Technology has swayed each and everything but not marriages in Canada. You both can remain virtually connected but in Canada, you need to be in the same room for a spousal sponsorship. Point to be noted here is that Canadian Immigration department does not support/allow virtual marriages for family class sponsorship.
However, foreign spouses might still be allowed for crossing the border. This rule dates back to 2015, when the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada(IRCC) stated that only Canadian Armed Forces members can sponsor their spouse with whom they have conjugal ties from a distant location, only if those marriages are not under the ambit of forced marriage or done via proxy.
The decision is an effort for streamlining various cross border couples issues. It was an effort to forbid several victims from forced marriage from being eligible for Canadian Immigration. Proxy marriages have often ended up in facilitating mental and physical abuse as neither person has to be present for solemnization. In simple terms, it is easier to force two people to get married if they are not the ones signing the contract.
Legitimacy and Immigration Law
The difference between a proxy and virtual weddings is that proxies marriages are followed by a representative, whereas couples must participate in virtual ceremonies either through phone, fax or video messenger. The law under the IRPC, specifically mentioned that couples have to be “physically present” at their marriage ceremony to get eligible for a spousal sponsorship.
“To be considered physically present at a marriage ceremony, both parties must have participated in a wedding ceremony in person,” both IRCC and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) quoted.
The “in-person” difference seems to be increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for virtual marriages spiked in March and has remained steady since. Kevin Smith, the marketing manager of WebWed also mentioned that the online marriage service saw tremendous growth during the lockdown.
Coming to Canada for Love During COVID-19
Married couples and common-law partners must prove their marital status to border officers to be exempt from travel restrictions. They also have to comply with the mandatory quarantine regulations. Border officers assess each case and pass judgments based on the current travel laws, and the facts established by the traveller.
The Canadian border offers the following list of some of the documents that can be considered proof of marriage:
- Proof of registration of marriage with a government (local, provincial, state or country) authority
- If the couple have children in common, long-form birth certificates or adoption records listing the names of both parents
- A marriage certificate
- Wedding invitations and photos.
Common-law partners can prove their relationship status by providing:
- Shared ownership of residential property
- Joint leases or rental agreements
Bills for shared utility accounts, such as:
- Joint utility accounts
Important documents for both partners showing the same address, such as:
- Driver’s licenses,
- Insurance policies, and
- Other identification documents.
Border services will accept marriage certificates that were issued in other countries, but couples still have to prove that the marriage is legally binding both in Canada and in the region where it took place.
CBSA over an email also stated that a marriage must have taken place abroad need to be valid under the laws of territorial jurisdiction, that took place under the Canadian Federal Law will be considered for immigration purposes. However, the onus will on be on proving the marriage legal.