What Canadians Should Know About Marriage and Citizenship

sign pointing to canada and united statesWith 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.

Should You Undertake a Dry January?
Dry January is more common than people would think.

Dry January means that one does not consume alcohol for the month to cleanse the body.

A few years ago, England campaigned for a “dry January,” in which citizens completely abstained from all drinking. The practice is relatively new, but there is evidence that Finland implemented a sober January as part of the efforts of World War II. According to Dr. Gregory Taylor, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, approximately 80 percent of Canadians drink. It’s socially acceptable to drink during social events, work and play, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are health risks associated with drinking alcohol. In 2015, the Public Health Agency of Canada released a report about the effects of alcohol on society.

Keep in Mind

While it is legal to drink alcohol, Dr. Taylor wants to make certain things clear:

  • Alcohol is a mind-altering drug. At least 3.1 million Canadians are at risk for immediate injury when using alcohol, and another 4.4 million are at risk for chronic health problems, such as cancer or cirrhosis.
  • How much a person drinks is a key factor in how it affects one’s health.
  • Canadians are influenced by social situations, family contexts and advertising when it comes to drinking alcohol.
  • Research is changing our understanding of how alcohol affects our bodies.
  • Teenagers face a higher risk of negative impacts from using alcohol. It affects their physical, mental and emotional development.
  • The use of alcohol is complicated, despite the large amount of information that is available to us.

Drink With Caution

Under the Food and Drugs Act, alcohol is classified as a food. The problem is that it contains psychoactive chemicals that affect the mind and health. Dr. Taylor emphasizes in his report that the majority of Canadians consume alcohol responsibly. It should be noted that there are mixed messages about alcohol’s benefits and harms. Consuming alcohol is not the same as alcohol abuse, but it does contribute to the abuse of alcohol.

In 2008, the leading cause of criminal death in Canada was impaired driving. Although the legal age to drink is 18 or 19, the Public Health Agency found that about 60 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 19 had consumed alcohol in 2013. There are no health benefits to drinking alcohol until a person reaches middle age. Risky behaviors associated with drinking occur more often in teenagers than in any other age group. Drinking can lead to poor memory, lack of coordination, poor academic performance and injuries. It’s also been linked to over 200 medical conditions, including mental health disorders, STDs, hypertension and pancreatitis.

Why Should You Have a Dry January?

A group of employees with “New Scientist” put dry January to the test. Ten people gave up alcohol for five weeks, and four of them kept drinking as they normally did. The 10 who gave up drinking found that their liver fat fell by about 15 percent. Blood glucose levels also fell by an average of 16 percent in those who abstained. Other studies have revealed the same types of effects. However, the point to a sober January is to make a difference in your long-term health. This cannot be maintained if you have wetter February by making up for the time you took off drinking in January.

If you’re considering making some healthy choices in the new year, think about your own sober January. Check the Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to determine if the amount of alcohol you’re drinking is putting you at risk. If you need intervention for a drinking problem, contact your physician or the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the College of Family Physicians of Canada for a screening.

If you do drink, be safe and responsible. Limit how much you drink. Never drive if you’ve been drinking. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eat a meal or snack before and while drinking. Check with your doctor about any medications you take and how alcohol will affect those medications. It’s okay to drink now and then, when you make good choices about it.