Despite all the accommodations IRCC is making due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, virtual marriages are still not accepted for Canadian immigration. So if your plan to bring your spouse to Canada includes a virtual marriage over FaceTime or Zoom, you might want to reconsider your online nuptial plans.
Why Canada does not recognize virtual marriages
Prior to June 11, 2015, marriages that were conducted online, where one or both parties were not physically present, were recognized for Canadian immigration purposes. The only stipulation was that the marriage had to be legally recognized in the country it was held.
The rationale behind the government of Canada’s decision to exclude this type of marriage was to address the vulnerability of women in the immigration context. “The nature of proxy, telephone, fax, Internet and other similar forms of marriage can help to facilitate forced marriages because one or both spouses are not physically present, making it more difficult to determine that they consent to the marriage.”
Exceptions exist in certain scenarios:
- You were legally married in a virtual setting prior to June 11, 2015
- You are part of the Canadian Armed Forces and meet certain criteria
Other ways to bring your spouse to Canada
The discussion about virtual marriages is more relevant today than ever before. As COVID-19-related travel restrictions are in place, many couples separately across international borders are searching for ways to be together.
Canada has relaxed travel restrictions for the immediate family members of Canadians. A spouse of a Canadian certainly qualifies as an immediate family member but if the couple cannot meet physically because of travel restrictions, how can they get passed this?
1. Couples who have not lived together for a year or longer
For couples who have never lived together, the options for bringing a person to Canada as your legally recognized spouses are limited. The only option is to have a legally recognized marriage where you were both physically present.
One thing to consider is applying for a work permit for your non-Canadian spouse. While obtaining a Canadian work permit is not always an easy thing to do, if you do manage to do it, your spouse could move to Canada. You can then organize a marriage ceremony where you are both physically present and therefore be legally recognized as spouses in Canada.
2. Couples who have lived together for a year or longer
If you have ever lived with your partner for a year or longer, and you still maintain a conjugal relationship, you can be considered common-law partners. Being common-law affords you all the same rights and privileges as legally married couples under Canadian immigration law.
We’ve written previously about recent cases at the border where couples have had difficulty supporting their common-law status. The best advice we can give you to support your common-law status is to provide a narrative of your relationship. Leases, shared household expenses, insurance policies that list your partner as the beneficiary are ideal documents to provide. If those types of documents aren’t available, get creative. Pictures of you two on vacation, sworn declarations from friends, and family can also provide support of your relationship but the final decision regarding your documentation is always at the discretion of the immigration authorities.