xuan’s driver’s licence was different than the address of her Canadian husband.

In a scene reminiscent of the 1990 romantic comedy Green Card, about a marriage of convenience, the Canada Border Services Agency made an unannounced visit to the couple’s Markham home to investigate.

Xuan, a failed refugee claimant from China, was home at the time and unable to produce her husband’s toothbrush (she claimed they shared one). She couldn’t say whether her husband used an electric razor or a disposable one, nor could she show the officer any evidence of his socks or underwear.

Despite other indications it was a genuine marriage — joint bank accounts, joint insurance, joint donations and ownership of a Stouffville property — Xuan was arrested. The couple’s spousal sponsorship was rejected and, most recently, their appeal to Federal Court denied.

The two types of immigration fraud that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) encounters, Keung notes, are cases where a foreign national manipulates and defrauds a Canadian, in order to get sponsored by them for permanent residence, and then leaves them once they have gotten what they wanted, and cases of collusion between the Canadian and the foreign national, where both understand that the primary purpose of the marriage is to provide the foreigner with Canadian permanent residency.

CIC has made changes to sponsorship rules to reduce the incidence of the first type, including instituting an initial two year probationary permanent resident status for sponsored spouses. Under the new rules, if the foreign spouse leaves their Canadian partner within that two year period, due to reasons other than neglect or abuse, their conditional permanent residency status is repealed.

The RCMP has had some successes prosecuting crime rings involving the second type of marriage fraud, including one where nearly 300 Canadian women, mostly of Haitian descent, were sponsoring men from North Africa in exchange for money.

The changes by the involved government agencies seem to be having an effect, with more people being deported on charges of sponsorship fraud annually, and a higher percentage of marriage sponsorship applications being found inadmissible due to lack of evidence of a genuine marriage.

National Post Reports Increase in Citizenship Crackdown

The pace of citizenships being rescinded due to fraudulent applications has increased significantly with no signs of slowing down

A new story in the National Post, one of Canada’s largest national newspapers, reports an expansion in the crackdown on citizenship fraud:

Normally, Ottawa revokes citizenship from only a handful of Canadians a year. Since 1947, it has happened fewer than 50 times. Recent cases include Nazi war criminals and Branko Rogan, who concealed his involvement in Bosnian war crimes from immigration authorities.

But in September, Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship and immigration, announced his department had sent letters to 530 Canadians advising them their citizenship was being rescinded. Investigations into another 3,100 suspected of citizenship fraud were still underway, he said.

The article recounts the case of Mark Bilalov, who became a Canadian citizen in 2003 despite a criminal record. Shortly after receiving citizenship, Bilalov was charged for taking part in a home invasion in which the home’s occupant was struck in the head with 20-pound dumbbell until he handed over keys to his store and the combination to his safe.

The charges were later dropped but the case encouraged Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to ask the RCMP to look into how Bilalov became a citizen. The RCMP found that they had no knowledge of the convictions before his citizenship.

He has since been convicted on one charge of making a false statement to obtain his citizenship, and in 2011, was informed that his citizenship would be revoked based on the ommission of having a criminal record when applying for citizenship.

Bilalov is currently fighting the decision in court, where his lawyer has argued it is unfair to revoke his citizenship due to the time that has passed since he committed the fraud on his application.

Cases like Bilalov’s have increased public support for the citizenship revocations, which appears will continue for the forseeable future.

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.

Russian Bride Ditches Canadian Pensioner, Collects $25K in Welfare On His Dime

BC resident Heinz Munz is being ordered to pay nearly 25 thousand dollars after his Russian bride left him and began collecting social assistance (Jeff Belmonte)

An elderly Russian woman left her Canadian husband and subsequently collected nearly $25,000 in social assistance payments that have been charged to the 82 year pensioner who sponsored her immigration to Canada, said the Canadian man affected.

In an interview with the CBC, BC resident Heinz Munz said he had no idea that his Russian ex-wife, Polina Telyuk, was receiving social assistance until he received the $24,899.34 bill from the BC provincial government:

“When she applied for assistance, they should have told me. They never did.”

Under Canadian immigration law, a Canadian permanent resident or citizen can sponsor their foreign spouse for Canadian permanent residence, but is financially responsible for any financial assistance their spouse receives from the government for three years from the date they become a permanent resident.

Munz said in the interview that he began paying the bill for Telyuk’s social assistance payments because he feared his home could be seized by the government if he didn’t.

He said he did not suspect there was any thing amiss until his Russian wife, who he had met on the internet, left him, as she was “so nice” to him up to that point. Munz said that the day after Telyuk received her permanent resident papers, she left in a taxi with her daughter, laughing and chatting in Russian.

Possible reforms

Munz complained to the RCMP and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), but nothing came of it. Allegations of marriage fraud typically do not end in charges being laid, as it is usually difficult to prove the sponsored party broke any law by planning to marry their partner to immigrate to Canada and then leave them.

Experts for years have cited examples like Munz’ to make the case for toughening immigration sponsorship rules. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that new rules would soon be put in place requiring sponsored spouses to live with their Canadian spouses for two years to be eligible for permanent residency.

This is similar to a rule in place in the US, which gives a two year ‘conditional resident status’ to sponsored spouses, after which they can apply for permanent residency if they have met all of the eligibility conditions.

Immigration Minister Announces 3,100 Having Citizenship Revoked, 11,000 Under Investigation

Nearly 11,000 individuals are under investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for submitting fraudulent proof of residence to meet requirements for maintaining permanent residency status and qualifying for Canadian citizenship (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

The investigation into citizenship and permanent residence fraud has expanded to nearly 11,000 people, and federal immigration authorities are in the process of revoking the citizenship of 3,100 individuals, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced today.

“Today’s announcement is the end-result of the hard work done by the RCMP and CBSA, and they should be congratulated for their dedicated effort in bringing these charges forward. These efforts reinforce our government’s commitment to protecting the integrity of our immigration system,” commented Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

The citizenship and permanent residence fraud constituted a permanent resident paying crooked consultants up to $25,000 for a family of five over four or more years to fabricate falsified proof of Canadian residence, in order to qualify for Canadian citizenship or maintain their permanent resident status.

Individuals falsify proof of residence to meet the requirement under Canadian law for permanent residents to live in Canada for three years out of the preceding four years to be granted Canadian citizenship, and also to meet the requirement to reside in Canada for two out of five years to retain their status as permanent residents.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) said that it is currently investigating 5,000 cases of permanent residents who are believed to be engaged in residence fraud. CIC believes most of these individuals are currently outside the country.

According to CIC, almost 1,800 applicants under investigation have abandoned their citizenship applications as information about the investigation has been publicized.

Immigration Minister to Make Announcement About 2,900 People Under Investigation for Citizenship Fraud

Statue of Justicia in Ottawa, Canada. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is expected to announce on Monday that upwards of 2,900 people are having their Canadian citizenship revoked for fraudulent citizenship applications.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is scheduled to speak to the press tomorrow and is expected to announce that 2,900 people will be stripped of their Canadian citizenship for providing fake proof of residency.

Most of the individuals under investigation were clients of a small number of consultants who offered to help people qualify for citizenship through fraudulent means. The fraud involved proof of residency being fabricated in order to misrepresent the duration of their residency in Canada in their citizenship application.

The revocation comes after a two year RCMP investigation that found up to 8,300 potential cases of fraud.

The press conference will be held at 10:00 AM tomorrow at the National Press Theatre in Canada.

Charges Laid in Marriage Immigration Scam Involving More Than 600 People

The RCMP investigation into the alleged 'marriage of convenience' fraud has now moved to the stage of laying charges. (Vince Alongi)

The RCMP laid charges against 39 people on Tuesday for their part in a marriage scam involving Canadian women marrying North African men and sponsoring them for Canadian permanent residency, in exchange for money. The RCMP investigation has so far uncovered 315 marriages, involving over 600 people, that it believes to be fraudulent, and it’s possible more people will be charged in the future.

The group arrested on Tuesday are having a total of 78 charges laid against them, including for misrepresentation and procuring feigned marriage. The alleged organizer of the scam is unlicensed immigration consultant Amado Niang, who was indicted on 42 counts.

He allegedly found Canadian women, many of Haitian descent, and offered them an arrangement whereby they would get paid to marry men from North African countries who were in Canada and had visas that were close to expiry. Mr. Niang appeared in court in Montreal on Tuesday and has another hearing scheduled for October 23rd.

Project Conjugal, the RCMP investigation that led to the charges, began in 2009 with the purpose of investigating suspicious marriages that took place between 2007 and 2009, and lead to the dismantling of the alleged criminal organization behind the scam in February. The purpose of the investigation is now to lay charges against those allegedly involved.

Reform of Immigration Rules

In an effort to reduce marriage sponsorship fraud, the Canadian government this year changed spousal sponsorship rules to bar a sponsored spouse from sponsoring a new spouse for at least five years after they are granted permanent residence.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has also proposed that Canada adopt the US-style sponsonship process of granting sponsored spouses a two year ‘conditional resident status’, after which they can apply for permanent residency if they have met all of the conditions required of them, instead of the current process of granting permanent residency to sponsored spouses immediately upon their arrival in Canada.