The threat of COVID-19 affects different types of relationships across the globe, even those that haven’t even started. Future married couples are concerned about rescheduling their plans in light of the global pandemic.
Some couples are going through virtual marriages to push through with their marital vows. Unfortunately, these online ceremonies don’t qualify you or your partner for spousal sponsorships.
Spousal sponsorships and virtual marriages
Canada’s Immigration department doesn’t accept virtual marriages on any platform, whether through Facebook or Zoom, as a fulfillment of family-class sponsorship requirements. The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s ruling way back in 2015 states that only Canadian Armed Forces members can sponsor their spouse by proxy or virtual means. It’s a rule set in place to prevent victims of forced marriages for eligibility to immigration.
The unavailability of both parties can reinforce this type of abuse since it’s easier to sign for someone unwilling to enter the arrangement. Because of this, the issue of legitimate couples forced to go through video conference weddings because of the pandemic becomes a complex issue.
Physical distancing affecting virtual marriage rates
The worldwide pandemic highly discourages people from having face-to-face interactions to avoid potentially contracting the disease. This is an issue not only for different businesses but also for soon-to-be-wed couples during the months in quarantine.
The Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations state that married couples need to be physically present at the marriage ceremony before qualifying for a spousal sponsorship. Both the Canadian Border Services (CBSA) and CIC reiterated to CIC News recently.
Many people want to contest what ‘physically present’ should mean in light of the nation’s response to physical distancing precautions. Marketing manager of WebWed states that their service received a 400 percent increase in sales since the lockdown started.
Measures for spouses crossing the border
The immigration department has several measures in place to keep families together during the pandemic. Exemptions to immediate family, including spouses, allow them to come to Canada if they will be staying for longer than 15 days. However, there are still no clarifications on the validity of proxy marriages.
Although spousal sponsorships are off the table, for now, married couples can still be common-law partners if they show proof of living for 12 consecutive months or more. If the spouse manages to cross the border to Canada, the couple can get married with the IRCC’s approval.
To cross over, The Canadian border patrol will ask the following as proof of marriage:
- A valid marriage certificate or proof of registration from the government (whether local, provincial, or national) authority
- Long-form birth certificates or adoption records of children that list them as parents
- Wedding invitations, photos, and other related media
Common-law partners can prove their relationship by providing the following:
- Certificate of shared ownership on a residential property
- Joint leases or rental agreements with both partners’ names listed
- Bills for shared utility accounts(gas, telephone, electricity, etc.)
- Essential documents and identification that have the same address (drivers licenses, insurance policies, other official IDs)
Keep in mind that Border services will receive marriage certificates as proof, even if issued in other countries. However, couples will still need to show that it’s legally binding by Canadian law. As long as you can prove the legality of your marriage, you might not run into any issues.
We are facing a complicated time with how we should proceed with different activities and events in our lives. While the status quo is still far from reach, many of us need to stay updated with what changes we should get used to amidst a COVID-19 environment.