Spouse and Common-Law Partner Sponsorships – Interviews
Immigration officers will request an in-person interview if they suspect a “bad faith” relationship.
Spousal and common-law partner sponsorship applications are one of the most common Canadian immigration applications and fall under an important objective of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
Officers must assess whether the relationship between the partners/spouses is genuine. If the relationship appears to be fabricated, the application will likely be refused according to section R4(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR):
4 (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered a spouse, a common-law partner or a conjugal partner of a person if the marriage, common-law partnership or conjugal partnership
- (a) was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act; or
- (b) is not genuine.
This article will refer to such cases as bad faith relationships.
Officers usually exercise procedural fairness when processing sponsorship applications and would only request an in-person interview if there was suspicion of bad faith or criminality, or if the applicant had a prior immigration history.
Visa officers can also request an interview if they are advised of potentially damaging information regarding an application, messages commonly referred to as “Poison-Pen letters.”
Scheduled interviews are uncommon, but if requested they are held in Canada (for applications being processed under the Spouse/Common-Law Partner Canada Class (SCLPC)) or overseas at a Canadian high commission/embassy or consulate close to the applicant’s country of residence.
That said, I have had clients who were seemingly selected at random for interviews for quality assurance purposes in which they were asked questions already available on their forms; identification was confirmed within ten to fifteen minutes.
Applications under the SCLPC require that both the sponsor and applicant are cohabitating in Canada and are therefore expected to attend their interview in Canada. Interviews scheduled overseas do not require the sponsor to attend but I would nevertheless recommend it, since it shows a level of commitment to the relationship.
Overseas interviews are requested three or four weeks prior, while local interviews are sometimes requested only a week prior. A client must be properly prepared by counsel for any upcoming interview regardless of how much notice was given. If an applicant cannot attend, a request for a new date is usually granted when a fair explanation is provided.
Experienced counsel can determine how the interview will be conducted based on initial application information. The interview convocation letter will have the date, time, and location of the interview and the information and documentation required of the applicant and/or sponsor. If more evidence is requested, the officer probably suspects a bad faith relationship.
As indicated above, interviews can last anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes or three to four hours, in some cases. Officers will generate questions on the development of the relationship to assess its legitimacy.
If both applicant and sponsor are present, they will be asked similar questions in separate rooms and will be reconvened to assess discrepancies in their answers. In many cases, most discrepancies are explainable.
To give you an idea, here are some questions asked at previous interviews. Officers reserve the right to ask any question they deem appropriate (within reason) regarding the bonifades of a relationship.
- How did you first meet (date, place, time, etc.)?
- What was your first (second, third) date like? Please provide details.
- How do you feel about the differences in age between the two of you?
- Do you follow a religion? If so, which one? Does your spouse share the same views? If not, what religion do they follow?
- When was the last time you spoke with your spouse? What did you talk about?
- If approved, where do you and your spouse plan on living?
- Describe your home. How many bedrooms does it have?
- Do you and your spouse have an intimate relationship?
- What side of the bed do you sleep on (if you sleep with each other)?
- What colour is your bedroom? Do you have any pictures on your bedroom walls?
- What did you eat this morning?
- Do you have joint credit cards?
- What do you do for a living and how long have you been doing it?
- How much does your spouse earn?
- Where is your salary deposited?
- What are your spouse’s views on having children?
- What are you and your spouse’s views on contraception?
And so on…If both parties are in a genuine, mutually committed, and cohabiting relationship, the answers would mostly match. However, if there is no cohabitation, which is considered a fundamental aspect in any relationship, most of the answers given will not match.
Of course, various factors may be involved in an officer’s decision to convoke an interview and your counsel can guide you on what to expect.