Liberals 'doubly committed' to tackling marriage fraud while ending 2-year spousal residency rule

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government is clamping down on marriage fraud as it scraps a two-year cohabitation requirement for newcomers who are sponsored by their spouses.

Immigration minister says Conservative initiative was leaving women in abusive relationships

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the government is lifting a two-year cohabitation requirement for newcomers sponsored by their spouses. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the federal government is clamping down on marriage fraud even as it scraps a two-year co-habitation requirement for newcomers sponsored by their spouses.

Hussen said the conditional permanent residency, which was brought in by the Conservatives in 2012, was leaving some women in harmful domestic situations.

"We're doing away with a measure that could potentially result in people choosing reluctantly to remain in abusive relationships as opposed to moving out and getting out of those abusive relationships," he said at a news conference in Toronto Friday.

The Conservative measure required newcomers to live in a conjugal relationship with their sponsoring spouse for two years or face deportation.

When the Conservatives enacted it, then immigration minister Jason Kenney said the change targeted con artists who dupe Canadians into marriage then dump them once they get to Canada. It was also designed to deal with "marriages of convenience," where two persons pretend to be in love for one to gain entry to Canada, often in exchange for money.

Vast majority of marriages valid

But Hussen said the policy did not achieve its intended outcomes, and that reversing course reflects the government's commitment to eradicating gender-based violence.

Rescinding the conditional permanent residency is also a recognition that the vast majority of marriages are genuine.

But Hussen said the government is "doubly committed" to detecting fraudulent marriages.

Frontline immigration officers will carry out stringent screening procedures, Hussen said. And a five-year waiting period will remain for people who have either sponsored a spouse or been sponsored themselves and who want to use the program again.