Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mark Miller recently dismissed well-laid plans to move to Canada in a statement.
Last week, Pallavi Sharma, a bright young woman in her early 20s, saw her dreams of studying abroad come to naught. Pallavi, who successfully completed IELTS last September with a score of 6.5, was keen to enroll in a degree program at a Canadian university.
Her engagement last month added a new layer to her journey as her fiancé sponsored her student visa. But a recent announcement by Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mark Miller threw his best laid plans into disarray.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Pallavi expressed her disappointment. Due to financial difficulties, my child wanted to go abroad, so my family considered getting a visa for my husband. Everything was ready and we even got engaged. However, under the new regulations, spouses of undergraduate students cannot receive open work permits. It would be impossible to achieve my dreams without the financial support of my husband’s family.
Pallavi’s story echoes the concerns of others facing similar problems in the state. Gurpreet Singh Plaha, a resident of Dholewal area of Ludhiana, was planning to send his wife to Canada at the time of the shooting incident in May. But now his ambitions have been thwarted by the lack of a public work permit. According to Plaha, who is single, he is married to a girl who took IELTS. Recently, such “IELTS wedding” has become a new trend from Punjab to Canada.
According to a Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) study titled “Study on Rural Migration in Punjab: Trends, Causes and Implications” from 1990 to 2022, 9.51% of Punjabis migrated abroad on spousal visa. Interestingly, more than 50% of these immigrants are men. The gender distribution was more male (53.16%) than female (46.89%). This change is related to the new trend of “contract marriages” initiated by men and women who achieve high IELTS scores on study visas and later sponsor their spouses on open work visas.
It is common for the groom’s family to cover the wedding costs and post an ad looking for a girl with an IELTS pass for the family to send the girl to Canada, often raising more than $25 million. Jagsir Singh Jumba, a resident of Bathinda’s Jumba village, noted this trend, saying, “This was the gateway to Canada.”
Amrit Saini, who lives near a bus stand in Ludhiana, said, “My parents have been talking to families whose daughters have taken IELTS to pursue IELTS degrees since May.” “New regulations in Canada now throw a wrench in the works.”
Under the new rules, spouses of undergraduate students cannot obtain open work permits. This permission only applies to spouses pursuing a master’s, doctorate, law or medical degree.
The implications are far-reaching, including for immigration services. Many immigration offices have a significant percentage of cases related to spouse visas, around 80%. For student spouses, survival becomes difficult due to the expiration of open work permits. Many immigration agencies and IELTS”.
The practice of using immigration counselors as informal marriage brokers is not uncommon, with counselors helping to create unions between boys and girls who have passed IELTS. However, a consultant from Moga said, “There are many cases where women separate from their husbands, and there are also many cases where they divorce after obtaining permanent residency in Canada.”
Vinay Hari, a leading immigration and career consultant from Punjab, said the new rules will end the practice of sending boys to Canada based on girls passing IELTS.
Hari urged the students to reconsider their reasons for going to Canada and emphasized the importance of contributing to Punjab’s economy. This change was necessary and many people who had planned to marry a girl who qualified IELTS are now putting their plans on hold.”
Devpriya Tyagi, MD at Rightway Airlink Immigration Consultants, explained that the new rules will not affect students on study visas in Canada, but will affect students who register after September 1, 2024.
It is well known that the groom’s family tends to pay for the woman’s IELTS test, as they often come from low-income families. Unfortunately, there have been reported cases of suicide and police reports when girls refuse to call their fiancés after arriving in Canada or when couples break up after receiving permanent residency. Masters or PhD students can still call their spouses with an open work permit, but their numbers are expected to be very few in Punjab. Devpriya said, “Students have to study in public universities to get work permits. People on public and private campuses can no longer get work permits.”