A Canadian immigration lawyer with significant experience should be able to spot cases which are likely to be refused. With sponsorships of spouses (or common law partners or conjugal partners), there are certain flags that at the very least pique the interest of a visa officer enough to scrutinize a case more closely.
Keeping in mind that a Canadian visa officer is first faced with a sizable package of documents, it’s quite apparent that something unusual in the documents would precipitate the need for a personal interview with the visa officer. In other words, if the documents you submit to the visa officer raise issues then case will be delayed by the need for a personal interview.
Problems that arise in the documents are potentially numerous. For example, there could be contradictions within the numerous application forms that comprise a completed application for permanent residence under the family class. Things such as names and dates of birth, dates of marriages and divorces, are asked for more than once within the set of application forms.
Some applications that run into trouble are characterized by a lack of documentation. For example, the couple might have gotten married during January of 2007, and then no application to sponsor was ever filed for at least a year after the marriage. And then, after the sponsorship was finally submitted, the sponsor never returns to see the foreign national by the time the visa officer reviews the file a year later. The visa officer is thus concerned about whether the relationship is being maintained as a marriage relationship since the marriage took place. In cases where the processing has taken a long time, the visa officer would expect proof of ongoing contact, and perhaps, if the sponsor can afford it, a trip to see the foreign national (assuming the foreign national cannot reasonably get a visitor visa to Canada.)
A less common scenario is that the application for sponsorship reveals that the person being sponsored was already in a relationship with the sponsor, and the sponsor failed to disclose that relationship prior to the sponsor landing in Canada as a permanent resident. This leads to a finding of a material misrepresentation, and potential problems for the sponsor, particularly if the sponsor is a permanent resident of Canada as opposed to a citizen of Canada.
I have seen cases where photographs are submitted, which don’t impress the visa officer. Some visa officers do not like studio photographs, where the clients are staged in their own culturally based costumes. Given the inevitable amount of retouching associated with such photos, the officer may be of the view that ordinary candid snapshots provide more insight into the quality of the relationship. Similarly, some visa officers comment about how one of the people who comprise the married couple in a picture look uncomfortable.
Most visa officers are concerned if the person who is sponsoring a foreign national has had a recent divorce, or many divorces. Similarly, a similar concern arises if the foreign national recently divorced someone and then shortly thereafter, was sponsored for immigration to Canada; a pattern of marriages and divorces in the past could lead to the inference that the person getting remarried either is making bad judgment calls about a prospective spouse, or is more concerned about short-term gain rather than living with someone as a spouse on a long-term basis.
Arranged marriages are very different, given the fact that these marriages are not subject to a significant courtship period, but rather, are based on the assessment of compatibility as seen by the parents of both prospective spouses. Most visa officers understand the context. In these situations, where there is a concern that the compatibility is not present (according to cultural norms), then an interview may be necessary.
In cases where the documentation raises questions leading to an interview, then the interview itself could raise even more concerns leading to the refusal of the spousal application. Examples of difficulties arising at the interview include the foreign national not knowing enough about their Canadian spouse (e.g., knowledge of current work status, insufficient knowledge of personal proclivities like favorite food or favorite hobby), unusual pattern of emotions during the interview (e.g. crying at inappropriate times, or showing no emotion) or inadequate knowledge of the development of the relationship (e.g. not recalling where the marriage proposal took place, or where the first meeting in person took place). Interviews are also an opportunity for a person to explain the idiosyncrasy in their case.
The best remedy against these concerns is proper preparation of the documents, as well as a scrutinizing of the supporting documents by an experienced Canadian immigration lawyer. An experienced Canadian immigration lawyer can make judgment calls about documentation that is intended to be submitted, such as photographs. If the circumstances of your spousal case are similar to the types of cases that are flagged, the Canadian immigration lawyer can elicit the circumstances about your relationship, and provide some background in order to allay the concerns of the visa officer. Similarly, a lawyer can provide instruction to a person prior to an interview. I came across a case where a person unprepared for his interview was asked about why he was married six times. His answer (“I am loving the marriages”) did not allay the concern of the visa officer. An immigration lawyer can also be hired to take the case to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board if it is refused by a visa officer.