Fake Cuban, Canadian marriages common: Report
By BRIAN LILLEY, Parliamentary Bureau
Last Updated: October 13, 2010 2:11pm
OTTAWA — As many as a quarter of all applications to bring Cuban spouses to Canada involve “marriages of convenience,” a report prepared by Canadian immigration officials in Havana shows.
The report, obtained by immigration lawyer Richard Kurland through access to information and provided to QMI Agency, found that approximately 700 visas are issued for spouses each year by Canada’s immigration office in Havana, and up to 25% of them are shams marriages.
“The major fraud concern,” reads the report “arises from marriages of convenience, including same-sex relationships, resulting from the large number of Canadians vacationing in Cuba. Lack of a common language, significant cultural and age differences combine to mandate a large number of interviews in priority FC1 cases.”
FC1 cases are applications by Canadians to sponsor their spouse to immigrate to Canada.
“We are concerned about the large number of scam marriages that are entered into solely for the purposes of immigrating to Canada,” confirmed Alykhan Velshi a spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
Velshi told QMI that the government is aware of the problem in Cuba and at several other locations around the world.
“We have measures in place to make sure we can detect them,” Velshi said of fake marriages. “That’s why we interview a large number of spousal sponsorship cases.”
With such a large supply of people looking to come to Canada, government officials admit they can’t catch everyone, and some scam artists will make it through the system.
“The profile is the vacationing Canadian who gets amorous with a local Cuban,” said Kurland. “There’s no lack of supply and no lack of desire to come to Canada.”
Kurland said he’s heard of cases involving middle aged Canadians going down to Cuba to pick up someone 20 to 30 years younger than themselves. That, he said, is often the profile that will tip immigration officials off that something might not be right.
But Kurland said that even if scam spouses do make it through the interview process, and then take off once they land in Canada, they are often only hurting their jilted spouse.
“When they bolt on coming to Canada, the spouse is on the hook for 36 months of welfare if the wandering husband or wife ends up on welfare,” Kurland said. “At the end of the day, it’s just another way to come to Canada: spring boarding off the unknowing or open-hearted Canadian spouse.”