Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Good overview by one of the immigration law firms:

We will see how well the new regime works and whether it results in better practices and more professional immigration consultants:

Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act has come into force, representing another step on the way to forming a new self-regulating body for immigration consultants. 

The act provides the framework for the creation of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC), the body replacing the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).

The act, which came into force on Thursday, November 26, 2020, but was first tabled in 2019, will see the introduction of a new licensing regime and a new code of professional conduct for immigration consultants.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says the CICC will be subject to ‘significant government oversight’.

The government will establish the code of conduct, set the composition of the College Board of Directors, and appoint up to a majority of directors, IRCC says.

“We’re taking decisive action to hold immigration and citizenship consultants to account by improving oversight and increasing accountability to protect both the public and consultants in good standing from dishonest consultants who are taking advantage of vulnerable people,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.


College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act

1.  Creates a licensing regime for immigration and citizenship consultants and requires that licensees comply with a code of professional conduct established by the minister, through regulations to be tabled by the government.

2. Authorizes the College’s Complaints Committee to conduct investigations into a licensee’s conduct and activities.

3. Authorizes the College’s Discipline Committee to take or require action if it determines that a licensee has committed professional misconduct or was incompetent.

4. Prohibits persons who are not licensees from using certain titles and representing themselves to be licensees and provides that the College may seek an injunction for the contravention of those prohibitions.

5. Gives the immigration minister the authority to determine the number of directors on the board of directors and to require the Board to do anything that is advisable to carry out the purposes of that Act.

6. Gives the new regulatory body to hear complaints regarding licensed members under the former regulatory body (ICCRC).

7. Fines doubled for consultants found to be violating rules.


In reality, the formation of the CICC represents a missed opportunity for the federal government to bring the regulation of immigration consultants directly under its remit. Self-regulatory bodies like the ICCRC and its predecessors have failed to the required job.

Ottawa should follow the example of Quebec, which regulates immigration consultants within the provincial government Ministry of Immigration. There is an established infrastructure that successfully regulates immigration consultants, without the repetitive problems faced by ICCRC and its predecessor.

The new act comes after years of investigations and reports citing abuse and violations by licensed and unlicensed consultants in the Canadian immigration industry.

The regulation of the immigration consultancy industry has long been a source of controversy, even before a Standing Committee report in 2017.

That report called for action in three main areas:

  1. The legislative framework for the body responsible for governing immigration and citizenship consultants.
  2. Investigations and enforcement concerning the offense of practicing while not authorized and other offences.
  3. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada procedures for processing applications and for communicating with clients and with prospective applicants.

Previously there have been a number of damning reports into the conduct of the existing ICCRC, exposing an unprofessional organization beset with infighting and poor practices.

An overwhelming concern is that unregulated ‘ghost’ consultants who operate in Canada and overseas without sanction.

The previous legal framework did not enable ICCRC to police unlicensed consultants inside Canada or abroad.  

This left the task for CBSA and RCMP, as well as the federal government, to try and address this problem. A number of high-profile fraud cases have thus made their way into the Canadian legal system.

The advice for immigration candidates is to exercise caution when hiring an immigration consultant.

Candidates who wish to receive representation are encouraged to hire a qualified immigration lawyer, monitored by a provincial law society.

Source: Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Queen’s launching new program to train immigration and citizenship consultants

Interesting back and forth between the lawyers and academics quoted. Although I am not a great fan of consultants compared to lawyers, given the history of poor and, in some cases, fraudulent representation, the program is professionally designed given the people involved:

On Aug. 1, Queen’s University will launch a graduate diploma in immigration and citizenship law. The program will be the only English-language educational pathway to becoming a regulated immigration consultant.

Queen’s developed the program and won a competitive bid with immigration consulting’s national regulator and will be the sole accredited English provider of the program.

Ravi Jain, national chair of the Canadian Bar Association Immigration Law Section, says the program should not exist, arguing it lends credibility to an industry that has been marred by incompetence and misconduct since its inception.

“By continuing to facilitate immigration consultants to be engaged in the practice of immigration law, it does it does actual Queen’s law JD students a disservice,” says Jain, who is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in immigration law and is partner at Green and Spiegel LLP, in Toronto.

“This program is a terrible idea. Graduates will claim that they have ‘gone to law school.’ The public will be even further confused. Most think that they are hiring lawyers when they hire immigration consultants,” says Jain. “Immigration consultants have a horrific history in Canada.”

Queen’s Law Dean Mark Walters says the problems known in the industry is one of the reasons his school launched the program.

“We all appreciate that at present, the profession of immigration consultant is not well regulated, and that there have been abuses in the system and concerns legitimately raised. And that’s, in fact, why we’re involved,” Walters says.

Associate Professor at Queen’s Law and expert in immigration and refugee law Sharry Aiken says the federal government decided long ago that there was a place in the immigration administrative process for consultants.

“It’s a profession that’s here to stay. And the key is to ensure that it’s properly regulated and that the people in that profession are professionals and trained as such,” she says. “It’s a massive system and non-lawyers can perform a really important role to ensuring that vulnerable people get proper advice and assistance as they work their way through elaborate administrative system.”

The program at Queen’s comes after the regulation of immigration consultants has gone through three different stages. In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada case Law Society of British Columbia v. Mangat ruled it was not a breach of the Legal Profession Act for non-lawyer consultants to represent people in immigration hearings in B.C. Since then, the door has been open for the non-lawyer consultants to serve clients looking to relocate to Canada.

The first governing body — the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants — eventually attracted a parliamentary review in 2010 due to lack of policing and professional and ethical standards. The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council followed but problems persisted, and another parliamentary review took place in 2017. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration produced a report: “Starting Again: Improving Government Oversight of Immigration Consultants.” The report showed misconduct was still prevalent, with international students, live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers being the most vulnerable to abuse. The committee’s witnesses repeatedly accused the ICCRC of failing to deal with unauthorized practitioners, known as ghost consultants.

The 2017 report produced the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act, which turned the ICCRC into a new self-regulatory College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants — instituting a licensing regime, code of conduct, complaints and discipline committees and putting the board of directors under the guidance of the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

While the argument in favour of including consultants in the immigration system involves the need to increase access to justice, Jain says that the immigration bar is uniquely accessible to the public they serve. Jain calls the access to justice argument “absolutely ridiculous.”

“I would ask the dean and others to point me to evidence that there are problems with respect to immigrants and refugees retaining lawyers,” Jain says. “The average income of an immigration lawyer is about $75,000. People go into it out of humanitarian instinct and there’s lots of pro bono work and low-bono work where there are very low fees. So, there’s no evidence of an access problem. None, whatsoever.”

He adds that the issue raises the question of why society deems immigrants and refugees, who are particularly vulnerable, to not need the help of a trained lawyer.

“Why should immigrants and refugees be told that they don’t need a proper lawyer? It’s only the marginalized and the racialized that are told that, in our society. It’s never the other areas of law. And so, I just find that argument to be highly problematic.”

Aiken says that many other areas of law also use paralegals and consultants play “a very important role in access to justice for vulnerable communities.” She adds that the new iteration of the regulatory body, past forms of which have been “plagued with structural deficits” has made positive changes, including an expanded regulatory authority to discipline members and other new enforcement powers.

Before setting up the Queen’s program, Aiken established a National Advisory Committee, which included members of the immigration bar including past chair of the Canadian Bar Association national section for Citizenship and Immigration Robin Seligman and Lobat Sadrehashemi past president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Source: Queen’s launching new program to train immigration and citizenship consultants

Arrest of immigration consultant sparks questions about why regulator didn’t act sooner

Valid questions and it remains to be seen whether the reforms to the ICCRC will prove effective or not:

Artem Djukic’s paralegal licence was revoked in April 2016 when he admitted to “misappropriating” $900,000 from two former clients of his immigration consulting business.

At the time, Djukic, 55, was facing 10 outstanding complaints related to his work as an immigration consultant and was barred from representing asylum seekers at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)

But four months later, without resolving the complaints, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) said Djukic could continue working as a consultant so long as he complied with a strict supervisory system.

According to the IRB, this was to include financial audits, monthly reporting requirements and open access to his books.

Based on these assurances, the IRB lifted its restrictions against Djukic and allowed him to again represent claimants at the board.

But ICCRC now tells Global News it did not have the authority it needed to properly monitor and investigate Djukic during this supervisory period.

It also alleges that over the past decade, Djukic, while running Soko Immigration Consulting Service, improperly took roughly $155,000 from six clients, encouraged dishonest and illegal conduct, and, in at least one case, provided advice that led to a client being deported.

And much of this alleged misconduct occurred while he was under the regulator’s supervision, according to a January decision from ICCRC that revoked Djukic’s licence to practice as a consultant,

Now, lawyers such as Darcy Merkur and Ravi Jain, chair of the immigration law section of the Canadian Bar Association, are asking whether the council shares any responsibility for Djukic’s alleged wrongdoing while under its supervision.

“I’m not impressed with their replies around how they supervised him,” Jain said. “I don’t think they did anything at all.”

Djukic arrested, charged with fraud

Djukic was arrested in January by Peel Regional Police and charged with defrauding the public in connection with an alleged $95,000 immigration scam.

The council denies it shares any blame for Djukic’s alleged actions, including while he was under its supervision, adding that recent decisions made against him show he is “ungovernable.”

They also say revoking Djukic’s licence in January and ordering him to repay the money he allegedly took is proof that changes to its complaints process over the past two years have worked. These include going from four to 23 full-time complaints investigators, hiring more experienced senior staff and prioritizing the most serious cases.

Djukic did not appear at the hearing when his licence was revoked and did not provide a defence against any of the allegations.

“Responsibility for his egregious behaviour and unprofessional conduct is his alone,” said ICCRC spokesperson Christopher May.

John Murray, ICCRC’s president and CEO, also says the regulator did its best to discipline Djukic in the past based on the information it had at the time.

But he acknowledged that, until very recently, the council’s discipline committee lacked the training and expertise it needed to deal with complex cases, adding that if the past complaints against Djukic were made today, they would be handled quicker and more effectively.

Murray also thinks the regulator was “set up to fail” by the government because it wasn’t given the same powers to investigate and monitor its members that other regulators were given, such as provincial law societies or colleges of physicians.

This lack of authority, Murray said, made it impossible for the council to protect the public and go after individuals such as Djukic.

“It’s fair to say that prior to 2018, the council did not have an efficient complaints and discipline process,” Murray said.

But ICCRC has always had the power to suspend or revoke a consultant’s licence due to misconduct.

Still, in 2017, when Djukic was found to have committed eight breaches of the council’s code of conduct, its discipline committee decided to keep him under supervision rather than revoke or suspend his licence.

Neither May nor Murray would explain why ICCRC decided to keep Djukic under supervision in 2017, although the ruling said he agreed to pay back the money he’d improperly taken.

This decision was made less than a year after the Law Society of Ontario revoked Djukic’s paralegal licence for admitting to “misappropriating” roughly $900,000 from two former immigration clients and using the funds for his own personal gain.

The law society ruling said Djukic showed no remorse for his “devastating” actions.

Refugee claimant felt ‘used’

Mirela Todorovic, her husband and two children hired Djukic in 2014.

Todorovic says Djukic guaranteed their refugee claim — based on fears of persecution for their Roma heritage — would be successful because he had “connections” and because he knew all the adjudicators at the IRB.

Djukic encouraged them to pay cash and didn’t provide a receipt, she said. The family says they agreed to pay Djukic $6,000 for his services, including representing them at the IRB, translating documents and preparing them for their hearing.

But other than processing their work and study permits, he did nothing for their asylum case, she said.

Todorovic wonders why ICCRC — knowing what it knew about Djukic’s past behavior and given his long history of complaints — didn’t revoke his licence sooner.

“Half of it was their fault,” Todorovic said. “Why didn’t they stop him?”

Pending changes to regulator

Djukic was the subject of at least 30 complaints between 2011 and 2018 while working as an immigration consultant. Sixteen of these complaints, including the six that led to his licence being revoked, resulted in disciplinary action, May said.

May did not provide information on the number of complaints made against Djukic in the 19 years he claims to have worked as a consultant before the council was created in 2011.

ICCRC says one of the reasons Djukic was able to engage in alleged wrongdoing while under its supervision is because it lacked the authority to properly investigate consultants.

But this will soon change, Murray said.

Legislation passed by the government last April — which will see ICCRC transition to a self-governing “college” similar to provincial law societies — provides enhanced protections for the public.

The legislation will give the college greater investigatory powers, such as the ability to compel consultants to provide testimony and evidence, as well as the legal authority to enter and search immigration consulting offices without obtaining a warrant.

It will also allow investigators to take action against former consultants and to work with law enforcement officials from other countries to go after alleged wrongdoing abroad.

But Jain says it’s not only about complaints. He thinks the requirements for becoming a consultant are insufficient to practice law, especially when appearing before the IRB..

The solution is for the government to require all immigration consultants to work under the supervision of a lawyer, Jain said, such as in the United States, where the practice of law is limited to lawyers.

“Criminal lawyers would be shocked if all of a sudden we said, look, you don’t need a law degree to practice criminal law,” Jain said.

The IRB, meanwhile, has called refugee and immigration law one of the most complicated areas of law.

Paul Aterman, a former head of the board’s immigration division, testified before Parliament in 2017 saying there’s a “big distinction” between the type of work done at the IRB — where representatives must examine and cross-examine witnesses, develop complex legal strategies and argue cases persuasively — versus helping would-be immigrants fill out forms.

But May believes consultants are qualified to appear before the board and that it’s unnecessary for them to be supervised by lawyers, adding that the government agrees with both of these points or it would have changed the rules when it passed its new legislation last year.

May also says the vast majority of consultants conduct themselves professionally, that most complaints the council receives are targeted toward a small group of problematic consultants and that once the new rules are in place, ICCRC will be able to go after these cases more aggressively.

The council is also strengthening its educational requirements by developing a post-graduate program for certification, creating a compensation fund for victimized clients and developing more stringent standards for consultants who appear before the IRB.

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/6588042/immigration-consultant-arrest-regulator-supervision/

Up to a quarter of Russian immigrants to Israel may have left after receiving passports

“Citizens of convenience:”

Thousands of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union may have come only to receive an Israeli passport before moving back abroad.

The Hebrew weekly Makor Rishon reported that a cottage industry of companies promising expedited Israeli citizenship, and the passport that comes with it, have sprung up in Russia since the passage of a law allowing new immigrants to receive the travel document within the first three months of their aliyah.

For many in the post-Soviet world, an Israeli passport is considered as desirable as a European Union passport is to Israelis. Russian fixers have started advertising that they can help prospective “olim” obtain “Israeli citizenship within two days” for a cost of thousands of euros.

Under certain circumstances, the paper reported, the three-month period can be shortened to as little as a day, and some immigrants have even been able to receive their passports without having to leave Ben Gurion International Airport.

Based on data from Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, Makor Rishon estimated that approximately 8,500 emigres from the former FSU have come just for the passport before immediately leaving the country. One Jewish Agency official estimated that about 25 percent of the immigrants came for a passport and “left the country immediately after receiving it.”

Approximately 10,500 Russians and 6,400 Ukrainians made aliyah in 2018, which was the first year that the majority of new immigrants were not considered Jewish under halacha, or Jewish religious law.

Source: Up to a quarter of Russian immigrants to Israel may have left after receiving passports

Immigration consultant regulator to turn into new body under budget bill

Not convinced that this will address all the problems with the previous body:

The head of Canada’s current regulator for immigration consultants says his organization is set to reform as a new, industry-managed oversight body now being proposed by the Liberal government.

“That’s our intention,” John Murray, president and CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), told iPolitics. “Our preliminary view at this point is, of course, we would.”

The decision to transition will have to come up for a vote among ICCRC’s members. Murray said anecdotally, he’s heard licensed immigration consultants would be in favour of the new college.

As a way to crack down on unscrupulous immigration consultants, the Liberals proposed in its budget bill tabled on April 8 to create the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, which will bring regulation of the practice in similar line with other professions including accountants.

The ICCRC, which has long been criticized as ineffective in tackling unethical consultants that exploit new immigrants, will be able to transition to the college under the new rules. The bill also states if that doesn’t occur, the proposed college will be established as a new corporation.

The legislative changes will also provide the college injunction power to go after unlicensed practitioners, often known as “ghost” consultants, for violations. The new rules will also require licensees to comply with a code of professional conduct established by the federal immigration minister.

Murray said he supports the Liberal government’s move for statutory authority to regulate immigration consultants, which he believes will be able to resolve some of the problems that have long plagued his organization.

“Right now, our bylaws give us authority to investigate our members and compel them to appear before tribunals,” he said. “But we don’t have the authority to bring in witnesses who are not members or obtain documents and other information from third parties who are not members.”

He said the proposed powers would allow for more authority to compel violators to pay fines.

“It’s one thing to make a decision that involves a financial penalty. It’s quite another to try to collect that when they’re no longer a member,” he said.

But critics say regulation should be handled directly by the government given the precarious status of many victims of bad consultants.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan told iPolitics earlier this month that the new college amounted to little more than a name change, and lacked provisions effectively protecting victims who risk being deported if they come forward with a complaint.

“They need some sort of protection for them to speak out and that the process won’t be turned around and used against them when seeking permanent resident status,” she said.

Murray said an issue right now is when ghost consultants are identified by ICCRC, they are referred to the Canadian Border Services Agency, the body tasked with deporting people without status.

But he said since the new regulatory body will be able to investigate unlicensed consultants, the process would not have to involve the CBSA.

Murray said ICCRC will have to work with the government going ahead to hammer out the details of what new regulations would look like.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Shannon Ker said Ottawa will be working closely with ICCRC on transition plans while limiting disruption to licensed consultants and their clients.

She said whether ICCRC transitions into the new college, existing members will become members of the new regulatory body. She noted transitional provisions are found in the budget bill, including the continuance of the disciplinary committee.

“For both scenarios, there are provisions to ensure that the regulation of the profession is as seamless as possible,” Ker wrote by email.

She also said the $52 million found in the budget to increase protection of immigration won’t go to the new college, which will be self-funded through membership fees.

Murray said he hopes the budget bill can be tweaked to allow the new college power to take over abandoned or closed down consultancy practices, as well as to allow its own disciplinary committee to set its own fines.

Source: Immigration consultant regulator to turn into new body under budget bill

Douglas Todd: Would-be immigrants to Canada being sold ‘false dreams’

Yet another story on immigration fraud with some examples of more reputable consultants:

The migration agents confronted Vancouver’s Laleh Sahba as she walked on the sidewalk last month near the Canadian embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

The street hawkers told her that, for $25,000 or more, they would get her to an immigration professional who would be sure to hand her a visitor or student visa so she could be well on her way to obtaining a Canada passport.

The sidewalk agents mistook Sahba for another near-desperate Middle Eastern person who would spend almost everything she had for the dream of becoming a permanent resident in Canada, land of promise.

But Sahba — an Iranian-Canadian and a regulated Canadian immigration consultant — says her encounter with Turkey’s street agents was just another reminder how easy it is for people abroad and in Canada to claim to be immigration experts to take vulnerable people for a nasty ride.

“They are selling wrong information. They are making up false dreams,” Sahba said at her downtown Vancouver office. “This is a huge business. And what disturbs me is that many are in it for the money in Canada. They’re playing with people’s lives.”

Sahba, who works with professional immigration partners in the Middle East, is among a small number of Canadian immigration consultants and lawyers who are coming forward to describe the wide range of misinformation, misdeeds and scams being foisted on would-be immigrants.

Some of those posing as immigration specialists are telling anxious people they will eventually get a Canadian passport if they pay large sums, in the tens of thousands of dollars, just to obtain a study or visitor’s visa, which have limited use. Some are also falsely telling clients they can finagle them status as a refugee.

The immigration fantasies of foreign nationals often end in tatters, says Sahba, 40, who came to Canada from Iran two decades ago and has been a consultant for 15 years. Many immigration specialists are making promises they can’t deliver on. By the time most would-be immigrants come to her to find a way out of their migration problems “they are absolutely screwed. We can’t help them.”

Much more must be done, Sahba says, to clean up the fast-growing immigration-advice industry, which in Canada includes 5,400 regulated immigration consultants and 1,000 immigration lawyers, but also an untold number of unlicensed agents.

Marina Sedai, a Surrey immigration lawyer, tends to agree. She told a Conference Board of Canada workshop in Vancouver last month that there is “rampant immigration fraud” being perpetrated by some consultants and agents.

Sedai said she is constantly hearing from troubled clients about how they’ve being misled or defrauded by self-professed experts who demand large fees to guide foreign nationals through Canada’s intricate immigration system.

As national chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration section, Sedai highlighted how her organization has told federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen the system Ottawa has set up to regulate immigration consultants, who have less formal training than lawyers, is not working.  “There are good reasons,” the society said in 2017, “to limit the practice of immigration law to lawyers and Quebec notaries,” with immigration consultants working under the supervision of lawyers.

Many wives are being advised by immigration specialists to get a study visa so their husbands can come to Canada and work and their children can attend school, says Laleh Sahba. The trouble is many wives “don’t really want to study” and end up failing. It leads to big problems for the family.

Sahba, however, believes the majority of regulated immigration consultants do excellent work. Still, she hears at least five times a month from foreign nationals who have become embroiled in shady agreements that involve both Canadian immigration advisers and lawyers.

While Sahba generally supports Ottawa’s aim to make it simpler for some of the more than 500,000 foreign students in Canada to become permanent residents, for instance, she said some advisers are increasingly misrepresenting the study visa program as the backdoor immigration ticket for entire families.

Many wives in their 40s and 50s are being advised, she said, to apply for a study visa so that their husband can come to Canada on a spousal work visa and their children can attend schools in Toronto, Metro Vancouver and elsewhere.

The trouble, Sahba said, is many of the wives are unable to pass English-language exams and “don’t really want to study in the first place.” They begin failing courses and can’t get into postgraduate school, which means they and their husbands and children are expected to return home.

“It’s all over for them. They’ve wasted their time and huge amounts of money. And their kids have in the meantime become used to Canadian society. This is where my heart bleeds.”

In addition to describing scams in which so-called immigration specialists have charged clients many thousands of dollars just for a visitor’s visa, Sahba said other illicit schemes involve provincial immigrant entrepreneur programs, including those operated by Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba.

Since a large number of so-called immigration specialists also have real-estate licences, Sahba says, some become embroiled in housing deals with rich prospective newcomers.

Other advisers direct so-called entrepreneurs to make “passive investments” in Canadian properties or businesses, which often involve nothing more than appearing to transfer money between relatives’ bank accounts.

In one extreme case, Sahba worked with two sisters from Pakistan who transferred more than $170,000 to immigration agents in Canada who said they were arranging the purchases of a gift shop and pet store in Vancouver. The entire process, which involved transferring photos and signatures via Skype, was fake. The culprits couldn’t be tracked.

The Canadian Bar Association, in its attempts to target “incompetent and unscrupulous” immigration advisers, told Canada’s immigration minister in 2017 there had been an “astonishing” 1,470 complaints against the regulated members of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) since it began in 2011, plus 1,115 more against non-members.

That regulatory council posts some of the online allegations against its licensed Canadian immigration consultants, with one ICCRC page describing disciplinary investigations against almost 50 named members, who regularly charged clients $10,000 to $30,000 for relatively small tasks. Many of the consultants are accused of misdeeds such as: “Deceiving client,” “misleading client,” “falsely advising client,” “failing to notify client,” “charging client exorbitant fee” and of “misrepresenting” themselves in a variety of ways, including as border officials.

Sedai said some immigration advisers have even become involved in presenting false job offers to would-be immigrants — an activity she says she has run into in Surrey. Burnaby immigration lawyer George Lee is among those who has tried to expose the widespread jobs deception.  

Although the clients of people who make a living in the immigration industry continue to take part in illicit schemes based on bad advice, Sabha wants to make clear some clients have not been innocent in the process. “They’ve got dirty hands, too.”

And the chances for all concerned of getting caught are increasing.

“The immigration officers are also not stupid anymore, not like in the old days,” Sahba says, chuckling. “They’re smart. And they’re looking at all aspects of every immigration application.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Would-be immigrants to Canada being sold ‘false dreams’

‘He was supposed to help us’: Chinese immigrants out thousands after immigration agent disappears

It would be a lot simpler just to ban consultants and only advise applicants to use lawyers. And hard to understand why people would trust a 24-year-old with that kind of money (no, lawyers have a few bad apples too, but there are meaningful codes of conduct and enforcement):

A Winnipeg immigration agent has allegedly skipped town, leaving a group of Chinese immigrants in the lurch and out thousands of dollars.

Jiatoo Immigration Consulting Inc., run by 24-year-old Zhihao Jia, quietly shut the doors at its Pembina Highway office in early March, clearing out furniture in a seemingly overnight move with no notice given to its landlord or clients.

“He was supposed to help us — but he didn’t help, but hurt us,” said Julie, a client of Jia’s, who the CBC has agreed not to identify.

Julie said she gave Jia $10,000 on March 1, 2019, to help her apply for a post-graduate work permit and eventually help her get permanent residency in Canada.

Instead, less than two weeks later, she was left scrambling to find Jia after he stopped returning her calls or texts.

‘No people, no furniture, nothing’

When Julie went to Jia’s office on March 11, she knew there was a problem.

“We found his office was totally vacant. Nobody was there. They were all gone. No people, no furniture, nothing,” she said.

The CBC has agreed not to name the woman we are calling Julie, as she is afraid that speaking out could impact her future immigration applications.

She is one of at least 13 Chinese immigrants who claim they were affected by Jia’s disappearance, according to licensed immigration consultant Yu Xiang, who is working with Julie and a few other clients left in the lurch.

One person gave Jia over $20,000 and only received partial services before the immigration agent packed up and left, Xiang said.

“The severity of harm done to them [varies],” person to person, he said.

Some clients paid and got nothing, he said, while others got partial help and some received full service. But Xiang questions the legitimacy of their applications, because Jia was not licensed to fill them out.

CBC has not been able to speak with Xiang’s clients to independently verify this claim.

Julie said she felt she could trust Jia after seeing online advertisements for his company, and a website saying it was nominated for a 2017 “new emerging Chinese company” award at the Manitoba Chinese Business Gala.

When she went to the company, Julie had just graduated college and needed to get a job in order to obtain a work permit and stay in Canada.

She agreed to pay Jiatoo Immigration Consulting $15,000 for help to find a job and eventually receive assistance with her application for permanent residency in Canada, according to the retainer agreement signed by the client and the company.

Julie paid Jia $10,000 up front, and was to pay the remaining $5,000 at a later date.

“We are newcomers. We are not familiar with the immigration service or the working environment here in Canada,” she said when asked why people pay for immigration services.

“We need help. We need guidance and instruction. We need to consult people who know how to help us.”

Jiatoo owed 2 months’ rent

The landlord at 675 Pembina Highway got a call from an employee of Jiatoo Immigration on March 5, saying the office was empty.

“She said the place was cleaned out,” said property manager Eileen Gaynor.

CBC has not been able to reach Jia for comment. Texts and phone calls to the cellphone number he provided to clients, and which is listed on Jiatoo’s website, went unanswered.

CBC reporters also visited two properties associated with Jia through land titles. Both were abandoned. Stacks of newspapers were piled up outside the front door of one of the properties.

Gaynor said Jia still owed rent for February when he vanished. He had given her a cheque but it bounced. By March, he had closed his bank account so she could no longer collect on his debt.

Jia moved into the strip mall in April 2018, according to Gaynor. Company records show he is the director of Jiatoo Education Service Inc and also the president of Club Royale Immigration Inc.

Winnipeg police investigating

Julie said despite paying Jia, she got nothing in return. At first she wasn’t sure what to think, but after telling police what happened, the woman is confident she’s been duped.

“It’s official now, so we aren’t suspicious anymore. We are pretty sure that he’s a fraud,” she said.

For weeks, the woman kept trying to get ahold of Jia. He eventually phoned her husband, telling the couple to stop looking for him — or else.

“He said he knew us. He has got our information, and he [said] if we called police, it will have a bad influence on our immigration process,” Julie said.

After reporting Jia to police, Julie called the Canada Border Services Agency and Winnipeg-based immigration consultant Yu Wang — the licensed immigration consultant Jia worked under as an agent. Company records show that Wang is the director of Internationalized View Investments Consulting Ld.

In Canada, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, advice or representation for immigration applications can only be provided by either a person licensed through the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) — the regulatory body for immigration consultants — or a lawyer in good standing (or in Quebec, a member in good standing with the Chambredesnotaires du Québec).

Winnipeg police confirmed that they received a report from the client and are investigating. The CBSA said it is not their practice to confirm or deny whether they have launched an investigation.

At this time no charges have been laid.

Not allowed to give immigration advice: ICCRC

Jia was not licensed to do immigration work, but had been hired to recruit clients for Wang.

Jia is not a member of the ICCRC, but was registered as an agent of Wang’s.

Agents are not allowed to provide any advice for immigration under the current ICCRC regulations, but those rules are frequently skirted, explained Xiang, who is a licensed consultant under the regulatory council.

Wang told CBC News he had no idea Jia was taking money from clients until a woman called him mid-March to allege the agent stole her money.

“He’s supposed to [be] recruiting clients for me,” Wang said. “I prepare the application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.”

Wang said Jia informed him earlier this month he was moving to Vancouver, so Wang cancelled his agency agreement with him. The ICCRC confirmed the agreement was cancelled on March 15.

He says he has no idea where any money Jia collected would be and he does not have access to a client list. He said repeated messages to Jia about the money have gone unanswered.

“I didn’t see the money at all,” he told CBC.

Xiang said the likely reason more people have not reached out to Wang is because they do not understand that he is the consultant Jia worked under.

Julie said at first, she was afraid to speak out, but decided she couldn’t stay quiet and allow other people to be victimized.

“We trusted him,” she said.

“We want people [to know] what kind of a company Jiatoo is, and we want people to know what kind of person Zhihao Jia is — and to me personally, I want my money back.”

Julie said Jia came to Canada as a student in 2012, and took the same path as she did which makes his actions even more egregious.

“He studied here and graduated and [worked] here. So I think he should know what we think. He should know what we feel — what we feel as a newcomer here.”

200 cases reported each year: CBSA

The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council cannot legally prosecute or investigate allegations of fraud. It can discipline a consultant if an agent of a member acts unethically.

On first offence, the council member receives a written warning.

On second offence, the member is fined $100.

The CBC requested an interview with the ICCRC, which could not be accommodated in the time frame requested.

In a prepared statement, the regulatory council said it could not disclose information on any investigations that are currently underway.

But Xiang says he’s heard stories like Julie’s too many times.

“It has a very huge impact on the reputation of Canada’s immigration system,” he said.

“And there’s lack of trust between these newcomers and the various service providers in Canada.”

Almost 180 cases of suspected immigration-consultant offences are brought to the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency each year, according to data provided by the agency.

About 120 of those complaints involve unlicensed consultants.

Xiang says those cases aren’t just about money. A late application form or forms with missing errors can mean the applicant is denied a work permit or permanent residency, and the consequences can be deportation.

“We’re talking about people’s lives here,” he said.

Source: ‘He was supposed to help us’: Chinese immigrants out thousands after immigration agent disappears

Douglas Todd: Chinese students’ river of cash unlikely to dry up

Speculation, of course, but my guess:

A business college at the University of Illinois has taken out an insurance policy against the potential catastrophic loss of revenue from high-fee-paying students from China.

Educators and social-media commentators are expressing fears the river of money flowing from Chinese students into Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia will dry up because of a brewing trade war and the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

The government of China has said it has more than 600,000 students studying abroad, the vast majority of them in English-language countries. Highly desired Canada has more than 186,000 of them, according to China’s Toronto consulate (the federal government’s figure is slightly lower). That means China’s young people make up roughly one in three of all 500,000 international students in Canada.

Despite China’s ambassador to Canada last week hammering English-speaking countries as “arrogant” and rife with “white supremacy” for their defence of Meng’s arrest, there is no sign that China’s leaders are ready to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia’s rulers, who reacted to Canada’s human rights comments last year by calling back most of the Saudi students in Canada.

“I don’t think the Chinese will be as petulant as the Saudis were, or as unsophisticated, although they may make more subtle changes over time,” Andrew Griffith, a migration researcher and former senior director in Canada’s Immigration Department, said.

Canada could even attract more Chinese students in the future in part because the number entering the U.S. appears to be flattening out, possibly because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about China and immigrants. That’s why Illinois business college dean Jeffrey Brown, realizing his school had become highly dependent on Chinese students’ money, took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London.

Canada hosts eight times more Chinese students per capita than the U.S., suggesting this country’s educational institutions are more dependent on, if not addicted to, their fees than U.S. colleges. Some higher-education researchers are calling the phenomenon “academic capitalism.”

It’s the expanding trend in English-language countries to make up for steadily eroding taxpayer funding of schools, colleges and universities by capitalizing on the full fees paid by students from mostly well-off families from around the world, with China providing by far the biggest group.

Some Canadian educators, and researchers like Mengwei Su and Laura Harrison of Ohio University, say the intense concentration of Chinese students in Western schools brings with it drawbacks, however, mainly for the students themselves.

Even though Western universities welcome Chinese students as “a particularly lucrative market,” Su and Harrison found many of the young Chinese struggle with English and integrating into Western culture — partly because they are ending up in classrooms and living situations dominated by other students from China.

“Seventy per cent of the students in my class are from China,” one Chinese student told the Ohio researchers, describing the sense of social segregation. “The class is not much different from that in our country,” said another Chinese pupil. One young woman from China opted to study in the Netherlands rather than North America, saying, “I want to avoid too many Chinese students.”

Against a backdrop in which the taxpayer-funded proportion of the operating budgets of B.C.’s public universities has drastically declined in recent decades, more than half the foreign undergraduate students at Simon Fraser University, more than 2,700, now come from China.

The University of B.C. has 5,000 students from China, almost one third of its international student population. Scores of public high schools, colleges and two-room private language institutes also take in hefty fees from the roughly 50,000 Chinese students in B.C., mostly Metro Vancouver.

The dark blue at the top of this chart indicates more than half the undergraduate international students at Simon Fraser University since 2011 have come from China. (Source: SFU)

The federal Liberal government is busily wooing more Chinese students, however. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is following the enthusiastic lead of former minister John McCallum and saying “We’ll do whatever we can” to bring in an increasing number of students from China.

Hussen maintains international students in Canada, whose numbers have been recently jumping by roughly one quarter annually, funnel $11.6 billion a year into Canada’s economy, adding they also enhance “cultural exchange.” To make it easier for more Chinese students to jet across the Pacific Ocean to Canada, the Liberal government recently opened seven new visa centres in China. Hussen acknowledged such students can contribute to the housing and rental squeeze in cities such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver, particularly since many offshore parents buy Canadian homes for their offspring.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says “We’ll do whatever we can” to bring in an increasing number of students from China.

Western “higher education institutions are slowly evolving into a corporate-like enterprise that pursues monetary gains, at times eclipsing their educational mission,” write Su and Harrison, of Ohio University, echoing growing sentiment among scholars of higher education.

The Ohio researchers found a key financial problem is that some overseas recruiting “agents” are exploiting international students, with more than half the Chinese students they surveyed hiring these advisers to navigate their complicated route to the West.

The trouble with agents dominating the field of global education, according to Su and Harrison, is many are providing misinformation to students, steering them to inappropriate schools and not warning them about how difficult it will likely be to learn workable English. Many students get stuck in never-ending English-remediation classes.

To root out abuse and increase overseas families’ trust in such agents, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland have developed a code to regulate them, say Thompson Rivers University researchers Victoria Handford and Halying Li.

But Canada has not signed on to the protocol, which is designed to ensure the agents behave more ethically.

Meanwhile, Canada’s recruiting continues apace.

Source: Douglas Todd: Chinese students’ river of cash unlikely to dry up

School agents benefit both Canada and China – The Conversation

The analysis of the numbers and practices is more interest than what appears to be shilling for education consultants while indicating a possible regulatory gap:

China is the No.1 source country of international students who come to study in Canada. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 150,000 international students from China studied in Canada in 2017.

Any political impact on Canadian and Chinese relations is potentially serious for a wide global network with something at stake related to Chinese students in Canada — including students and their families, universities and services related to international study, such as education agents.

Education agents play a significant role in counselling and referring students to international education providers. They connect the people involved in international education, linking students, parents, education providers, visa offices, professional service providers such as language training institutions, academic program evaluation agencies, travel and accommodation providers and finance institutions to each other in order to facilitate study in another country.

As an education researcher focused on studying trust and leadership, and as part of my university’s recruitment efforts, I have studied how students and their families decide to invest in international education, including through using education agents.

I also supervised a student’s research project that investigated the role of education agents in China. The student, Haiying Li, helped to inform this article. Li worked as an education agent between 2001 and 2014 in various capacities: among her roles, she worked for our university, and as a consultant for Beijing-, and Guangzhou-based firms and at a program supporting Masters students based in Vancouver and Shanghai. This was before she became a student in Canada.

What I have seen is that education agents play a significant role in helping international students come from China to Canada, and the agents’ work benefits both countries’ economies and people.

How agents work

The agents provide services such as identifying the institution and course of study that meet the student’s needs, helping the students finish applications, submitting grade records and serving as a liaison. Some agencies may also provide training for required language proficiency tests. In some cases, after the student enrols the agent can play the role of cultural mediator.

Based on research conducted in 2014, 60 per cent of international students used an education agent to apply to Canadian colleges and universities.

Among the three different types of education agents, the first is an institution representative who receives a commission by the school they represent. The second type is the student’s representative; the student pays for advising services typically to apply to academic programs offered by the best-ranked universities.

The third type of agent may be remunerated by both a student and an institution. The student pays for the agent’s professional overseas study consulting service; the agent may also receive commission from schools who she or he works for.

Canada benefits

I teach and supervise many international students, including Chinese students. Students’ eagerness and wonder in a new place is common, yet no less beautiful each time it unfolds, reinforcing the significance of intercultural experiences.

International students bring Canadians the opportunity to begin to understand cultural differences and similarities and to become better equipped to live successfully in a multicultural global economy.

International students bring both more money and jobs to Canada, contributing more than $15.5 billion to Canada’s economy annually. They bring knowledge, information and skills to Canada.

The federal government reports that international student spending directly and indirectly supported 168,860 jobs in Canada in 2016, an increase of 38 per cent over 2014. Thus international students have direct impacts on GDP, jobs and tax revenue.

Agents working for schools recruit students to Canadian institutions but if they perform their role successfully, they also raise the brand image of the institutions.

These agents also market Canada. They show the advantages of Canada amid other prospective countries of study, empahsizing the quality of education, the multicultural nature of Canada, safety, the beautiful Canadian environment, the potential for new economic development, the high-quality life style and immigration pathways for international students.

A 2013 report commissioned by the Council of Ministers of Education Canada based on a voluntary survey of 145 elementary, secondary and post-secondary Canadian educational administrators, and government officials in education says that how schools use and manage agents varies significantly (of note: Québec survey responders reported minimal use of agents). More research about agents’ work in Canada would be helpful.

Agents in China

Consultants EY Parthenon report that the total agent market size in China is USD$1.2 billion. In 2017, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education, 608,400 Chinese students were going abroad.

Students who leave China to study internationally come from across the country, including from what China classifies as first-, second- and third-tier cities. China ranks these cities based on five indicators: availability of business resources, urban hubs, activity of urban people, lifestyle diversity and future plasticity.

From the perspectives of parents and international students, the education agent is a conduit. Working with an education agent is reassuring because the agent can understand parents, students and their families and speak their language and thus help navigate a huge emotional and financial decision.

Trustworthiness

Some existing studies suggest that students and their families often choose the institutions that the agents recommend.

But researchers Mengwei Su and Laura M. Harrison argue this reliance has not always been beneficial to students: they argue that in our globalized economy students may be exploited for economic gain and that “delegating recruitment to overseas agencies causes mismatches between host institutions and the Chinese students.”

In a context where Chinese study abroad has grown rapidly and not every country agrees on regulatory practices (Canada is not a signator to an 2012 agreement signed by the U.K., Australia, Ireland and New Zealand for best practices agents’ trustworthiness is a significant issue for families and schools.

Eight interviews recently conducted with people knowledgeable about agent work (one agent in China, one director of international marketing representative from a Canadian university, three mothers of international students and three international students) suggested some values and standards that could be probed in further research.

In creating trustworthy relationships between clients and agents, positive feedback from the client’s friends was significant: in other words, a word-of-mouth referral. Successful experiences shared by previous clients, coupled with objective comparisons of service price, service quality and personal qualities of the agents all mattered.

With the growing markets in international education, high-quality services by trustworthy professionals are essential.

Source: School agents benefit both Canada and China – The Conversation

Lawyer versus consultant? Immigration data shows visa applicants have best shot with former

There may also be some selection bias involved (e.g., nationals who engage lawyers may be stronger candidates for visa approvals):

Foreign nationals who prepare their own Canadian visa applications are nearly as successful in being accepted as those who spend money on a consultant to do the job.

But chances of success are much higher if they hire an immigration lawyer to help get their study, work or visitor visas, according to immigration data obtained under an access to information request.

Canada received 342,154 temporary resident applications in 2017, the data shows. While 86 per cent of applicants declared themselves as self-represented, 6 per cent were represented by consultants and another 5 per cent by lawyers. The remaining 3 per cent hired Quebec notaries or used “non-remunerated” representatives.

Overall, 18.9 per cent of the applications were rejected. Those who prepared their own applications had a 19.3 per cent refusal rate, slightly higher than the 18 per cent among those who paid a consultant to do it.

In contrast, only 10.4 per cent of applications prepared by a lawyer were rejected. The refusal rates for applications prepared by Quebec notaries and unpaid representatives were 13.1 per cent and 10.1 per cent respectively.

Marina Sedai, chair of the immigration section of the Canadian Bar Association, said she wasn’t surprised lawyers had the highest success rate.

“Canadian lawyers’ rigorous education, legal analysis skills, and high ethical standards enforced by an effective regulator, have long been understood to result in better outcomes,” Sedai said.

“Lawyers’ culture of the law being a calling rather than a business means that although lawyers will often take the tough cases, they will also protect clients by advising them against hopeless cases.”

When it comes to the lower success rate for consultants, lawyers are quick to point out that group has lower educational requirements and a less robust regulatory regime than lawyers. For their part, consultants say the immigration data is too general and doesn’t give the full picture.

“It is based on the flawed assumption that all applications are equally complex. In reality, applications completed by unpaid representatives may be far simpler, thus having a much higher chance of success,” said the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants in a statement to the Star.

Currently, licensed immigration consultants must meet a minimum language requirement and graduate from an accredited immigration practitioner program, which takes about a year to complete full time. While only about 1,000 lawyers practise immigration law, there are five times more licensed consultants in Canada.

“Immigration lawyers typically have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree before undergoing a very competitive process for admission to law school. Law school degrees take three years to complete and are also no cakewalk. Then there is the bar admissions course which must be passed, the articling process, etcetera,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Ravi Jain.

“Many immigration consultants have only completed online courses at a community college. The education and training is just not comparable.”

The immigration consultants’ association, which has more than 2,000 members, said it’s pleased more people are using consultants and believed that’s due to the generally higher fees charged by their lawyer counterparts.

Regulatory bodies for lawyers and consultants do not mandate how much their members can charge clients, but fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Jain, who is also vice chair of the bar association’s immigration division, said the success rate for lawyers would likely be even higher if not for the fact lawyers often take up very difficult and complex cases.

“A lot of my clients come to me after they have gone to a consultant or tried on their own,” Jain said, adding many are reluctant to lodge a complaint against their former consultant and prefer just to have him reapply.

“It’s much more difficult to obtain approvals when applications have already been refused,” he added.

Source: Lawyer versus consultant? Immigration data shows visa applicants have best shot with former