British Columbia

Seeking marriage fraud solutions: minister

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he will examine possible courses of action to prevent the kind of marriage fraud alleged in a CBC News report Tuesday.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he will examine possible courses of action to prevent the kind of marriage fraud alleged in a CBC News report Tuesday.

A Victoria woman said in the report that she was misled by her husband, who is from India.

The spurned bride, Canadian Kara Dhaliwall, said Neeraj Kanda wooed her and then married her in India in September 2009, then refused to live with her or even talk to her after getting his visa and arriving in Canada.

Dhaliwall said Kanda is living with members of his family in the Vancouver area.

Kenney said he is sympathetic, but immigration officials often have to give applicants the benefit of the doubt.

"The problem is, if a sponsoring spouse absolutely vouches that it's a legitimate, bona fide marriage, that they're truly in love and that this is for the long term, we feel obliged to welcome the sponsored spouse as a permanent resident," he said in Ottawa.

There likely are thousands of such cases each year, Kenny said, adding he hopes to find a solution.

"I'm thinking of … holding some consultations over the summer on this, and seeing what kind of solutions we could find to better prevent this kind of exploitation of people's emotions."

Probation possible

Kenny is looking at other jurisdictions, such as Australia and the U.S., where sponsored immigrant spouses must pass through a probationary period before getting permanent resident status.

It's a good idea, but may not be fair to all couples, said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.

"It's unfair to trap all the good people in valid marriages, young and in love, with additional expensive hurdles and burdens," said Kurland.

Kurland pointed to a Canadian government pilot project in China that placed more visa officers in key locations to screen would-be immigrant spouses.

"[It] put an end to large numbers of fraudulent cases," he said.

Kurland said that until immigration regulations change, people like Kara Dhaliwall should have a lawyer draw up a prenuptial agreement before they marry a person who would be a sponsored immigrant.

With files from the CBC's Lisa Johnson