In March 2011, the federal government announced a proposal to introduce a conditional permanent residence period of two years or more for sponsored spouses and partners who have been in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsors. According to the proposal, if the sponsored spouse or partner does not remain in a bona fide relationship with their sponsor during the conditional period, their permanent residence could be revoked.
What is proposed in the notice?
- The change would apply to spouses and partners who have been in a relationship with their sponsor for two years or less at the time of the sponsorship application.
- These sponsored spouses/partners would have “conditional” permanent residence, for two years or longer, from the time that the sponsored spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident in Canada.
- If the sponsored spouse/partner does not remain in a bona fide relationship with their sponsor during the conditional period, their permanent residence could be revoked.
- “Only cases targeted for fraud would be reviewed during the conditional period.” There would be a process for spouses/partners in abusive relationships to “come forward without facing enforcement action.”
The CCR is firmly opposed to the proposal, and has joined with other organizations in publicly urging the government not to pursue it.
Introducing “conditional permanent residence” would represent a major step backwards in Canadian immigration policy, increase inequalities in relationships between spouses, and put women in particular at heightened risk of violence.
What are the main concerns with this legislation?
- Making permanent residency conditional on staying in the marriage for two years traps women into staying in abusive relationships for fear of losing their status
- 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 residency 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.
- Given that many sponsored immigrants, especially women, have little knowledge of their rights, it is not realistic to suggest that they would come forward to the immigration authorities to report an abusive relationship.
- The suggestion that some cases would be “targeted for fraud” raises fears of possible racial, national or ethnic stereotyping and discrimination.
- 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 women at risk and giving increased power to abusive sponsors.
CIC states that the proposed change is intended to address instances of marriage fraud. It is not clear that this is a widespread problem: the notice acknowledges that figures are not available. Insofar as it is a problem, the solution cannot be to expose thousands of sponsored immigrants and their children to increased vulnerability and heightened risk of abuse.
* 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 proposal for Conditional Permanent Residence will also have an adverse effect on LGBT sponsored partners in situations of abuse.