Spousal Sponsorship: A story of “how it really works”

When dealing with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) one is often presented with what seems like a Kafka-esque set of requirements.

In all fairness, for the vast majority of applicants, there are few problems because their case is straight-forward and can be quickly and easily evaluated.

Of course, those of us who find complications can experience what often seems like an impenetrable maze of highly subjective rules, regulations, etc. That certainly applies in the case of medical inadmissibility.

I had a great time meeting with an old friend yesterday.  Over drinks we caught up with each other’s lives.  He has just recently applied for Canadian citizenship.  An American originally, he went through the sponsored spousal category.  I was surprised when he told me that it required 24 months to complete everything.  I recall how nervous he was towards the end (he had a work permit, but his employer had laid him off.)

It turns out he ran into pretty much the same issue that I’m facing.  He found out about his condition shortly before he submitted his application for permanent residency (so at least not as part of the immigration physical.)  What surprised me is how many “hoops” he had to jump through in order to be successful.  This included a requirement that he be on medication and that he sign affidavits guaranteeing that he and his spouse were monogamous and that they would practice safe sex.  To be blunt, I was aghast at such requirements.  It seems highly invasive for any government to impose such requirements on a rather personal and intimate relationship.

Of course, I find this ironic – in the case of a skilled worker, a personal guarantee to pay for a public service is discounted.  So why would a personal guarantee as to sexual conduct between spouses be considered valid?

I have not delved substantially into describing my own research and opinions on the efficacy of the life saving drugs for HIV, but I am more skeptical than the press, doctors and ASOs are about their efficacy and the current treatment paradigms. I am not saying that I have the answers, I’m merely disturbed by the fact that there are so many doubts and questions to which I have not been able to obtain satisfactory answers.  It is an essential component of informed consent to understand treatment decisions. But I’ll save that conversation for another day.

Doctors, while certainly very learned, have been known in the past to collectively accept scientific conclusions that were later proven false.  For an example (but hardly the only one), do a search on Onanism for an interesting history on a common cause for a number of human conditions. We scoff now, but at the time this was all taken seriously. So I have proceeded with caution.

Bottom line: I find the idea that one can be forced to take medications to fly in the face of “informed consent” and I am amazed that any doctor would find it ethical to allow a patient to proceed in the face of such coercion.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what actually happens.



Proving a marriage is legitimate


One of the interesting challenges in preparing a new application for spousal sponsorship has been to substantiate the legitimacy of our marriage.  I’m quite sure that, given my previous rejection by CIC, this will be an area of inquiry.  From what I’ve read in other forums (e.g. Canada Immigration and Visa Discussion Forum) an important aspect of speeding the spousal immigration process along quickly is to ensure that you document everything.  I’m not trying to be so exhaustive that I overwhelm them, but at the same time I’m trying to make sure that the immigration officer reading through the file has no doubts that ours is a legitimate marriage.

Complicating this a bit is that our marriage is hardly a traditional one.   We didn’t have a big wedding (my spouse had just returned from a family wedding and agreed with my assessment that big weddings are tremendously stressful.) We had actually discussed marriage before, but to be honest I had concerns – one of which was I never wanted my spouse to ever think that I’d used our relationship for immigration purposes (another is that there’s a bit of an age difference between us.)

Even though I expected to receive the fairness letter (I just went back and looked – I received it from my attorney on the 7th of April 2011) it was still a real shock to the psyche. Something that one cannot fully appreciate until in this position is the concern about losing your home and family because of the arbitrary and capricious nature of a bureaucratic process.  Of course, bureaucratic processes are, by their very nature, dehumanizing. They turn real people into files full of paper, with numbers attached and objective standards to which the decision maker must adhere.

At any rate, we agreed to marry on April 9, 2011.  After my spouse returned in May (recall there was a family wedding and my spouse is from Taiwan originally) we started discussing when and how to do it.  I had suggested low key (with a party afterwards, although we’ve procrastinated a bit on the party unfortunately.)  After going through a big wedding my spouse was in agreement and we agreed on the low key approach.  Indeed we treated the whole thing somewhat casually – we went to Dim Sum on Friday May 13, 2011 and I said “you know, we could just go get the licence” – and that’s exactly what we did.  We went over to the Jack Chow Insurance office in Chinatown that also happens to issue marriage licences.  After showing our identification and being advised that we had to use the licence within ninety days, we left – both of us were a bit giddy.

We went ring shopping the next day after my spouse got off work.  We’d done some online shopping up to that point, so we picked a shop that had a number of rings that we really liked.  After looking at a number of rings we narrowed it down to three different rings.  My spouse then wanted me to pick, but rather than do that I said, no you pick one and I’ll pick one and then we’ll see if we can accept one of those two choices.  We both picked the same ring, which as far as I was concerned was the best possible outcome.   It’s not particularly fancy, but it has a bit of “bling” to it (something my spouse likes) and really did represent a good blending of our own likes.

I contacted a marriage commissioner the next day (Saturday) and our first pick was available for the following Friday (May 20, 2011.)  So we drove over (along with two close friends) to Kitsilano (still part of Vancouver, but a specific neighbourhood and outside of downtown where I lived.)  The day was fantastic – beautiful weather (about 24 celcius), dry and sunny.  Indeed, it was the best weather day in the first half of the year!  The ceremony was poignant and we both cried at various points throughout it.  The whole thing took about 20 minutes.  We’d brought a bottle of champagne and I think I drank most of it.

It was an amazing day.  Simple, yet thoroughly memorable.  Even the lottery ticket I bought (for the 20 May 2011 lottery) won!  It was only $20 (exactly what I spent) but given that its the most I’ve ever won on the lottery here, I was pretty happy about that outcome.

At any rate, I wander.  I’m going to include pictures from that amazing day.  Plus I’ve asked the owner of our gym to take a picture of us and write a letter of support (and she’s agreed to do so – this is a Crossfit gym, which is definitely NOT your typical gym.)  I’ve also asked my doctor (who my spouse has seen twice as well) to write a letter supporting us.  My hope is that this will be sufficiently compelling (I mean, we work out together at the gym.  If that doesn’t say love, what does?)

Just for the record, my spouse has pushed for formal pictures and engraving the date in our rings.  I’ve agreed to both.  Plus we still have a party to throw – I’m thinking that May 20, 2012 would be a good date for it (it’s a Sunday.)  We shall see.


CIC website and confusion

CIC image

CIC and confusion

One thing that can be frustrating with respect to the immigration process is that the CIC website often provides information that seems definitive but then turns out to be very contextually narrow or misleading.

For example, in “Guide 5289 – Applying for permanent residence from within Canada: Spouse or common-law partner in Canada class (IMM 5289)” the site clearly states:

A foreign national cannot become a permanent resident in Canada if he or she is inadmissible for reasons other than lack of legal immigration status in Canada.

A temporary resident permit (TRP) holder is inadmissible unless the circumstances that lead to the issuance of the TRP are resolved.

The person being sponsored must resolve the circumstances that resulted in the inadmissibility before submitting an application for permanent residence.

So my reading of this would say “if you cannot resolve the medical inadmissibility, you are not eligible for permanent residency as part of the sponsored immigration class.”  I’ve read (and re-read) this section several times.  Yet numerous sources confirm (including the CIC website) that medical inadmissibility is not a bar to sponsorship for spouses.  So, which is it?

I suspect the key to this is the title of this guide: Applying for permanent residence from within Canada: Spouse or common-law partner in Canada class.  Perhaps Guide 3999 is more appropriate, although it also says:

You and your family members, whether accompanying you or not, must undergo and pass a medical examination in order to come to Canada. To pass the medical examination you or your family members must not have a condition that:

  • is a danger to public health or safety
  • would cause excessive demand on health or social services in Canada.

Examples of “excessive demand” include ongoing hospitalization or institutional care for a physical or mental illness.

It seems little wonder why there is so much confusion in this field (and why nobody can give you a simple answer.)

To file for a temporary resident permit or not


Canadian Visa Image

Canadian Visa

I’m mulling over whether or not the right thing to do now is to file for a temporary resident permit. Right now I’m in this peculiar limbo – I’m deemed “medically inadmissible” but as a US Citizen I can generally enter Canada without setting off any alarm bells.

I’ve had two lawyer’s throughout this process. Both of them have given me the same answer when I said “so, if I’m found medically inadmissible, are they going to stop me at the border and deny me entry?” In both cases the answer was “probably not.”

Personally, I find this untenable. I’ve got a multi-year lease on an apartment (I owned a place initially, but sold it after getting married and deciding we needed a bigger place,) my company has just renewed a multi-year lease on our offices here, I have people who work for me and depend upon my presence. Further, I have a new spouse who cannot afford the new apartment alone – and I’m not sure I can afford to pay for an extra place (in the US) should they refuse me entry.

Another complication here is that my current work permit expires in September (2012). My new attorney has suggested that I apply outland (at the border) in which case the form is slightly different – specifically, the question about medical conditions. So applying in country means I have to disclose the inadmissibility. Applying out of country means I don’t (because the condition is “manageable with medication”). My current attorney told me that an officer at the border could find out that I was deemed medically inadmissible, but the system with that information is separated from the system that they normally use – so it would require a bit of digging.

The safest thing to do would be to apply for a temporary resident permit (formerly known as a “minister’s permit”) but such things are entirely discretionary – and if I’m rejected for that then it seems very likely that I will be stopped and rejected at the border.

So it’s a bit of a gamble – can I convince that these things constitute legitimate “humanitarian and compassionate” reasons for issuing same. I’m using OP 20 as my guideline here, since understanding the criteria by which such an application is considered is quite useful.

The backup plan would be to simply have all the paperwork with me – in that case I could apply for a TRP at the Port of Entry.  That way, if they stop me I can at least try to get in.  I truly dread the idea of being forced to call everyone at home and say “sorry, but I’m not being allowed back into the country.”

Am I married or not?


Wedding Day May 20, 2011

Getting Married in Kitsilano

I am still just getting started with this blog (I have more background material to publish!) but the world around me isn’t slowing down.  My “ace in the hole” here has been that somewhere along the way of being turned down for permanent residency I actually married a Canadian citizen.  Note that this doesn’t affect my existing application, although I did have to report the marriage to CIC (and I did, sending them a copy of my marriage certificate.)

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I read that the Attorney General of Canada took the position that a marriage to a foreigner is only valid in Canada if it was valid in the country of domicile of those being married. This was a bit shocking, but I took solace in the fact that this is only an argument by the AG, not a decision by a court.  Even rudimentary analysis of this makes it clear that this is a poor argument. It would mean (for example) that if the laws of the foreign country did not allow interracial marriage, Canada would not consider such a couple married.

Complicating matters is that while the US government would not recognize our marriage, my last state of domicile would (at least for now.)  Ugh, what a mess.

For the record: I was married on May 20, 2011.  We had a civil ceremony, in BC, with a local marriage commissioner.  It was an amazing day – easily the best day in the first half of the year, sunny, warm, dry, absolutely beautiful.  Everything just came together perfectly!  Even the lottery ticket I bought that day was a winner (just $20, but still it is the first time I’ve ever had a winning lottery ticket in BC.)

This morning there is encouraging news: the Canadian government will change the laws to recognize gay marriages of foreigners (at least).  It’s not clear to me that they are going to recognize other types of disallowed marriages (interracial, interfaith, etc.)