OTTAWA -- Some newlyweds who bring a spouse to Canada from abroad now face a new rule that the government says is designed to combat marriage fraud.

They'll have to live together in what the government calls a legitimate relationship for two years or the sponsored spouse could lose permanent resident status.

The rule will only apply to those who have been married less than two years and have no children together at the time of their application.

"We will not tolerate people who seek to abuse Canadians who've sponsored them in or violate Canada's laws and to treat marriage like some cynical, commercial transaction just to bring people into Canada into what constitutes a form of human smuggling," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a conference call on Friday.

The rules were developed over two years of consultations during which the government heard concerns from dozens of groups that victims of domestic violence could be unfairly penalized.

The conditional status will be waived in cases where there is evidence of abuse or neglect or where the spouse already in Canada dies.

But the Canadian Council for Refugees said the exemptions won't solve the problem.

"Making permanent residence conditional for sponsored spouses gives power to the sponsor who may use the threat of deportation to manipulate their spouse," Loly Rico, the president of the organization, said in a statement. "In situations of domestic abuse or violence, this measure will be a gift to an abuser."

Kenney said he is sensitive to that criticism but also sees potential for sponsored spouses to end up as victims of human trafficking.

"Sometimes, fraudulent immigration marriage facilitates violence against women," Kenney said, citing cases of women being brought over by gangs for bogus marriages and possibly then pressed into sexual slavery.

The new rules will be complaint-based, meaning it will be up to those caught up in fraudulent marriages to report possible violations to the Canada Border Services Agency.

"The CBSA is not going to be going into people's bedrooms," Kenney said.

Officials will receive extra training on how to assess the validity of marriages, he said.

The new regulation will apply to all applications received after Friday.

It follows measures introduced earlier this year also aimed at sponsored spouses.

Those rules require a sponsored spouse to be a permanent resident for five years before they can bring a partner or spouse to Canada.

Kenney said it was too early to tell whether those new rules have had any affect.