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A recent CBC article highlighted a case in which a couple got married over FaceTime due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will not have their marital status recognized by the Canadian Government.

Couple’s Marriage Ceremony

The couple have been together for five years; the wife is a 35-year-old Canadian citizen and the husband is a 32-year-old American citizen. 

The wife lives in Windsor, Ontario and the husband lives in Royal Oak, Michigan. They live approximately 26 kms from each other, separated by the Canadian/U.S. border.

The couple have been physically separated and unable to see each other in person since March 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Despite the travel restrictions, Canada recently began allowing American spouses to enter the country. Canadians can still fly to the United States, but the wife could not take off enough time from work to fly to the U.S. and self-isolate for two weeks upon her return.

As a result, the couple decided to get married in the hopes that they might then reunite in Canada. 

The husband obtained a marriage licence in Kansas and the couple participated in the marriage ceremony over FaceTime on July 6, 2020. Only the husband was physically present at the official wedding ceremony in Kansas, while the wife later participated in an informal ceremony via FaceTime held at a chapel in Missouri, which shares a state border with Kansas. 

Legality of Marriage in Canada vs. the United States

The couple’s marriage will be legally recognized in the United States because the country’s immigration law recognizes such marriages, which are known as proxy marriages. In a proxy marriage, the marriage is recognized once the two spouses physically reunite even if only one spouse was physically present at the marriage ceremony. Kansas is one of the states that permit proxy marriages.

However, such marriages are not legally recognized in Canada. Since 2015, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) no longer recognizes proxy marriages unless the bride or groom is a member of the Canadian military.

The Government of Canada’s website specifically states that people may be exempt from this rule unless their application was received prior to June 10, 2015, or if they are a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. In that case, it is possible that a proxy marriage may be recognized after June 10, 2015, if:

  • the applicant could not be physically present at their marriage ceremony, because of travel restrictions related to their service,
  • the marriage took place outside of Canada, and
  • It was registered in a country where marriage by proxy is legal.

As a result, when the husband attempted to enter Canada following the marriage ceremony, he was denied entry because he did not qualify as a spouse.

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At Campbell Bader LLP our family team has collectively spent more than twenty years advising clients about family disputes, including those involving high net worth individuals or complex matters.

We value and incorporate collaborative family law principles into our practice, but we’re smart enough to recognize when that approach won’t work for you and we adapt our strategy accordingly. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us online or at 905-828-2247.