Could you please tell me how many photographs did you send when you submitted your application? What number is good enough to make them happy? Thanks.
Heh, our case is a bit of a statistical outlier I think. My wife told me all sorts of stories from others about how hard it was to immigrate from Vietnam to the USA and Canada, so we put way more time and effort than most people on these forums would. We also had a few setbacks along the way (such as her father passing away about six months after our wedding), so we took a little longer than most people would to submit everything.
Numerically speaking, we submitted about 475 photos covering every part of our relationship, from the first few days after we met in Ho Chi Minh City to my fourth trip to Vietnam in Jan-Mar 2011. We also submitted 327 individual pieces of evidence, including boarding passes for the two of us and members of my family who attended our wedding; ticket stubs from train trips, bus trips and sightseeing areas; receipts from the wedding and engagement ceremonies including signed, translated contracts; hotel and restaurant receipts; cards I sent for her birthday and our monthly anniversaries from the first year of our marriage; receipts for flowers sent; Western Union receipts proving I was sending her money to support her; and so on.
I should also say, though, that I was told by many, many people that our case was exceptionally solid, even disregarding the amount of photos or receipts we had. So really, we probably would have gotten through even if we had a third of the pictures and receipts we did. The fact that my parents were involved in the traditional Vietnamese engagement ceremony--they sent along letters to be read to those present, and they even ended up being able to address people themselves over Skype--was a big plus. We were told by many people that it was extremely rare for the parents of a foreign groom to be involved in any way in the traditional engagement ceremonies. Beyond that, the fact that my family came all the way to Vietnam for the wedding was another huge plus. My parents spent around three weeks in Vietnam, all told, and my sister stayed a little longer to travel around afterwards. We saved all (or most) of their boarding passes, and have pictures of them together with us and with my in-laws in traditional ao dai
dresses and suits. They even attended the civil registration ceremony at the local government office, which basically officializes the union in the eyes of the government. The eyes of the officials there were popping out of their heads--the director said he'd never in his life seen a foreigner's parents attend the civil registration ceremony before. That's a long and hilarious story in itself, really. Anyway, the point is, the fact that both families were so deeply involved in our marriage must have been a huge tip the VO that it was genuine.
We also scrupulously followed a number of "typical" Vietnamese marriage customs, at the advice of several people who had either been through the immigration process themselves or knew people who did. Apparently, CIC pays close attention to a number of different factors to assess the "genuineness" of a marriage, and one of them is how closely local traditions are followed. So, for example, although we were considering perhaps skipping the engagement ceremony and having the wedding in an exotic location, we eventually held both ceremonies in my wife's home, which is the tradition. Instead of fancy colours for our wedding clothes, we stuck with red and yellow ao dai
. Yes, apparently they even look at whether the colours of your wedding clothes are "traditional" enough. I responded to a question from ggood earlier in this thread about a Vietnamese friend of his who was penalized for marrying only one year after his wife's father passed away, which is a no-no in traditional Vietnamese culture-- normally you'd have to wait three years. Whether or not this is right (I definitely think it's not), it's pretty clear to me that CIC evaluates marriages "by the book", and if you take pains to follow that book, you'll have a better chance of getting through, just like a student who aces an exam after answering everything the way he thinks his teacher wants to hear it, regardless of his opinion.
That's probably a bit more than you wanted to hear, but it's all to say that I don't think sheer numbers are everything. What's more important is that you're answering the questions they want answered, and showing them the things they want to see. In our case, it was easy to do that because of the involvement from my family and our conspicuous respect for tradition and ceremony, but I think there are probably ways to do that even in cases where those aren't present. If you want something to read, I'd suggest CIC's operational manuals: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/index.asp
(OP 2, for example, is for family class processing). These give a LOT of information about what the visa officers expect from us. I really wish I had discovered them earlier; I only found out about them when I was almost ready to submit. If you're thinking of submitting more evidence or gathering evidence for the interview, it might help you to understand just what they're looking for.