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  • Tetiana Karbovanets, RCIC

Getting married abroad? Make sure your marriage is recognized in Canada



When getting married abroad it is important to understand that there are certain requirements for overseas marriages to be recognized in Canada, and thus, giving you the right to sponsor your spouse to become a Canadian permanent resident.


The rule of thumbs is that marriage should be recognized in both Canada and the country where it was established. What does it mean?


First of all, it is against the law to be married to more than 1 person at a time. You can’t come to Canada with more than 1 spouse, even if you were married to more than 1 person in the past and it is legal in the country where the marriage was performed.


Secondly, your spouse should be at least 18 years old in order to be sponsored to come to Canada. If you got married at a younger age, you should wait for both sponsor and the applicant to reach the age of majority.


According to Canadian laws, you cannot get married to your close family e.g. parents, grandparents, siblings, half-siblings etc. This rule is strictly enforced and there are no exceptions.


Marriages that took place by proxy- i.e. when one or both of the parties were not physically present at the ceremony (e.g. Marriage through Skype, or by using representative) are not legal in Canada and will not make you eligible for immigration.


It goes without saying, that Canada does not recognize or tolerate forced marriages when one of the parties was made to enter marriage by force, the threat of persecution, punishment or blackmail.


But what about arranged marriages, when people are getting married according to the arrangement their families made for them? In some countries, e.g. Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, arranged marriages are not only legal but very popular, as it is a strong part of their traditions and customs. If these types of marriages are recognized by the countries where they took place and do not fall under any of the mentioned above situations, they are perfectly suitable for immigration.


Besides, you should make sure that your marriage is recognized by the country where it took place. It is important to pay attention to age thresholds, degrees of sanguinity (meaning blood relatives), etc. Also, if it is not the first marriage for either of you, make sure that the country where the divorce was finalized as well as in Canada recognizes it. E.g. some countries may have a condition that divorce is considered to be final 1 year after it was granted. Thus, even though your spouse has a divorce certificate, it does not necessarily mean you can get married right away.


International marriages are complicated. Sometimes a mere technicality may cause you a lot of time and stress, just because you didn’t think of verifying the details. When you are planning to get married abroad, our advice is to consult a family lawyer or at least discuss these matters with the governmental officials responsible for marriage registration in that country.

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