Canada-U.S. Couple devastated after Canada fails to recognize FaceTime marriage

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A Canada-U.S. Couple were devastated to discover that Canada will not recognize their wedding, performed with only the groom present at the wedding as the bride participated via FaceTime.“It broke my heart,” said Lauren Pickrell, 35, of Windsor, Ont. She has been separated from her US partner, Mark Maksymiuk, since early March due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The couple had hoped that by getting married, they could reunite in Canada, allowing American spouses to enter the country.

“I had very high expectations because I felt in my heart that we did everything right,” Pickrell said.

She and Maksymiuk, 32, were legally married on July 6 and have a valid marriage license from the state of Kansas.

The catch is, only Maksymiuk was physically present at the official wedding ceremony in Kansas City, Kan. Pickrell then participated via FaceTime in an informal ceremony for the couple, held at a chapel in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City straddles the two states. .

Maksymiuk married Pickrell on FaceTime on July 6 while at a wedding chapel in Kansas City, Missouri, and she was near Windsor, Ontario. Earlier today, Maksymiuk attended a proxy marriage ceremony in the state of Kansas after obtaining a marriage license there. (Submitted by Mark Maksymiuk)

U.S. immigration law will recognize weddings in which only the bride or groom was physically present at the ceremony – known as a proxy marriage – after the couple have physically united.

Canada, however, disagrees. Maksymiuk said he discovered this when he attempted to enter the country and explained the details of his proxy marriage when questioned by a border official.

“His exact words were, ‘You know, we don’t consider this type of marriage to be valid,’ said Maksymiuk, who was refused entry to Canada. ” I was crying. I broke down. “

Kansas legal proxy marriages

Maksymiuk lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, approximately 16 miles from Pickrell’s home in Windsor. Despite the short distance, the couple remains separated.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, Canada has banned foreigners from entering on non-essential travel. In addition, the land border of the United States is closed to Canadian visitors. Canadians can still fly to the United States, but Ms Pickrell said she couldn’t get enough time off to travel and self-isolate for two weeks upon her return.

Canada recently eased its travel restrictions to allow immediate family to enter, including spouses and common-law partners.

Engaged couples who don’t meet the criteria have rushed to find solutions, including marriage – if they can make it to one place.

Henry Chang, a business immigration attorney in Toronto, says Kansas ended up legalizing proxy marriages by failing to specify in law who should attend a wedding. Maksymiuk would likely be allowed to enter Canada if he and Pickrell redo their wedding ceremony in the United States – together, Chang says. (Submitted by Henry Chang)

Pickrell and Maksymiuk searched for a possible alternative and discovered a little-known fact: Couples can legally get married in Kansas in a proxy ceremony. The two decided to give it a go.

“If you really love someone, you do whatever it takes,” Pickrell said.

Henry Chang, a Toronto business immigration lawyer, said Kansas has found itself legalize proxy marriages by neglecting to specify in law who should attend the marriage.

“They just forgot to mention that both parties had to be present for the ceremony to be legal,” said Chang, a partner at Dentons law firm.

“Because of that, it implies that you can get away with it.

The groom refused entry to Canada

To seal the deal, Maksymiuk flew to the state of Kansas, where he obtained a marriage license and attended a power of attorney ceremony in Kansas City, Kan., Set up by Your Wedding Chapel Magical Day, which specializes in proxy marriages. Your Magical Day then hosted an informal ceremony for the couple at a nearby chapel in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It’s in a mall,” Maksymiuk said. “It almost feels like walking into a doctor’s office, but there’s, like, ribbons and knots and stuff on the wall. ”

Pickrell appeared via FaceTime on an iPad. At the time, she was working as a kitchen supervisor at a restaurant just outside of Windsor. Her boss and colleagues joined her for the ceremony while her family tuned in to Montreal.

“It was perfect,” Pickrell said. “I never wanted to have a big wedding. “

Pickrell is pictured on a computer screen as she takes part in her FaceTime wedding on July 6 from her workplace – a restaurant just outside of Windsor, Ont. Her boss and colleagues joined her for the ceremony while her family tuned in to Montreal. (Submitted by Mark Maksymiuk)

But things fell apart five days later at the Detroit-Windsor border when Maksymiuk attempted to enter Canada and was refused entry.

“It was absolutely devastating,” he said.

In 2015, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) stopped recognizing proxy marriages unless the bride or groom is in the Canadian military.

IRCC told CBC News it made the switch over concerns that proxy marriages could involve an unwilling spouse who never consented.

Maksymiuk said the government’s position is frustrating, as he and Pickrell have had a close relationship that has been going on for almost five years.

“It doesn’t seem right or right. “

What are the options?

Chang, the Toronto lawyer, said Maksymiuk would likely be allowed to enter Canada if he and Pickrell redo their wedding ceremony in the United States – together.

“Unfortunately, that’s the only way to save him. ”

Since that’s currently not an option, the couple are hoping the federal government will expand its immediate family exemptions to allow more couples to reunite.

“It’s a tough time to be alone, and they have to recognize it,” Pickrell said. “Love is essential and love is not tourism. ”

Since the government introduced its immediate family exemptions in June, it has come under pressure from separated families and couples who do not meet the criteria.

The Public Health Agency of Canada told CBC News last week that it is re-examining its definition of immediate family while keeping in mind the risks posed by international travel during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Pickrell and Maksymiuk say they have no regrets about their proxy marriage, which allowed them to celebrate their love – albeit from a distance.

“It made me really happy,” Pickrell said. “Mark is my husband. No one can tell me different. “

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