Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have discovered 42 wedding albums submitted with 42 different citizenship applications in which the guests in the photos were all the same.
All the weddings had supposedly taken place at the same Wedding Palace in Chandigarh in India’s Punjab region.
“You’d have to believe that 42 weddings had the same guests,” says Mendel Green, president of Green and Spiegel, who has been practising immigration law for 42 years.
Seeing albums with all the same wedding guests and the same wedding hall is something with which his firm is familiar. “Yes, people have brought fake photos to us,” says Ravi Jain, a partner with the firm. “We have seen people posing in the photos. We have seen same wedding halls, same guests over and over again.”
Jain says some people are so bold to admit they have a “paper marriage.”
“They do so largely to get a visa because they can’t qualify as skilled workers and the only way they can qualify is under the family class,” he says.
Liberal MP Roy Cullen, who has 29,000 South Asians in his Etobicoke North riding, says many Indo-Canadians in his riding have expressed concerns over this “abuse” of the system.
“They are telling me it is becoming like an epidemic and it is being seriously abused and so sometime back I spoke with former immigration minister Monte Solberg. I suggested to him—and I am soon going to write to his successor Diane Finley—that immigration rules could be amended to issue spousal visas on a probation of say three to five years and if at the end of this period the couple is still in marital relationship, they should be given permanent landed status.”
In addition to people getting illegal immigration status with these phoney marriages, Jain says Canadian immigration officers have also started “over-scrutinizing all family class applications, genuine marriages.”
“I have one case involving a pregnant woman and they are refusing that case,” Jain says. “This woman in Canada was divorced before. She went to India to marry a guy who was never married before. She got pregnant by him.
“Immigration has refused a family class visa to the Indian person, arguing an Indian, who has never been married before, would never marry a divorced woman.”
Immigration officials believe that this Indian man must have paid the Canadian woman $10,000 to $15,000 just to get the Canadian visa.
“That’s the theory of the Canadian visa officer who refuses to give him the visa, which is ridiculous,” Jain says.
“It’s just awful and doesn’t send a good message to the Indian community in Canada that people are using women in the community basically like the prostitutes.”
Toronto’s Ramesh Maharaj married an Indian woman, Sudha Arora.
They were both divorced and, according to their own beliefs, part of their Hindu religious marriage vows, didn’t perform Saptapadi (taking seven steps round the sacred fire) a second time. It was not termed a legal marriage.
Stephen Green, also an immigration attorney at Green and Spiegel, dealt with one case in which the Indo-Canadian woman was slightly physically handicapped.
She married an Indian man with no physical limitations. That too was termed a phony marriage: “How can an Indian man ever marry a physically handicapped woman?”
These are two extremes.
“Yes, absolutely phony marriages are taking place largely to get visa and those cases should be investigated and refused,” Jain says. “We know Immigration is aware of this.”
Statistics show about 60,000 Canadians marry overseas each year and file international spousal sponsorships. About 15% are rejected by Canada Citizenship and Immigration. In the case of India, the rate is 23%.