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In October 2012, the federal government announced the introduction of a conditional permanent residence period for sponsored spouses and partners.
Under the new rules, there is a period of conditional permanent residence of two years for sponsored spouses and partners who have been in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsors, and who have no children in common. If the sponsored spouse or partner does not remain in a conjugal relationship and cohabitate with their sponsor during the conditional period, their permanent residence could be revoked, and they could be deported.
What does the change mean?
- The change applies only to people who apply for permanent residence on or after October 25, 2012
- The change applies to spouses and partners who have been in a relationship with their sponsor for two years or less, and have no children with their sponsor at the time of the sponsorship application.
- These sponsored spouses/partners will be subject to a period of “conditional" permanent residence for two years following receipt of their permanent residence status in Canada. During this period, they must cohabit and remain in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor.
- If the sponsored spouse/partner does not meet the above condition, their permanent residence could be revoked, leading to deportation
- The condition would cease to apply in instances where there is evidence of abuse or neglect by the sponsor, or of a failture by the sponsor to protect from abuse or neglect by another person related to the sponsor during the conditional period.
The CCR is firmly opposed to the change, and has joined with other organizations in opposing it.
Introducing “conditional permanent residence” represents a major step backwards in Canadian immigration policy, increases inequalities in relationships between spouses, and puts women in particular at heightened risk of violence. The CCR believes that the exemption for abused spouses and partners will be ineffective.
* Violence in intimate relationships is not limited to heterosexual relationships, and may also occur in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual intimate relationships. As such, the problem of abuse between sponsors and sponsored partners is not limited to heterosexual couples, and the Conditional Permanent Residence provisions will also have an adverse effect on LGBT sponsored partners in situations of abuse.
What are the main concerns with this legislation?
- Making permanent residence conditional on staying in the marriage for two years traps abused partners (mainly women) into staying in abusive relationships for fear of losing their status.
- Abused partners, especially women, will not be able to take advantage of the exemption because of: barriers to access information on the exemption (e.g. language, isolation); burden of proving their own abuse; cost of providing evidence of abuse.
- Children will also be hurt, for example when they remain with their parent in an abusive home, or if they face being separated from one parent if the sponsored parent is removed from Canada.
- Making permanent residence for the sponsored partner/spouse conditional puts all the power into the hands of the sponsor, who can use the precarity of his or her partner’s status as a tool for manipulation – at any time, he can declare the spouse fraudulent and have her deported. This can be a constant threat and source of fear for the sponsored person.
- This power imbalance affects all sponsored partners, regardless of “genuineness” of relationship, and reinforces unequal gendered power dynamics.
- There is no evidence that this measure is necessary, and that marriage fraud is a significant problem in Canada
- There is no evidence presented to indicate that a two year conditional period will deter sponsored partners entering relationships with the objective of obtaining legal status in Canada, who may simply wait out the conditional period. However this period will have significant impact on those in genuine relationships that break down, whether due to abuse or not.
- The notice mentions that similar policies are already in place in the UK, Australia and the U.S. But experts in those countries have reported that conditional status creates the problems mentioned above, putting abused partners at risk and giving increased power to abusive sponsors.
CIC Operational Bulletin, 26 October 2012
Regulatory amendment, Canada Gazette, 7 November 2012
Proposed regulatory changes, Canada Gazette, March 2012