What Canadians Should Know About Marriage and Citizenship
With immigration laws constantly in flux, it’s important that Canadians stay aware of what is and isn’t allowed, especially when it comes to marriage. The last thing anyone should do is assume that marriage automatically means citizenship. You and a spouse as well as dependent children may find yourselves facing an impossible situation based on an assumption of citizenship. Here are some important things to know related to Canada, marriage and immigration.
Becoming a Canadian Citizen
Let’s be clear. Marrying a Canadian does not grant citizenship, nor does it afford special privileges or shortcuts in the naturalization process. The basic requirements for becoming a citizen are standard across the board:
- You must be a permanent resident.
- You must have lived in the country for three out of the past five years.
- Your taxes must be filed, if applicable.
- You need to pass an exam covering your rights, duties and knowledge of Canada.
- You must demonstrate a certain level of language proficiency.
Depending on your situation, there may be other requirements specific to you or a partner. A Canadian can sponsor a husband or wife for permanent residency if that person doesn’t live within the borders. This can also be done for dependent children who aren’t permanent residents and who can be financially supported without need of government assistance. Check the Canadian government’s website regarding immigration and naturalization for full details.
Marrying a U.S. Citizen
For Canadians considering life south of the border, marriage to a U.S. citizen doesn’t automatically guarantee naturalization. The path to citizenship in the United States requires certain steps to make sure neither you nor your loved one run afoul of immigration regulations:
- K-1 or Fiancé Visa. If you’re a U.S. citizen wanting to bring a Canadian fiancé south to marry, you’ll need to file a petition to secure a K-1 non-immigrant or fiancé visa. In order to obtain this visa, the marriage must be valid and occur within 90 days. You can’t get married simply for the sake of facilitating immigration. There should be real intent to live and love as a married couple. Once the marriage is complete, the Canadian spouse can then apply for permanent resident status, or a green card.
- Temporary Work Authorization. A fiancé can apply for a temporary work authorization after being admitted on a K-1 visa. This authorization is only good for 90 days after entry into the United States. Consider applying for a work authorization and green card at the same time for permission to work that lasts up to a year and can be extended in one-year increments. The green card provides permanent resident status and full work authorization.
- Marriage Green Card. Canadians can apply for permanent residency if they’re already married to American citizens. The American spouse can file a Petition for Alien Relative to obtain a green card, yet must demonstrate the ability to financially support the Canadian companion. At the same time, the northern spouse can complete an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to change his or her immigration status.
- After being a green card holder for three years, the Canadian spouse can apply for citizenship if other eligibility requirements have been met.
Building a life together with a fiancé or a spouse that isn’t a citizen of the planned country of residence can become difficult or impossible without paying careful attention to the rules. It’s unwise to assume that being Canadian or American facilitates the naturalization processes on either side of the border. Because you’re looking at a lifetime together that may also involve dependent children, consider talking to an immigration attorney or specialist, especially if there are special circumstances that are unique to you and your partner.
Canadian Government to Grant Millionaire Investors Permanent Residency
The Canadian Government has begun accepting applications as of January 28 for its new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Program. It is the latest version of a similar initiative started several years ago, and offers applicants a potentially faster track to permanent residency. The catch is that they are required to contribute $2 million to a government designated investment fund over roughly 15 years. Detractors call the program “cash for citizenship.”
Originally announced in December 2014, the final program details were made known in late January.
- Up to 500 people may apply, but only 60 individuals and their families will be awarded permanent residency.
- Interested parties can apply from January 28 to February 11, or until the maximum number of applications have been submitted.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander stated, “This pilot program is designed to attract immigrant investors who will significantly benefit the Canadian economy and better integrate into our society, which contribute to our long-term prosperity and economic growth.”
The investment division of the Business Development Bank of Canada will primarily manage the money, but there is no guarantee of success. The directive of the fund is to “invest in innovative Canadian start-ups with high growth potential.” Participants will receive periodic dividends if the investment choices prove to be profitable.
What It Means to Be a Permanent Resident
Permanent residents are not Canadian citizens, but have specific rights including the following:
- They are allowed to live, work and study any place in Canada.
- They are protected by Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.
- They will be eligible for the majority of social benefits available to Canadian citizens such as health care.
- They can apply for citizenship.
Permanent residents are responsible for paying taxes and abiding by all Canadian laws. They are not able to vote or stand for political office, and are ineligible for certain positions requiring high-level security clearance. Another requirement is permanent residents must reside in Canada for a minimum of two years out of five. If they don’t, their permanent residence status may be forfeited.
Famous Canadian Immigrants
There are many opportunities afforded to the residents of Canada. The country is a politically stable democracy, has a robust economy and offers superior healthcare. Many people have chosen to immigrate to Canada over the years for these and other reasons. Some of the more notable immigrants are:
Adrienne Clarkson was born in Hong Kong in 1939. Her family moved to Canada in 1941 as refugees, and she grew up in Ottawa. Clarkson is a journalist, broadcaster and stateswoman. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her the 26th Governor General of Canada and she served until 2005. After that position, Clarkson was appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada in 2005.
When he was 10, Herjavec’s family immigrated to Canada from Croatia to escape the communist regime. He started the internet security firm BRAK Systems in 1990 in his basement. In 2000, the company was sold to AT&T for $100 million. His next venture was to found the software security company, The Herjavec Group. Herjavec can be seen on the Canadian TV series Dragons’ Den and the American TV series Shark Tank. Both shows feature extremely successful entrepreneurs interested in investing in other promising start-ups.
Born in Germany in 1948, Eckhart Tolle moved to Canada in 1995 and currently lives in Vancouver. He is a renowned spiritual writer. His books, The Power of Now and A New Earth, have both made the New York Times Best Seller list.
The 60 immigrant investors who are selected will be granted permanent residency in a great country. However, there is no free lunch in Canada, and those interested will have to decide if the $2 million fee is worth it.