• Tetiana Karbovanets, RCIC

Getting married to a foreigner? How to ace the immigration process without making mistakes

Getting married to the love of your life. What can be more exciting? Choosing a wedding dress, selecting the venue, finding the perfect honeymoon destination, making sure everything goes to plan… So many things to take into account. It can be truly overwhelming. The things get even more complicated when your significant other is coming from a different country. Did you know that spouses of Canadian Citizens do not get their Canadian Citizenship automatically? Moreover, it is a lengthy process, requiring a lot of paperwork.

So, when is the right time to start preparing the application, what does it involve and how to avoid unnecessary delays?

First of all, it is important to understand that the process can be different for couples living together in Canada and for those who got married abroad. In the first case, your spouse can stay with you in Canada while your application is being processed and might be able to work during that time. For those living abroad, it might take much longer before you can be together in Canada as a family.

Let’s discuss the first situation in greater detail. Once you exchanged your wedding vows and finally became officially married, it’s time to start your immigration journey. First of all, you have to make sure that your spouse is in a valid status in Canada. Visitors to Canada are generally allowed to stay in Canada not longer than for 6 months in a row. If your spouse is a study or work permit holder, the duration of their stay is specified in their status document (that yellow folded paper clipped to their passport). It is important to make sure that your partner remains in a valid status while residing in Canada.

After sorting that, you can go straight to the official IRCC website and download your forms and documents checklist from there. Make sure you pay attention to country-specific requirements. Sometimes, there are additional forms to be filled out for certain countries of origin. It is important that your forms are up to date when you are submitting the application and there are no signatures or dates missing. Some of the forms need to be ‘validated’ which will create the additional barcode pages. These are required to be included in your application as well.

When collecting the supporting documents pay attention to document requirements. Every document submitted should be either in English or French. For all documents in another language, you have to obtain a certified translation. For some documents, you should send originals (e.g. police certificate) or a specific type of documents (e.g. marriage certificate) is only accepted.

In addition to mandatory documents like your passports, IDs etc, you will be given alternative choices of possible documents to show that your relationship is genuine. It is a good idea to start collecting those documents as soon as possible. E.g. utility bills in your names, bank statements showing shared expenses, boarding passes from various trips. And don’t forget to take pictures. As a part of your application, you will be required to provide up to 20 pictures as proof of your relationship. So, it’s never too early to start collecting those.

Another important tip is to be consistent and truthful when answering the application questions. Make sure you double-check all of the dates. There is nothing more suspicious for the immigration officer then the facts stated in your application being not consistent with the evidence provided and information available online. E.g. If you mention that you started dating in June, but your mother mentioned in her letter that you met in August or your Facebook page shows that you were seeing different people at that time.

Before submitting your application make sure that you paid all of the fees and included all of the mandatory documents. Otherwise, your application will not be accepted for processing. And don’t forget to make a copy of your application package for your records. If you have someone to check your application for any obvious mistakes or discrepancies it is a good idea to do that before mailing the application. And don’t assume anything. If you have doubts about certain documents or questions it’s always better to ask for help or do some more research. Though, do not rely on advice from a neighbour or colleague who went through a similar process themselves. Immigration is one of the fastest-changing fields of law. What was acceptable a year ago, might not be true today. Besides, every situation is unique and requires an individual approach.

After your application was submitted, don’t worry if you don’t hear from immigration for a while. IT is likely that you will get the acknowledgement of receipt not earlier than 8 weeks after your application was received. The whole process takes about 12 months and involves certain additional steps like giving biometrics or undergoing medical. If you don’t hear from them after 12 months have passed you can call IRCC customer service or send them an online request to receive an update on your application status.

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