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    The not-so-secret marriage

    and Canadian immigration

How many of you are familiar with the so-called “Secret Marriage” in the Philippines? You know, when one person convinces another to marry and assures them that their parents will never know or that the marriage will not be registered in the Civil Registry or National Statistics Office. It is no big surprise that many couples married in this way find out too late that their secret is out.

By law, if a person goes through a marriage ceremony he or she is considered “married” regardless of all the myths, misconceptions, games, tricks or excuses that they or those around them may offer as to why a secret marriage doesn’t count. If you say, “I do” in front of a priest, pastor, mayor, judge, etc., then chances are excellent that you are legally married. The problems caused by this type of marriage escalate to a crisis when these brides and grooms apply to immigrate to Canada and continue to conceal the truth.

Consider for one moment two common Canadian immigration situations. In the first situation, a Canadian sponsors his or her dependent child who is assumed to be single but, in reality, is secretly married. If the sponsored child gets married before entering the country the sponsorship may be considered “void” and he or she becomes “inadmissible.” In terms of marital status, Canada Immigration defines a dependent child as “someone who does not have a spouse or common in law partner.”

Another scenario is when economic stream applicants, like those who apply to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program, declare themselves to be single even though they have been “secretly” married.

The second case is different because the economic immigrant applicants can get married but they must declare this change to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program and/or Citizenship and Immigration Canada. If they fail to disclose that they are actually married but have presented themselves as single throughout the immigration process, they have lied about their marital status and misrepresented themselves to immigration authorities. Such applicants could be refused under Section 40 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or face enforcement action “for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act.”

The failure to disclose information about a “secret” partner will affect any future sponsorship plans you may have for that person. The “secret” partner and “secret” children, if applicable, who were not identified in the application or examined by immigration authorities will become inadmissible persons, or in the language of the Act “excluded relationships”. As the Act says: “the sponsor previously made an application for permanent residence and became a permanent resident and, at the time of the application, the foreign national was a non-accompanying family member of the sponsor and was not examined” (R117 (9)(d).

Canadian immigration authorities consider misrepresentation to be a serious offence and the consequences are serious. Are Canadian immigration authorities aware of the prevalence of secret marriages in the Philippines? The answer is a resounding “yes” and explains why applicants from the Philippines must obtain an additional document when they apply for their permanent resident visa – the Certificate of No Marriage or CENOMAR.

The content of this article is intended for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

If you or someone you know is in this situation, you should find out more about your immigration options. For a free 5 to 10 minute consultation on secret marriages, excluded relationships and other immigration topics, you are invited to contact my office at (204) 783-7326 or by e-mail,

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba or by telephone at: (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292.

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