Friday, October 7, 2011


How does one prove love? Or more specifically, how do you prove to a complete stranger that you and your spouse are in love...using only paper documents?

Creating this "evidence" to prove your marriage is real is what bi-national couples like us have to do just to live in the same country. When you start falling in love with someone, you don't realize that you might one day have to backtrack through the exact development of your relationship, looking for facts, specific dates when you met your loved one's friends and family for the first time, and random saved papers and receipts, with the urgent need to prove your love is genuine....because if you don't, you might have to go back to your own country to live, far away from your spouse.

Over a year ago, we excavated the living history of our relationship, arranged it in a way that tells the story of us, checked and re-checked never-ending pages of forms and supplemental information, and mailed it all in a box to immigration. The large stack eventually landed on the desk(s) of the stranger(s) in the immigration office tasked with sifting through all the artifacts to assess our relationship. There are a number of steps in the process of applying for permanent residency in Canada and a 3-page checklist of what specific forms and documents have to be included, but for the sake of brevity, I'll just say there are three major categories of forms and information that make up the application: sponsor information (the Canadian citizen), applicant information (the one who wishes to become a permanent resident, which was me), and then the relationship proof. The sponsor information is detailed, but not too bad. The applicant section is excruciatingly detailed. Just to give you an idea: One of the questions on the application is to list every organization, club, or group you have ever been involved with in your entire life, with your dates of membership (by month and year) and any positions or offices held. Since I started with clubs and activities as a young child, just this one question took weeks of tracking down information and resulted in 3-page spreadsheet.

Then there was the relationship proof. Do mushy statements show love is real? Or are financial statements and joint accounts more convincing? What about copies of receipts to show major shared purchases? Envelopes addressed to both people with a post mark proving the shared address and date? Thankfully, S and I both tend to save a lot of stuff and our cameras put accurate dates on our photos. We dug up all sorts of old cards, emails, and, unbelievably, even the receipt from our very first date. I still can not believe S had that in a pile of old receipts that I culled through after our last move. Bank account statements, cell phone bills, representative emails covering the span of our relationship, hand-written love notes, dating anniversary cards, wedding cards, Valentine cards, Facebook screen shots, airplane tickets to prove travel to see each other, and more. I compiled it and then organized it in a way I felt it would be most straight-forward for someone else to evaluate. Table of contents, numbered pages, printing labels to indicate exactly what each page was and our names, in case the pages got misplaced somehow. I went through a lot of labels, paper, and printer ink.

We opened up our relationship to a complete stranger. It's weird to think a person out there somewhere has read our quirky notes to each other and knows the nicknames we call each other. He or she has flipped through photos of us sightseeing in Italy and with family on Christmas Eve and exhausted after a big move to a new apartment. This person knows the exact story of how we met and the cookie that brought us together; yet, we don't know this person.

The current discourse on marriage fraud here in Canada is fear-fueled. There is a general lack of understanding of the process of spousal immigration (the act of marriage does not make one an automatic permanent resident, and certainly not an automatic citizen!). Those of us that have been through the spousal immigration process understand that it is a challenging, extremely thorough, and long process. We have heard of couples who have been together for 10 years and have kids who have gotten denied, so we knew to take the evaluation process seriously. Even though I am not from a country that has a high frequency of marriage fraud, we took months to prepare our application because we wanted there to be no question of the genuineness of our relationship. It was one of the most challenging applications I have ever done. Turns out, it takes a lot of paper and a lot of work to prove love.


  1. Hey there! I found your blog because you commented on a comment I left on the APW blog. And oh, I just wanted to say, this entry - I feel your pain. I just sent my PR application in a few months ago, and it was the most exhausting thing trying to put it all together. So, I wish you good luck with your application, and I hope your PR comes through soon. I don't even expect to hear anything on mine till next spring, since I mailed it in June, but ugh, it's so nervewracking. Do you mind if I follow your blog? I find it's nice to connect with other people who understand all the hassles of immigration. ~Alia

  2. Hi Alia! So glad you came by and would be happy for you to follow. :) I went over to your blog, and was going to comment but do I need an account with Live Journal in order to comment? I wanted to tell you congrats on your anniversary! And on the health care! I had traveler'S health insurance for a long time, and was so glad to get full provincial insurance in August. Also, I probably should have said this in the post, but I got PR in May. It took 7 months for me. I wish you all the best with your process and I hope it goes speedily for you. For me, the waiting time was harder than the preparation because it was out of my control and I had a lot of time on my hands. I look forward to reading your live journal.

  3. I *think* you can comment anonymously on my LJ, or you can use the openID system to comment with your blogger id. I'm pretty sure those are both options, but if not, let me know. :)
    Thank you for your congratulations! And ohhhh congrats to you on getting your PR! That's super exciting. 7 months isn't bad at all! I thought it would take closer to 11. And ugh, I totally know what you mean about the waiting time being worse. I hate having it be out of my hands, too. I'm mostly just trying not to think about it at this point, since there is nothing I can do about it. But yeah, very stressful!

  4. Alia, I was trying to comment again on your journal but it won't let me do it the way I just did it last time. So, hopefully you will get this: I just wanted to say that whether you applied inland or outland is what determines whether or not you can safely leave the country with your PR app intact. This forum is super helpful and this thread explains the pros/cons of inland vs outland:

  5. 335 pages. Whew....that is insane. I can imagine that you were very excited to be finished with it!

  6. I can't even imagine how stressful the waiting time would be, after you've spent so much effort trying to find convincing ways to "prove" your relationship.
    R and I are from different countries but wonderfully we are both EU citizens, so although there are cultural differences to address and our families are always far away, we never had to contend with resident permits. When I read storied like yours I am so relieved I happened to fall in love with someone so convenient :)

  7. Wow what a strange process to go through. I can't imagine what I would do to prove our relationship.

    My mom and I became permanent residents of Canada after she married a Canadian in the early 90's. The process took close to a year, but I don't think they ever had to go through quite that much of an ordeal. Granted I was like 9 at the time so I could be wrong.


  8. wow, congratulations on being finished!

  9. @The Turner's- Yes, sending it in was SUCH a relief because I put a lot of pressure on myself while preparing it, since the thing in the balance was so big, you know?

    @fiona lynne- Wow, I hadn't thought about the lack of immigration in the EU.... YES, that is such a plus! You get to fall in love with other EU people and enjoy sharing lives and cultures and move where you want without dealing with immigration...that is a pretty exciting and mind-blowing thought!

    @greyandshiny- it was a strange process! And I didn't expect it to be, since I come from the states. So when it was...I was unprepared for it! And I'm not sure how the process differs now from how it was in the 90s, for example. I wonder if it has gotten more complex due to higher numbers of people wanting to immigrate and more cases of marriage fraud? Out of curiosity, did you got through the citizenship process too?

    @Meghan- Thank you. :) It is SUCH a relief to be be a permanent resident now and to feel like I can finally build a life here. I got a job and started working last month, and the difference in my sense of belonging is pretty huge.

  10. so glad you can finally build a more permanent life there! and congrats on the job too!!