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Canadian visa rule changes mean the end for IELTS Brides

What do Canada’s visa rules have to do with young Punjabi women? Melanie Butler reports…

On 29 March this year, Canada’s visa rules changed, quashing the dreams of the so-called ‘IELTS Brides’; young, poor Punjabi women with an aptitude for English who marry into richer families that pay for her travel and university fees in order to secure a Canadian work visa for their sons.

Canada has now withdrawn work rights for spouses of international students on undergraduate courses, bringing this practice to an end. This clampdown follows a bout of agent scams, which sadly lured Indian students into breaking visa law.

Though this change in work rights affects the ambitions of IELTS bride – which the Gazette first reported on in June 2020 – it does not appear to be caused by them.

The brides’ story has grabbed the attention of the Indian press, who claim educational travel agencies have turned into marriage bureaus and that Punjabi press marriage adverts were filled with requests for ‘IELTS-clean brides’.

By 2021, stories of brides leaving or divorcing their husbands when they got to Canada had started to break in India; a scandalous act in a country with a divorce rate of just 1%.

Manisha Gulati, Chairperson of the Punjabi Women’s Association, told Channel 18 television they had heard of some ‘cheating’ women, but this was nothing compared to the 30,000 frauds of Non-resident Indian men.

‘Contract marriages to go abroad is an old Punjabi social problem … we need stringent laws to protect both women and men,’ said Gulati.

Image courtesy of Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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