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Truth or consequences

in Canadian immigration

I have written many articles on the attitudes and practices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Manitoba Immigration and Multiculturalism. It is important to understand what Ministers of Immigration are saying, what legislative changes are being proposed and what practices of line staff have been changed. However, we cannot talk about immigration in isolation away from the persons who actually submit their applications nor the families and loved ones who wait patiently for a response.

Applicants are active participants in the entire process. It is often the things they declare or don’t declare to immigration authorities that cause them problems. It is too simplistic for critics of immigration to say that applicants will say and do anything to get through. It is also too simplistic for opponents of government enforcement to say that immigration staff will do anything to keep out deserving applicants. This is not a question of “angels and demons,” to steal a phrase from the Tom Hanks’ movie of the same name. What is fundamental to the entire process is a very real expectation of immigration authorities that applicants tell the truth. In other words, it is important to understand what is truthful and only to declare things that are true. “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32) is not only wise words from scripture but fundamental to the immigration process.

The applicant declarations I shall focus on today are the ones that are all too common with submissions from the Philippines and deal with undeclared relationships and biological children. It is not uncommon for applicants from back home to misunderstand that they must declare marriages, live-in partners, common-law partners, conjugal partners, partners from “secret marriages” or children born out of wedlock. In all cases, Immigration Canada can declare that a failure to disclose this information is misrepresentation and the consequences can be severe.

Why do applicants not tell the truth about their marital status? Some of the reasons appear to be cultural and based on the reality of life in the Philippines. For example, there is the assumption that single applicants with no dependents have better chances than married ones with children. A well intended friend or relative will often tell applicants to hide the fact that they are married. This may make sense when responding to discrimination in the workplace in the Philippines but not when dealing with Immigration Canada.

Applicants who lie in their immigration applications are often hurting only themselves and the persons they most care for. Many applicants wrongly believe that they have committed no wrong by entering into a “secret marriage” and concealing it. You know, it is the type of marriage where the parents are not informed but the union is not “secret” from government authorities and it is reported to the National Statistical Office. “Tita didn’t you know you are married” is a hard lesson for someone to discover when they apply for their CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage Record).

What about common-law partnerships? This concept can be readily misunderstood because the expression common-law is not in common usage in the Philippines nor found in the country’s Family Code. However, Immigration Canada expects all applicants to disclose live-in partners who cohabit for one continuous year, which fits the Canadian definition of common-law. Furthermore, Immigration Canada does not normally accept ignorance of the law as an excuse. The conclusion for potential applicants and friends, relatives or supporters is that all unions must be declared.

Another example that some applicants from back home often misunderstand is who to declare as a child. It is not a question of the marital status of the parents. Unmarried men father children and unmarried women give birth to babies. It is also not a question of who has legal custody of the child or who is the primary care giver or where the child lives. All biological and legally adopted children must be disclosed in applications. Dependent or under aged children must be medically examined even if they are not coming to Canada, regardless of which parent has custody or with whom they live.

The consequences of failing to disclose partners, married, common-law or conjugal, and dependent children is set forth in several sections in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). All readers should be aware that failure to disclose relationships and children falls under the term “misrepresentation.” A permanent resident or a foreign national is deemed inadmissible: “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” (Section 40.1(a)).

The consequences of misrepresentation are harsh: “the permanent resident or the foreign national continues to be inadmissible for misrepresentation for a period of two years following, in the case of a determination outside Canada, a final determination of inadmissibility under subsection (1) or, in the case of a determination in Canada, the date of the removal order is enforced” (Section 40.2.(a)).

The undeclared partners and children can be excluded from the family class: “A foreign national shall not be considered a member of the family class by virtue of their relationship to a sponsor if, subject to subsection (10), the sponsor previously made an application for permanent residence and became a permanent resident and, at the time of their application, the foreign national was a non-accompanying family member of the sponsor and was not examined” (Paragraph 117 (9)(d)).

The article is a reminder to us all because applicants must understand that Canada places a great value on honesty and misrepresenting your marital status or not declaring your children is wrong. It is important to check with your relatives and friends who are applying to come to Canada for temporary purposes (visitor, student, worker) or permanently, such as economic stream applications (MPNP) or family class, to ensure that they are not concealing something that can result in the refusal of their application or their removal from Canada even after achieving permanent resident status. If you are in doubt, then ask before doing something that is not legal. There is no reward at Immigration Canada for persons who misrepresent themselves.

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, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com

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