Immigation Corner: Telephone love! Can we get married over the phone?
Dear Ms Powell,
I am a Canadian citizen and I have been dating a woman in Jamaica for two years. She applied to get a visitor's visa and was denied twice. I visit her every Christmas as I don't get much time off from work. I've heard of marriage by phone or proxy. I want to find out if we can get married that way. Can they send the documents to me and I just sign them and return them to the minister? Would I be able to sponsor her if we get married this way? She said she could get the ceremony arranged in Jamaica and that she heard of cases where people got married using a big-screen TV. Can this work? I really love her, but I can't get the time off work and she can't get a visa. Can I authorise someone to sign the documents on my behalf?
A Canadian citizen can marry and sponsor anyone provided that both you and the person sponsored are able to satisfy all requirements.
First, let's look at what would be considered a valid marriage. Both parties must be at least 18 years old and consent to have certain legal rights and obligations to each other. Most countries do not allow marriage where the parties are not present at the time the wedding is being performed. There are, however, some countries that allow marriage by proxy, but Jamaica is not one of those places. Furthermore, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) no longer recognises marriages that are conducted via proxy, telephone, fax, Internet, or other electronic means. Both parties must be present, be of sound mind, and be willing and able to consent to the marriage. The parties must be physically present to sign all the relevant documents to legalise the marriage. The marriage must be recognised by the relevant authorities in the country where the marriage is performed and by CIC in order for someone to be able to sponsor a spouse.
The only exception to the rule would be if you are a member of the Canadian armed forces currently in service and unable to travel at the particular time due to travel restrictions related to your service. Then, CIC would grant a special exception and your marriage would be recognised.
The marriage cere-mony would need to be held in a country where marriage by proxy is legal. Some states in the US such as Texas, Alabama, Montana, and countries such as Mexico and Paraguay allow marriage by proxy. You would also need to satisfy the requirements of the individual country before you are able to get a valid marriage licence.
A Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, who is at least 18 years old, may sponsor a family member to Canada under the Family Class category. This means that you may sponsor a spouse/wife, common-law, or conjugal partner of the same or opposite sex and also your spouse or common-law partner's dependent child and the dependent child of a dependent child. All should be under the age of 19.
The application is a two-step process, and the time that the application takes depends on whether the person being sponsored is in Canada or outside of Canada at the time of sponsorship and the visa office responsible for your file.
There would be an assessment of you, the sponsor. You would need to prove that you are over 18; that you are financially able to take care of your spouse; that you haven't sponsored anyone else within the past five years, are not bankrupt; have not defaulted on child-support payments; are not on welfare; and do not have a criminal record.
The next step is the assessment of the person being sponsored. This involves the usual medical and criminal checks. I do not know the reason that your spouse has been refused a visa, but you should make sure that it is not one of the reasons that makes someone inadmissible. If it is, you may need to consult with an immigration lawyer.
You will also need to submit proof of your relationship such as marriage certificate, wedding pictures, emails, phone records, photographs, and a list of activities in which you have been involved. You may also provide proof of joint assets such as bank accounts, land, vehicles, and any other information that would prove that you are in a genuine committed relationship.
All the forms and guidelines are on the CIC website. There are country-specific rules and forms, so it is imperative that you check the website to ensure that you have the latest information and forms before you submit your application.
Since you may be able to take time off for Christmas, I would suggest that you plan your wedding for that time instead of trying to get married via proxy, Internet, or phone.
-Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator, and notary public. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.