By Surjit Singh Flora
The desire to emigrate has increased so much among the Punjabi community in India that people are doing everything they can to leave their country and reach foreign shores — even employing such extreme methods as using human traffickers, or wilfully violating immigration laws.
But in recent years, a new trend is emerging. It’s very simple: If a person can’t come to Canada on his own or as an international student, they still come to Canada at the price of an international student’s expense.
This was a big surprise to me. I was waiting on my Brampton street for the school bus to drop off my daughter, when a group of young women walked by.
“Oh study is so expensive here,” said one. Another girl said, “Maybe for you, but I’m not even paying a dime!”
The other girls were surprised. “How is that?” asked the first girl.
As the girl explained, there was a family in India whose son badly wanted to emigrate to Canada. They did everything, but no luck. But this girl was a bright student and easily qualified for a student visa.
“So we made the deal,” she explained. “They pay all my expenses, from airline fare to the college fees, books… right down to my boarding and lodging, and all my living expenses in Canada. In return, we’ll get the boy to Canada by proving that we are married.”
Our people are nothing if not creative. But the simplicity of the scheme took my breath away.
According to Canadian law, if an international student is married, they can bring their spouse over and the spouse can acquire a work permit for the duration of the student’s period of study. So the young man’s side takes on the financial burden, while the young woman gets her “husband” across and completes her four-year degree.
Assuming the age of the fiance is about 18 to 22 years at the time they arrive, over the next four or five years they become permanent residents. After that they get divorced, at around the age of 23-26 years. They then find their original life partners and settle their life in Canada. Both sides part ways happily and go their separate ways. A good business transaction indeed.
In recent years, the Punjabi community has already made itself famous for fake marriages. Such fake marriages have not completely stopped, but the system has been tightened up.
According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, in Canada in 2016, there were 353,000 international students in Canada. Among this tally, 34% were from China and 14% from India. From 2008 to 2015, the number of international students coming to Canada also increased 92%. Data from a 2010 government report tells us that international students brought almost $8 billion of tuition fees into the economy and spurred the creation of 81,000 new jobs.
These figures show Canada needs international students. But it is also true that there is no need for unnecessary attempts to follow the wrong path. Will the Liberal government pay attention to this spurious trend?
One more fallout of such creativity is that the immigration department is unable to tell the difference between true and false marriages. Consequently, genuine cases are affected.
The rise in fake marriages has many Punjabi community organizations concerned about this issue enough to pressure the federal government to make changes in immigration laws to prevent such fraud.
At the end of the day, it’s not the system that’s the problem, it’s us who misuse it by hook or by crook, to fulfil our dreams. And it needs to stop.
Surjit Singh Flora is a Brampton-based freelance writer.