Immigration minister Jason Kenney arrives to testify for an Immigration committee for at Parliament Hill in Ottawa Oct 24, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Childless people sponsored by Canadian citizens they wed must live together two years under new regulations targeting widespread marriage fraud.
"There are countless cases of marriage fraud," Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told reporters Friday, one day after new regulations were enacted.
The two-year cohabitation requirement is expected to thwart individuals and organized gangs who arrange marriages with Canadian citizens then walk away or never meet their sponsors, who are then often required to repay welfare support fees, billed for arranged marriages by crooked overseas recruiters and -- if legitimate -- suffer "broken hearts," Kenney said.
He cited Canadian officials in Hong Kong who unmasked a southern China-based Triad gang charging "vulnerable" young women up to $60,000 each for arranged marriages and citizenship with co-conspirators here.
"Canadians are generous and welcoming, but they have no tolerance for fraudsters who lie and cheat to jump the queue," Kenney said.
Sam Benet, president of Canadians Against Immigration Fraud (CAIF), lauded him for the new "bold steps" in a necessary fight against "the growing problem of marriage fraud."
But he urged him to have Canadian Border Services Agency staff reveal details about accused fraudsters, estimating 15,000 victims await appeals and reviews of cases.
Despite Kenney's assurances of 900 more CBSA staff, Benet said, "They keep saying they are understaffed and tell victims they can't tell them any details because of privacy laws."
The two-year Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations amendments that began Thursday start when a newcomer receives permanent Canadian resident status -- which would be revoked if a couple splits or never lives together, Kenney said, adding exemptions would be considered in cases involving proven abuse by the sponsor or a relative, neglect or the sponsor's death.
The amendments, which he said are similar to those in Australia, the US and UK, were enacted five months after the Canadian government prohibited sponsored spouses from sponsoring a new spouse for five years after they become a permanent resident.
Kenney said he sought regulation changes after receiving appeals in 2009 from groups such as the CAIF to prevent marriage scams that included victimization plus cases in which people make money sponsoring foreign spouses they soon divorce before re-offering their services.