Cracking Down on Fraudulent Immigration: Canada’s Battle Against Unlicensed Consultants

Canada Immigration

Fraudulent immigration consultants outside of Canada are on the rise, charging exorbitant fees to secure jobs in Canada for applicants seeking work permits and study visas. The Canadian government faces mounting pressure from both opposition parties and the public to enforce regulations aimed at combating illegal immigration consultancy practices. According to Canadian immigration guidelines, job offers are only extended to foreign applicants if no suitable Canadian candidates are available for the position.

Last year, more than 700 students were deported due to the emergence of a ghost consultant who had submitted fake acceptance letters to colleges with their applications for study permits.

Licensed and unlicensed immigration consultants alike have been implicated in “jobs-for-sale” scams, disproportionately affecting international students and temporary farm workers seeking permanent residence in Canada. Violators of Canada’s immigration regulations may face criminal charges, fines, probation, and imprisonment, as outlined by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), with approximately 155 recruitment consultants charged with immigration-related offenses in recent years.

In response, the government has launched a concerted effort to identify and prosecute offenders who peddle fraudulent schemes promising job offers, study permits, and work visas in exchange for unjustifiable fees. Many victims arrive in Canada only to discover that the promised jobs do not exist.

Licensed immigration consultants in Canada have expressed concern about unauthorized agents operating in Asian countries, some of whom submit fake certificates in support of study applications. Additionally, certain social media influencers mislead applicants with illegal strategies, including suggestions to exploit Canadian food banks meant for the less fortunate. Media reports have highlighted instances of food shortages in these banks.

Despite the passage of legislation in 2019 imposing penalties for providing incorrect advice to prospective Canadian immigrants, effective enforcement remains elusive. Conservative Senator Don Platt received a parliamentary response indicating that the compliance regime for immigration and citizenship consultants is not fully operational due to pandemic-related backlogs. Authorities anticipate full implementation by year’s end.

A spokeswoman from the office of Immigration Minister Marc Miller stated that they are actively taking steps to address illegal immigration activities and crack down on unscrupulous consultants who exploit the system for financial gain. According to her, they established the College of Immigration Consultants as a regulatory body to oversee the activities of the 11749 consultants within Canada and the 231 operating outside the country. The College handled 755 complaints last year, leading to disciplinary actions against 22 individuals, including license suspensions and revocations. In Manitoba, provincial authorities revoked the license of an Indian Canadian consultant involved in job selling and other illegal activities. Charging fees for finding jobs for farm workers is illegal under existing law.

Efforts to raise public awareness of unlicensed consultants providing immigration advice for a fee are underway, particularly in countries such as India, Pakistan, China, and Nigeria. However, challenges persist due to the clandestine nature of such operations, making monitoring by Canadian authorities difficult.

Suresh Nellikode is a political commentator

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