Canadian Visa Officers and the Social Construction of “Real” Spousal Relationships

Visa Officers Under Pressure

Approximately one in four residents new to Canada in 2012 were admitted under the family reunification program, and there’s a perception that says visa officers’ personal biases affect the decision-making process.

However, a new study published in the Canadian Review of Sociology finds scant evidence to substantiate such a claim. On the contrary, says McMaster University’s Vic Satzewich who conducted the study, Canadian visa officers are motivated to protect the integrity of our immigration system.

The report, called Canadian Visa Officers and the Social Construction of “Real” Spousal Relationships, states that Canadian immigration officers “have strong pressures exerted on them” to find – or construct – enough acceptable applicants to satisfy predetermined immigration targets.

Visa officers must draw on their knowledge, accumulated experience and understanding of local cultures to identify ways in which applications are credible or not credible. In spousal sponsorship cases, part of the assessment of credibility is based on their understanding of what ‘normal’ relationships look like. This helps them decide whether to issue a permanent resident visa.

There is no formula for differentiating between credible and non-credible cases, and so visa officers must also make use of “intrusive investigative regimes where the everyday details of courtship, relationships and family life are subject to scrutiny.”

Yet even where there are concerns that a spousal relationship is not genuine, Satzewich says, “applicants must be given an opportunity to address those concerns either in an interview or by submitting additional information.”

Toronto Star (February 1, 2014)

CONTACT:
Professor Vic Satzewich, McMaster University,
905.525.9140 ext20746

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