Canada intends to maintain its high immigration record next year with around 250,000 newcomers in 2012, according to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
‘In our immigration plan for 2012 you’ll see our intention to maintain high levels of immigration to Canada,’ he said.
Canada has the highest per capita of immigration in the developed world but 2012 levels are unlikely to be higher than previous years because of the global economic situation.
‘I don’t think we can increase it very much because the economy is a little unstable. We don’t want to bring immigrants to Canada who will subsequently face unemployment,’ explained Kenney.
‘On the other hand, we do need immigrants to fill jobs in the economy now. So I suspect that our overall level of immigration stay about the same, over a quarter of a million a year,’ he added.
He also said a new law to curb immigration through fraudulent marriages will be brought into effect next year. The new regulation will impose a two year period of conditional residency on foreign sponsored spouses and a five year moratorium on their ability to sponsor someone.
‘If you come in as a sponsored spouse and become a permanent resident and then divorce your Canadian husband or wife, you will not be able to turn around and sponsor someone from overseas,’ Kenney said.
‘This is what every other immigrant receiving country such as Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the US do, and the only question is why we didn’t do it a while ago,’ he added.
It is part of a plan to crackdown on what has been described as a revolving door of marriage fraud.
‘Someone comes in, sometimes they pay a Canadian to sponsor them as a spouse, they immediately get a divorced and then the person who got landed, marries someone overseas, and sponsors them in, and they get paid. We are going to stop it,’ explained Kenney.
Kenney also said that many Canadians have been victimized by foreign spouses who used them as a tool to come to Canada and have immediately left the marriage or abused the spouse.
‘The most effective tool is to stop fraudulent marriages from being approved in the first place because they are so hard to deal with once the person is admitted into Canada. We will continue to be very vigilant. It’s difficult, we want to let the legitimate married couples in but keep the fake ones out and that’s what our officers are trained to do,’ added Kenney.
It is believed that a large number of these ‘fake’ spousal sponsorship visa applications come from China and India. Recently, a large number of applications from China’s Guangzhou province were rejected.
‘Canadians were being paid up to $60,000 by criminal organizations, to sponsor Chinese citizens they had never met and we started interviewing these applicants and we found out they knew nothing about the spouse and they had no consistent story or proof of relationship,’ said Kenney.
However, it is common in India and other South Asian countries marriages are arranged by families and a couple may not know all the details about each other soon after the marriage. Kenney said officials are specially trained to make an assessment of such situations.
‘We know that in many cultures and religions it’s conventional to have an arranged marriage, and our officers approve bona fide arranged marriages all the time. But if it looks like the marriage was not arranged for family, for the purpose of living together, then we will reject the application. So the test is whether the marriage is legitimate or whether it is just done for immigration purposes,’ he added.