Experts surprised immigration didn’t play more prominent role in federal leaders’ debate

I was less surprised than those listed, as the parties have (correctly) calculated that making immigration a major issue has electoral risks in ridings with large numbers of immigrants and visible minorities (905, BC’s lower mainland, and elsewhere), as Kurland and Smith note.

The same could be said for the campaign in general, although immigration issues get more play in ethnic media as my weekly analyses for diversityvotes.ca shows.

Apart of course from the PPC:

Excluding an early question that provoked a barrage of attacks against People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier, Monday night’s leaders debate featured few questions about immigration — and none about refugees, specifically.

This left some migration experts feeling surprised and disappointed that immigration issues — which have been the source of heated political exchanges in Canada over the past two years — didn’t play more prominently in the debate.

“There was no substance on immigration policy, on Canada’s refugee policy, on Canada’s role in the world on these issues,” said Queen’s University law professor Sharry Aiken.

“I was disappointed that there wasn’t much there.”

Aiken says that the section of the debate dedicated to “polarization, human rights and immigration” focused almost entirely on Quebec’s contentious Bill 21, the religious symbols ban that bars religious head coverings in some sections of the public service, and that immigration issues were overshadowed by the discussion about discrimination.

The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

Aiken believes discussing Bill 21 is very important, but she thinks debate moderators could have been better at focusing their questions on specific issues, such as the recent challenges faced by Canada’s asylum system.

The standout moment for Aiken on immigration was Bernier’s claim that Canada takes in more immigrants than any other western nation.

Aikeen says this claim is untrue. Citing a recent report from the World Economic Forum, she says Australia has a higher ratio of immigrants — 28 per cent of its population compared to Canada at 21 per cent.

She also questions Bernier’s math about letting in more economic immigrants. Bernier has claimed Canada should reduce immigration levels to 150,000 a year, while at the same time taking in more economic immigrants.

But in 2017, Canada accepted roughly 159,000 economic immigrants, she said. If Bernier’s immigration policy was implemented, Canada would actually see an overall reduction in economic immigration.

Meanwhile, Sean Rehaag, director of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies, was also surprised by the fact that “a debate where immigration was expected to play a major role” had so few questions about immigration.

He noted that neither the influx of irregular border crossings that began in April 2017 nor the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States figured prominently in the debate.

This is also one of the issues where the parties have distinct policy options when it comes to how Canada should handle its asylum system.

No ‘political capital’ to be gained on immigration

Others were less surprised that immigration wasn’t a bigger topic for party leaders.

Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, thinks the lack of attention on immigration means political parties have decided that no “political capital” can be gained from this issue.

“It was a good move on the part of all the parties not to go there,” Kurland said.

Craig Damian Smith, director of the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in Toronto, agrees that it was wise for the leaders not to focus on immigration, particularly the divisive issues around refugee resettlement and how to handle irregular migration at unofficial ports of entry.

Scheer claims asylum seekers are ‘skipping the line’

Like Kurland, Smith thinks the party leaders have realized that immigration isn’t an issue where voters can be won or lost.

This doesn’t mean immigration isn’t important, Smith said. It just means that when it comes time to vote on Oct. 21, he believes most Canadians will be focused on issues like health care, education and the economy.

Smith also pointed out what he saw as a significant moment in the debate — that is, when Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer lashed out at Bernier for his past comments about immigrants, saying Bernier had changed from someone who used to believe in an immigration system that was fair, orderly and compassionate to someone who bases his policies on the number of likes and retweets he gets on social media from the “darkest parts of Twitter.”

According to Smith, this “well-rehearsed” line shows that the Conservatives now realize Canadians, on average, support the country’s current approach to immigration.

Smith still thinks that who wins the election could have big consequences on the future of immigration in Canada — especially for refugees — but in Monday’s debate, at least, it looked like everyone other than Bernier agreed immigration is important to Canada’s future.

“Even when they had the section on polarization, human rights and immigration, they all took that opportunity to steer it towards other issues, either to attack one another or to bolster their own position on other issues,” he said.

“It’s a good thing, or it’s at least a good sign, that they decided to steer the debate away from [immigration] because it means that that’s not going to be an issue that Canadians are going to vote on.”

Source: Experts surprised immigration didn’t play more prominent role in federal leaders’ debate

Toronto immigration firm charges $170K for fake Canadian job, undercover investigation reveals

Classic case of immigration fraud and good in-depth investigative reporting by CBC:

Toronto-based WonHonTa Consulting promises to help Chinese nationals gain permanent residency in Canada. (WonHonTa Consulting Inc. )

A Toronto immigration company offered a job to an undercover CBC journalist posing as a Chinese national seeking permanent residence in Canada for $170,000.

For that fee, WonHonTa Consulting Inc. said, the would-be immigrant would be buying the job and paying their own wage.

And the company said the applicant was to pay the fee to the personal bank account of WonHonTa’s sole director in order to avoid taxes.

Jiacheng Song, a manager with a China-based affiliate of WonHonTa, Nanjing Youtai Investment Consulting Co. Ltd., explained how the business works to the undercover journalist using WeChat, a Chinese social media app.

During the month-long investigation conducted through a translator, the journalist posed as a Chinese citizen wanting to become a permanent resident of Canada by obtaining skilled employment.

“To be frank, we have employers who work with us,” Song wrote. “We pay them money, they are willing to sponsor our clients for immigration.”

Song said “a big chunk” of the fee goes to the Canadian employer, prompting him to ask rhetorically: Why wouldn’t a Canadian company want to participate when it “can make easy money and have free labour for six months?”

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and policy analyst Richard Kurland characterized what WonHonTa offered bluntly.

“It’s a fake job, pure and simple,” he said.

He said selling jobs is illegal and it allows rule-breakers to jump the queue on legitimate immigrants who play by the rules.

“Who gets hurt? The integrity of Canada’s immigration program,” said Kurland.

Real jobs ‘very rare and precious’

Song said his company, Nanjing Youtai, finds Chinese nationals interested in immigrating to Canada and refers them to WonHonTa in Toronto.

Song recommended the undercover journalist consider either Saskatchewan or Atlantic Canada because the qualification requirements are low and the wait times are short. He said it’s $180,000 for a job in Saskatchewan or $170,000 for the Atlantic provinces.

Song told the undercover reporter that over the past year his company had placed more than a dozen Chinese nationals in Atlantic Canada and just under ten in Saskatchewan.

On its WeChat site, WonHonTa promotes a range of skilled jobs, such as welders, sewing machine operators and daycare workers.

The company claims it has a national network of head hunters who help recruit willing employers. It claims some of them are government immigration officials.

“With more and more people now wanting to apply, employers are having a larger appetite for higher fees,” Song said.

“If you don’t pay a certain fee, there is no way the employer would want to get involved in this matter.”

In order to qualify for permanent residency, the foreign worker has to be able to prove they’re employed in a skilled profession in Canada.

In an article on its WeChat page, WonHonTa notes that it’s very difficult for a Chinese national to find a real job in Canada.

“Think of it this way: Someone only has overseas work experience, no PR [permanent resident] card, never met with the employer — it’s the equivalent to a Beijing local company hiring a migrant worker with no valid ID — Why would anyone dare to hire you directly?” the article asks.

“So is there any real job? The answer is very, very rare and precious,” the article says.

WonHonTa says it works around that by paying employers thousands of dollars for job offers.

Creating a paper trail

Song introduced CBC’s undercover reporter to the “boss” of WonHonTa’s head office in Toronto, Xin Liu, who goes by the name Yuki.

She said the would-be immigrant can go to work for the Canadian company that sponsored them if they wish. In that case, the employer will essentially be paying back some of the Chinese national’s fee in the form of wages.

However, Liu said it’s not necessary to actually work for the company that sponsored the applicant for immigration. She said WonHonTa will provide the necessary documentation to make it look as though they did work there.

“If you don’t work for the employer, we can ask him to issue a pay stub, but it’s not real pay,” she wrote via WeChat. “Your paycheque is just for show. Only to make the paper trail look good.”

Liu said she will ensure all of the appropriate documentation is in place.

“In many circumstances, records of the documents are required should there be an investigation. For example, you are required to file a tax return. You would have to have a tax return record. Banking activities have records, you would have to provide these records.”

She said if the Chinese national doesn’t actually work at their designated place of employment they will be responsible to pay the employer the taxes that would have been paid had the applicant actually worked.

“We can negotiate with the employer, telling them, ‘This person doesn’t really want to work for you, nor wants to stay in this province,'” she said. “This is all negotiable, and all you need to do is to pay the taxes owing to the CRA.”

The massive size of the country makes it impossible to pull resources for site visits just to find out if you are actually working at this company.– Xin Liu, WonHonTa Consulting Ltd. 

Liu assured CBC’s undercover reporter that immigration officials are unlikely to detect the scheme.

“For Immigration Canada, they are understaffed,” Liu said. “The massive size of the country makes it impossible to pull resources for site visits just to find out if you are actually working at this company.”

However, in the unlikely event that an immigration official makes an unexpected site visit to see if the foreign national is at work, Liu said the employer would say the worker was out of the office on business.

Avoiding taxes

Liu provided the undercover reporter with a copy of her company’s standard contract with a would-be immigrant.

In the section outlining the payment details, CBC noticed that Liu wanted her customers to pay her personal bank account.

On WeChat, the undercover reporter asked Liu why.

“In Canada, the VAT [value added tax] charge is 13 per cent when doing business with companies,” she said. “However, we offer the employers real profit, therefore it has to be done through a personal account. In China, we wire the money to the personal account of a company’s legal representative — this is a practice to avoid paying taxes.”

CBC gets a job offer

As the conversation with Liu developed over the month-long investigation, she began hunting for a job for the undercover journalist’s “wife.”

Late last month, Liu announced: “Great news! We have found a good match for your wife, based on her resume.”

Liu said the job offer came from a Halifax-based daycare called Daydreams.

“The owner is a Caucasian. This is a sought-after job opportunity, because there are several inquiries received by the employer already. It really comes down to who pays the deposit first,” she said.

Liu sent the undercover reporter a sample contract in the name of the reporter’s “wife” showing she would be charged $170,000 for the job offer.

When the undercover journalist inquired a couple of days later, Liu said they were too late. The position had been taken. But she promised to line up another offer once the deposit had been paid.

‘I have never heard of them’

One of the owners of Daydreams Childcare Centre, Colleen Dempsey, was baffled when CBC called to inquire about this supposed job offer.

Dempsey said her company had registered with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP) about 10 months ago so she could hire one particular foreign national who had already been working at the facility on an open work permit.

“I have never done any business with them,” she said of WonHonTa. “I have never spoke with them. I have never heard of them.

“We’re a small business that I’ve built from the ground up and I certainly don’t appreciate my name being thrown around in those regards.”

The name of every company that registers with the AIPP is listed online.

Dempsey assumes that’s how WonHonTa found out about her company. She said the public listing has created other problems for her as well.

“Since we have become listed as part of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program … there have been an increase in e-mails from random individuals looking for [permanent] residency and I have not replied to one,” she said.

Dempsey isn’t the only one fielding unwelcome phone calls.

Erica Stanley, an immigration consultant in Charlottetown, told CBC she’s been flooded with calls from foreign nationals looking for an employment offer.

“So, just the volume of phone calls is ridiculous. And my inbox is full of website inquiries,” Stanley said. “They’re like, ‘Well, we’re willing to pay.’ I said, ‘Oh I’m sure you are but it’s illegal to do that.’ ‘Oh, but everybody’s doing it.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s nice, then you can find someone else who can do it.'”

Liu says jobs-for-cash is illegal

Shortly after receiving the job offer, a CBC reporter who was not undercover called Liu and asked if she would do an interview about immigration. At this time, CBC didn’t mention its ongoing investigation into Liu’s company.

Liu agreed to a phone interview. She confirmed her company helps Chinese nationals find employment in Canada, leading to permanent residency. She said she charges $2,000 to $5,000 for that service.

The reporter told Liu that some companies charge $170,000 to $180,000 for the same service.

“It could be, if somebody is trying to make money on it,” she said.

CBC asked Liu if she had ever heard of situations where a Chinese national had to pay a Canadian company for a job and pay their own wage. She said she had not.

“Wow,” she said. “Why would they do that?”

CBC asked if paying for a job and paying your own wage is allowed in Canada.

“Of course not,” Liu said. “The law says that it’s forbid if they [immigration officials] find that the job is not real, right?”

CBC then pointed out the article on WonHonTa’s WeChat site that says under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, 90 per cent of the jobs obtained by foreign nationals are the sort where the employee pays their own wage.

She said she was surprised by this, noting that she doesn’t write or even read content on her own WeChat site.

“How could I have time to write those?” she said.

That article was removed from WeChat shortly after CBC brought it to Liu’s attention.

CBC unveils undercover investigation

CBC then revealed to Liu that it had been conducting a month-long investigation into her company and its practices and had been regularly communicating with her under an assumed identity.

When asked why she previously told the undercover reporter the cost was $170,000 for a job in Atlantic Canada, Liu stumbled over her words for 30 seconds, before attempting to end the interview.

“Ah, it’s um … it’s between the company … I’m driving right now. Can I call you back?” she said.

She promised to continue the conversation after receiving proof she was talking to a journalist. CBC sent an email, but Liu has not replied.

Then CBC phoned Song at his China office and revealed its undercover investigation to him. He said much of what he had told CBC’s undercover reporter was a lie.

He said he was lying when he claimed to have found jobs in Canada for Chinese nationals. He said he’s never done that. He said he was lying when he told CBC’s undercover reporter that his company pays Canadian employers for jobs. He said his company has never done that.

Song said most immigration companies in China do pay Canadian employers for jobs, so he has to pretend to do that as well.

“That’s just a marketing strategy in order to get clients to sign the deal,” Song said in an interview with CBC. “If we don’t do this, our business will never sustain.”

Song said he was unhappy that CBC was investigating his company, which is quite small.

“So it’s really unfair for us to be caught by you while there are so many much bigger companies out there you don’t look into.”

Song said he and Liu are too ethical to pay for a job offer.

“I believe Yuki is a guileless person. She works hard for her clients because she genuinely wants to help them find a real job in Canada.” he said.

‘Everyone’s hands are dirty’

Richard Kurland, the immigration lawyer in Vancouver, didn’t mince words when asked for his assessment of WonHonTa’s scheme.

“I don’t think there’s a serious question that this amounts to an egregious violation of IRPA, the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, as well as Canada’s immigration program.”

He said there is a corrosive effect on each person in the chain of transactions.

“Everyone’s hands are dirty, which means no one can appear in public and seek justice, which means that the business that collects money keeps the money, regardless of outcome,” said Kurland.

So-called arranged employment (AE) offers have been a tool of fraudsters for decades in Canada, as demonstrated by an internal 2010 federal government report commissioned by Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

Canadian diplomatic missions from around the world were questioned about the integrity of these job offers and they flagged widespread problems.

  • Hong Kong reported “high rates of fraud or suspected fraud and only 15-22 per cent of AE offers were found to be genuine.”
  • Beijing said that “21 of the 33 files chosen for review found the applicants were not working for the employer or had never worked for the employer.”
  • New Delhi found that “over 60 per cent of the cases never worked for the employers in Canada.”
  • Seoul said “that out of 29 cases landed in 2008, only eight appeared bona fide, 12 cases found collusion between the employer and/or applicant and/or agent.”

CBC asked the federal government for more recent numbers, but it didn’t provide any.

Instead, Shannon Ker, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, wrote that “the vast majority of applications received by IRCC are genuine.” Ker said IRCC has trained its employees “how to detect fraud and the appropriate steps to take when there is sufficient cause to suspect it is taking place.”

Kurland said that, in his view, Ottawa and provincial regulators aren’t doing enough.

“There is a genuine concern that the province and the feds have insufficient enforcement resources to keep things honest.”

And a lack of enforcement is an invitation for abuse, he said.

“If the international marketplace knows you have a budget for a handful of police officers and you have 2,000 banks in your city, some bank is going to get robbed all the time.”

Source: Toronto immigration firm charges $170K for fake Canadian job, undercover investigation reveals

Douglas Todd: Refugees earn more than most Canadians after 25 years

Good solid analysis by IRCC and confirms what I am seeing in some of the data that I am looking at:

Refugees who arrived in the late 1980s and early 1990s are now earning more than the average Canadian.

An internal immigration department document shows that, after 25 years in the country, a typical refugee is earning as much or more than the Canadian norm, which is about $45,000 a year.

The document quotes a senior department official who says the long-term study of refugees’ wages suggests the recent wave of 50,000 refugees from Syria could several decades from now do as well as earlier refugees in regards to earnings.

“In a nutshell this is the trajectory we would expect (all things being equal) from government-assisted refugees and privately-sponsored refugees,” senior immigration department official Umit Kiziltan writes in a memo obtained under an access to information request.

The immigration and tax department data, which tracks refugees’ earnings from 1981 to 2014, shows that average government-assisted refugees earned less than $20,000 a year in their first decade in the country, when many families rely on provincial welfare and other government benefits to get by.

However, after 25 to 30 years in Canada, the average refugee is earning roughly $50,000 a year, about $5,000 more than the average Canadian. The study also shows the earnings gap between government-assisted refugees, who initially do worse than privately-sponsored refugees, basically disappears over the long run.

The largest groups of refugees to Canada in the 1980s and early 1990s came from Vietnam, Cambodia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa. In that era the total number of refugees arriving ranged from 15,000 to 40,000 annually. In recent years Canada has accepted more than 50,000 refugees from war-torn Syria alone.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the internal government documents, said they contain reliable information that strongly indicate most refugees, no matter where they come from, develop usable skills and do well in the labour market over their careers.

However, even though the senior immigration department’s memo welcomed the news that refugees who arrived several decades ago perform well, Kiziltan cautioned that it’s hard to forecast how more recent refugees will do, given the “cyclical nature of the economy overall and especially (the) human capital of the Syrian cohorts.”

The report, in addition, also does not compare the earnings of refugees who have been in Canada for several decades (which means many would be in their 50s and at the peak of their careers) with the earnings of other Canadians of the same age cohort.

The data on refugees’ slow road to labour-market success in Canada comes on the heels of 2018 controversies over thousands of asylum seekers illegally crossing the Canadian border, a Syrian refugee being charged with the murder of Burnaby teenager Marrisa Shenand a Postmedia story revealing the federal Liberal government has not produced any report in two years on whether recent Syrian refugees are learning English or French, working, receiving social assistance or going to school.

This is not the first federal government indication, however, that many refugees eventually earn solid incomes. In 2014 then-federal Conservative immigration department minister Jason Kenney cancelled the contentious immigrant-investor program while revealing that refugees were actually paying more in Canadian income taxes than wealthy newcomers who had in effect bought their Canadian passports.

Asked about the contrast between taxes paid in Canada by refugees and rich immigrants, Kurland said it’s “a complicated comparison.” The breadwinner of an immigrant-investor family, Kurland explained, “usually returns home to support the family’s millionaire lifestyle in Canada” and therefore, unlike a refugee who stays in Canada, doesn’t pay significant income taxes in this country.

Previous studies have consistently shown that, while adult refugees often struggle in the short to medium term, many of their children quickly perform well in their new land, in large part because they gain extra social support, a taxpayer-funded education in English or French and the time to develop skills.

This recent internal study of refugee earnings, however, is among the first to emphasize that, over many decades, most of the refugees who had direct experience of war, persecution and trauma in their homeland are capable of attaining financial success in the country that welcomed them.

Source: Douglas Todd: Refugees earn more than most Canadians after 25 years

Richmond Hospital reports more “non-resident, self-pay” births than the provincial government reports “non-resident” births, due to birth registration discrepancy

An older article from June 29 this year that was brought to my attention following the CBC article thanks to Ian Young of the SCMP that helps explain the discrepancy between the vital statistics data collected by Statistics Canada and local reports:

The frequency by which birth tourism may be occurring in B.C. and across Canada is significantly underreported, however health officials in this province are near to closing a glaring reporting loophole.

For instance, a discrepancy between how births by non-residents are reported at Richmond Hospital and how they are reported to the B.C. Ministry of Health could soon be rectified by provincial health officials, according to a ministry spokesperson.

“In the past, the Ministry of Health has tracked non-resident births by the address listed by parents on a baby’s birth registration, which could be local or international. Hospitals will typically go by whether or not patients are paying out-of-pocket for services to determine if someone is a resident of British Columbia,” stated spokesperson Laura Heinze, via email last week, to the Richmond News.

“We are currently in the process of aligning these reporting methods in order to get a more accurate picture of non-resident births across British Columbia,” Heinze added.

The existing reporting system can create significant discrepencies in tracking because many of the non-resident women who give birth at the Richmond Hospital list their address as the “birth house” where they may be living at the time.

In Richmond, Chinese nationals are known to stay at such houses, of which there are dozens identified by the provincial government and numerous advertised online both in China and Canada. As part of advertised month-to-month accommodation packages, birth house operators typically assist women with anything from tour guides, passport applications, doctor appointments, some pre- and post-natal care as well as hospital registration.

And so, should the birth house operator list the address of their home business at the hospital’s registration desk, the ministry would not count the baby as a non-resident. Only when the true address of the mother is registered, does the birth become a non-resident in the eyes of Vital Statistics B.C., noted Heinze.

Whereas Richmond Hospital reported 299 “self-pay” births from non-resident mothers in the 2015-16 fiscal year and 379 in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Statistics Canada only reported 99 births in B.C. in 2016 where the “Place of residence of [the] mother [is] outside Canada.”

Across Canada there were only 313 such births reported in 2016.

Statistics Canada told the News the Canadian Vital Statistics Birth Database collects demographic data annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all live births in Canada.

“To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no government department or agency tasked with identifying and collecting data on births to non-resident mothers,” noted Statistics Canada spokesperson France Gagne.

From 2004 to 2010 the hospital helped birth, on average, 18 new Canadians per year from non-resident mothers. Numbers rose dramatically in 2014 and have risen steadily since, to the point where one in five births in Richmond are to foreign nationals.

While immigration lawyer Richard Kurland notes not all non-resident births are necessarily a result of birth tourism, Richmond may be at the epicentre of a burgeoning, and legal, birth tourism industry, whereby visiting foreign nationals seek to have “anchor babies,” who automatically become Canadian citizens under Canada’s citizenship laws.

Kurland said the key to good data is determining immigration/visitor status of the mom.

A national, public petition penned by Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk and sponsored by Steveston-Richmond East Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido aims to officially condemn birth tourism and study remedies to what Peschisolido describes as an abuse of the immigration system.

“Underground and unregulated ‘for profit’ businesses have developed both in Canada and ‘countries of origin’ to facilitate the practice of ‘Birth Tourism’; and the instances of ‘Birth Tourism’ are increasing in multiple cities across Canada,” the petition notes online.

Peschisolido disagrees with Conservative counterparts who have called for an end to birthright citizenship.

Douglas Todd: Canadian officials battle dozens of migration scams

Good overview of the major scams. Thanks again to Richard Kurland for making the ATIP request:

Canadian immigration officials around the world face a wave of immigration scams.

Many of the schemes feature people claiming to be in marriages that turn out to be phoney. Others involve fraudulent letters about escorting Saudi Arabian princesses, counterfeit passports and forged job offers, or people pretending to be journalists.

An internal Global Affairs Department document shows Canadian consular and customs officials invited anti-fraud experts from European countries to a meeting to learn about the wide range of inventive scams that people are using to try to emigrate to Canada and other Western nations.

The federal email correspondence came to light in the same month that the federal NDP immigration critic, Jenny Kwan, criticized Canadian immigration officials for asking a couple “offensive and insulting” questions, which were aimed at determining if a Pakistani woman was in a bona fide marriage with her male sponsor, who had been in Canada for 13 years.

It was “completely inappropriate” for immigration officials to note the female applicant for Canadian permanent resident status is three years older than her spouse, said Kwan, the MP for Vancouver East. She called on Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to look into what she calls a “systemic” problem with the way staff handle the popular spousal-sponsorship program.

However, a detailed email from a senior official at Global Affairs, which was obtained through an access to information request, indicates that fake marriages are among the most common fraudulent methods used to obtain permanent resident status in Canada.

The email, sent last year to about 50 Canadian officials after a meeting in Cairo, describes a common deception in which Arabic couples enter into so-called “Urfi marriages,” which are customary under Islamic law but not recognized by the Egyptian government. Urfi marriages are often for convenience, including to travel or migrate. In Sudan, meanwhile, many officials are giving out suspicious marriage documents to citizens of other African nations.

The widespread problem posed by fake marriages was confronted in 2013 by then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, who began a crackdown on “marriages of convenience,” which included a public video featuring real victims of marriage-migration scams. The federal Liberals continue to use videos to warn people against being abused by a marriage scheme, but the government has eased some rules for Canadian spouses sponsoring foreign nationals.

With Gallup pollsters finding that roughly 45 million people around the globe want to move to Canada, another growing scam has been emerging in India, where people are posting newspaper ads that seek “marriage” with a young person who has been accepted as one of this nation’s 500,000 international students.

The Global Affairs email shows that Canadian officials uncovered other creative schemes, one of which they called “the prince or princess scam.”

At their meeting in Cairo, they found seven cases of married Egyptian or Sudanese males “applying for a visitor visa to accompany a prince or princess of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on their visit to Canada. The applicants were to serve as personal maids, cooks, drivers or waiters.” The university-educated applicants provided fake letters, purportedly written on the letterhead of Saudi royal families.

A different ruse, says the Global Affairs email, is to apply to enter other countries as journalists. Another is for an applicant to buy a rundown house in a Western country, then claim they require a visa to work on it. In addition, corrupt officials in Africa, including clergy,  are issuing fake birth certificates. Forged passports and bank statements are also common. So is buying fake jobs. And a new approach is to present immigration officials with fraudulent invitation letters to pilot-training schools in Canada.

In response to Postmedia questions, Kwan acknowledged that marriage and other migration frauds exist, adding that “the overwhelming majority of interactions” that Canada’s immigration and border officials “have with people are done with a commendable level of expertise and professionalism.”

However, Kwan said an “inappropriate line of questioning can have serious impacts for genuine families.” The border official’s initial suggestion that the Pakistani couple did not appear “well matched,” in part because she was older, would not have been asked, Kwan said, of Prince Harry, 33, and his new wife, the Duchess of Sussex, 36.

Even though the Pakistani-Canadian husband’s sponsorship of a wife in Pakistan was approved, Kwan emphasized that border officials should never deal in “outdated stereotypes” about traditional foreign cultures. She wants immigration officials to take “cultural sensitivity training.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the internal Global Affairs email under an access to information request for his newsletter, Lexbase, said it’s legitimate for the NDP’s immigration critic to “push back” as a check on the power of Canada’s visa officers.

But Kurland also recommends Kwan take what he called “the cure.” That is, Kurland suggested it would be beneficial if she learned more about the many kinds of “real cases” that Canadian anti-fraud units are dealing with in places such as Delhi or Beijing.

“While the overwhelming majority of cases are genuine, we must be vigilant to prevent that small number of bad cases becoming a big number of bad cases. It is a difficult challenge that seasoned visa officers lose sleep over. The stakes are high (for would-be immigrants}. And for Canada.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Canadian officials battle dozens of migration scams

Douglas Todd: Who cares for Canada’s 71,000 minor international students?

Looks like some opportunity for a more systematic study and evaluation to guide current and future policy. Potential for abuse clearly present:

The client strode into George Lee’s office believing the veteran immigration lawyer would automatically notarize the federal government document that would confirm the client was the legal “custodian” of 10 international students who are minors.

But Lee wouldn’t approve the client’s business plan. The Burnaby immigration specialist knows the intense pressure and loneliness experienced by many young foreign students, who tend to come to Canada from the ages of 12 to 15. Since they’re vulnerable to isolation, depression and suicide, he realizes many need real care.

“I asked the person who wanted to be custodian to 10 minor students: ‘Why do you do this for so many children? What are your responsibilities to them?’ In the end I refused to sign. I refused. I couldn’t do it. This is a burgeoning business in B.C.,” said Lee, who is concerned about the rapidly expanding cohort of early teens coming as foreign students to Canada.

The number of international students in Canada last year reached 500,000, with more than 71,000 being minors, double the total in 2009. B.C. has an out-sized proportion of those aged 17 or less — 24,000, according to the federal immigration department. That is more people than attend an average Whitecaps or Lions game at B.C. Place Stadium.

Since last year’s suicide in Richmond of 17-year-old foreign student Linhai Yu, a little more attention is being focused in B.C. on the thousands of minors trying to make a go of attending the country’s public and private elementary and high schools, while living thousands of kilometres away from their fathers and mothers.

With roughly one third of all foreign students in Canada (about 40 per cent of those in B.C.) hailing from China, the country’s consul general in Vancouver acknowledged more students are arriving before university and many have been involved in “incidents” in the past two years. An informal group led by SFU international student Jialin Guo, who himself came to Canada as a minor, has arisen to try to raise awareness of students who are struggling.

The federal government has few stipulations about who can become an official custodian of a minor foreign student, a service for which offshore parents pay roughly $2,000 to $4,000 a year. All the immigration department asks is that “a custodian is a responsible adult (a Canadian citizen or permanent resident) who takes care of and supports the child.”

There is no requirement the custodian resides with the minor, who normally ends up renting on their own or boarding with a host family. The custodian is supposed to be a kind of legal surrogate parent, meeting with school officials, paying school fees (which typically cost $10,000 to $18,000 per year), monitoring the students’ health and taking over in emergencies.

“There’s a lot of psychological issues with minor students. They have a lot of pressure. Loneliness,” said Lee, who travels frequently to China and generally wonders about the wisdom of children being separated from parents at a young age.

“They need love, devotion and attention from their parents, not to be sent away to a foreign country to reside mostly with strangers. Many foreign students from China know that, culturally, they cannot report negativity to their parents back home because they have spent a lot of money investing in them. If they report negativity, they can be scolded. Their parents generally think if other children can excel in a foreign land, why can’t you?”

Lee and Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland believe one of the latest migration trends in China and other countries is for parents to send their children to Canada, which has no cap on foreign students, to attend high school and even elementary school so they will be at a competitive advantage when later applying to immigrate.

“Since they are coming as young children,” said Lee, “their parents believe they will adapt much easier to Canadian culture and language and the workplace” and thus be ranked highly when they apply for permanent resident status. Most Chinese foreign students who are minors, Lee said, have the added pressure of knowing their parents, many of whom invest in property in Canada’s major cities, expect them to eventually sponsor them to immigrate.

Gary Liu, a scientist who tutors many minor-age foreign students in Coquitlam and Surrey, said there is a great deal of variation in how such students are faring with learning English, being largely unsupervised and adjusting to Canadian culture and people.

“The situation for each child can only be described as ‘case by case,’” Liu said. While some young students appear to get quite a bit of attention from various caregivers, he knows some adult custodians who are coordinating three or four different students, all of whom live separately.

“I’m not sure if ‘abuse’ is the right term for such situations,” Liu said, “but some of the (custodians) are definitely pushing the boundaries.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Who cares for Canada’s 71,000 minor international students?

Government has pocketed $1-billion since 2013 increase in passport cost

Good ATIP work by Richard Kurland. Usual bafflegab responses. Should demand decrease because of 10 year passports, presumably so should the size of Passport Canada with unit costs remaining stable.

Particularly hard to see how the fee structure, and surpluses, comply with the Service Fees Act implemented by the current government in 2017:

The federal government has made more than $1-billion in profits from its passport program since significantly increasing the cost of a Canadian passport five years ago, according to newly released documents.

Canadian adults pay anywhere from $120 to $160 for an adult passport, despite the fact that it only cost the government $69.23 to produce the 36-page travel document in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to immigration documents provided to The Globe and Mail by Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. The price increase appears to have contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual surpluses for the passport program from 2013 to 2017, totalling more than $1-billion over four years.

Mr. Kurland, who obtained the data under the Access to Information Act, said it is inappropriate for Ottawa to profit off the backs of Canadian taxpayers.

“A billion dollars made in just four years is a lot of money and the money comes directly from individual Canadians who are overpaying for their Canadian passports,” Mr. Kurland said in an interview.

“Instead of keeping the profit, they should be lowering the passport fee.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government increased the cost of passports in 2013 in an effort to cover the nearly $5 it was losing every time it issued a passport. In addition to boosting the cost of a five-year passport from $87 to $120, the government also started providing a 10-year passport at a cost of $160, increased the cost of a child’s passport by $20 to $57 and introduced a $45 replacement fee for lost or stolen documents.

Canadians ordering passports from outside of the country face the biggest fees today – $190 for a five-year passport or $260 for the 10-year document.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said in a statement that the passport program operates on a “cost-recovery basis,” meaning it finances its operations entirely from fees charged for passports and other travel documents. IRCC spokesperson Nancy Caron said the program is currently in the middle of its 10-year business cycle, which started in July, 2013, and plans to use revenues from the first half of that period to offset the anticipated drop in demand for passports as a result of the 10-year passport option.

“No changes are currently planned to the passport fee structure. The passport program closely monitors its financial status to ensure that it is in compliance with all relevant authorities governing the program,” Ms. Caron said.

However, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan called on the government to conduct a full review of the passport-fee structure.

“The cost of the processing fees for passports should reflect the actual cost itself,” Ms. Kwan said.

Ms. Kwan said high passport costs limit the ability of low-income Canadians to obtain the important travel document. For instance, she said, many seniors in her Vancouver-area riding have complained about the high cost of a passport on a fixed income.

The Conservatives declined to comment on the passport-program profits.

Comparatively, American adults pay US$145 for a new 10-year passport, while British citizens are required to pay the equivalent of about $115.

via Government has pocketed $1-billion since 2013 increase in passport cost – The Globe and Mail

Douglas Todd: Here’s how to end migration scams by the global rich in Canada

Todd continues his series of articles on immigration scams involving wealthy immigrants, including the issue of taxation, particularly those who ‘park’ their family in Canada while continuing to live and work in their country of origin.

I am currently analyzing citizenship take-up by immigration category and business immigrants (entrepreneurs, investors) have the largest gap between relatively low principal applicant naturalization (mainly men) and secondary applicants (their families):

Canada could crack down in many ways on the scams performed by “ghost immigrants” who avoid paying their share of Canadian taxes while driving up housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto.

Immigration and tax specialists are pressing Ottawa to adopt numerous proposals they believe would put an end to widespread illegitimate migration schemes, such as those employed by two rich families from China, whose tactics were exposed this month in B.C. Supreme Court.

The case of Fu versus Zhu revealed how the wealthy families, who had together bought three expensive homes on the west side of Vancouver, had been engaging in illicit plots involving Canadian real estate, tax avoidance and lying about their immigration status.

“The problem is that there is large-scale immigration of relatively wealthy people to Canada who are not contributing significantly, if at all, to the Canadian tax base,” said David Lesperance, a specialist in Canadian tax and immigration law.

“They have bid up the housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto. They are also receiving the benefits of Canadian permanent resident status, including excellent schooling, free medical care, security and (eventually, as citizens) an excellent visa-free passport.”

Noted Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland shares much of the unease of Lesperance – including frustration that Canadian authorities are not enforcing the country’s rules when would-be immigrants fail to declare their worldwide income, pretend to spend time in Canada and obscure the real owners of their properties.

The two specialists have appeared before politicians in Ottawa to offer their ideas on fighting such scams. They agree problems have been created by Canada welcoming so many investor families, in which the breadwinners often become “ghosts immigrants” with little connection to Canada other than engaging in property speculation.

A recent investigation by the South China Morning Post, for instance, found that more than 40 per cent of the breadwinners for recent millionaire migrant households in Canada appear to have left Canada, although some left family members behind. It’s a widespread phenomenon, said the newspaper, among rich Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese migrants.

Lesperance and Kurland maintain their proposals would be especially helpful in dealing with the increasing number of trans-national “astronaut” migrants who use Canadian real-estate primarily as a place to park their capital and sometimes their offspring.

The specialists would especially target the rapidly growing number of would-be Canadians who are renouncing their permanent resident status, which some are using as a way to avoid paying taxes in Canada while still visiting often on 10-year visas.

“Unfortunately, the perception of too many (wealthy) immigrants is that cheats are not sought after or detected” by Canadian tax or border officials, said Lesperance. To eliminate the problem of ‘ghost immigrants,’ the Canadian Revenue Agency must change this perception.”

Both experts emphasize how important it is for the CRA to do far more tax audits of investors, domestic and offshore, who buy up numerous properties. Authorities should particularly focus, they say, on the dubious techniques accountants have cooked up for avoiding paying taxes on their capital gains.

In the complex world of immigration law, perhaps the most radical idea for reform comes from Lesperance, who says it would reduce foreign speculation in Canadian real estate and curtail the tax evasion illustrated by clothing manufacturing mogul Quoqing Fu in the B.C. Supreme Court case.

The judge mocked Fu’s testimony after learning he had told the CRA his worldwide income, which is subject to taxes in Canada, was just $97.11.

Instead of authorities trying in vain to determine whether would-be immigrants are physically present in Canada, Lesperance recommends rating them mostly on whether they pay significant income taxes in Canada — regardless of which country in which they spend most of their time.

There is not much wrong with rich people travelling the world to work, invest and run businesses, argues Lesperance, who is based in Europe. Many would be satisfied, he says, to hold two passports while still paying their share of taxes on their global incomes to Canada, in return for “a stable and safe place for their global operations” and their children.

Canada is losing out on these entrepreneurial newcomers, he says, because its immigration policy focuses on migrants having a sustained “physical presence” in the country. The major resistance to this idea, Lesperance said, comes from those who believe newcomers “must rub elbows at Tim Horton’s to become Canadianized.”

The trouble with Canada’s current residency-based approach to immigration, said Lesperance, is that it often doesn’t work and “we get people like the Fu family abusing the tax system, but we scare away the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.”

Even though Kurland strongly believes Canada needs to stop exploitation of the country by high-net-worth tax-avoiding newcomers who speculate in real estate, the Vancouver immigration lawyer continues to believe there is value in immigrants integrating into the country by “rubbing shoulders” with Canadians.

Kurland, author of the Lexbase newsletter, also worries that, unless wealthy would-be immigrants who are not often present in the country simply write Canada a big cheque in exchange for citizenship, too many would have their accountants find ways to hide their riches in a trust fund.

Alternatively, one of Kurland’s more innovative recommendations is for the federal government “to very visibly invite Chinese tax collectors to Vancouver,” a move which would dramatically remind cheaters to submit to the rigours of Canada’s tax and security treaties with China, which is launching its own crackdown.

Kurland also believes that, in this new era “in which global computer systems can carefully track individuals’ travel,” it is fast becoming easier and less costly for Canadian authorities to catch people who are not following the country’s immigration and tax rules.

Ultimately, however, like Lesperance, Kurland believes the following is the most important thing that will lead to a clampdown on migration scams in Canada involving false tax claims and real-estate speculation:

“It’s a pure question of political will.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Here’s how to end migration scams by the global rich in Canada

Immigration officials find own website ‘confusing and not user friendly’

From earlier experience with similar issues at Service Canada, the issue is not limited to website design or organization but more significantly reflects the intrinsic complexity of programs and processes. A more productive approach often involves simplification and streamlining of programs rather than trying to address more fundamental issues through web redesign:

It turns out Canada’s immigration officials are as confused as prospective immigrants and travellers by the information provided on their own department website.

“We expect clients to know just what to do because ‘it’s on the website,’ ” says an internal Immigration Department document from last year.

“Yet, even for immigration officers like ourselves, we often find the website to be confusing and not user-friendly.”

The document, prepared for an immigration management retreat last winter, shows senior officials grappling with how to improve communication with clients, including ways to simplify government response “to make it more responsive to the client’s actual needs.”

Also on the meeting agenda was a discussion about ways to combat the misinformation that clients face in bulletin boards, by immigration consultants and fraudsters.

Immigration lawyer and policy analyst Richard Kurland, who obtained the document through an access to information request, said he was not surprised by management’s concerns.

“Reducing correspondence is good for everyone. All that needs to be done is to allow (applicants and their lawyers) more access to their own file information,” said Kurland in an interview.

The ride-hailing service Uber, which allows users to follow the driver’s route on a phone app, should inspire change, he added.

“You should be able to see what is happening in your case all along the processing journey.”

The managers also complained about the huge workload created by people applying for visas to visit Canada. Many were initially refused because they were confused what documentation was required. However, they do get approved in their second attempt.

“While it is obvious to officers what we need to see, there is very limited information available on our official outlets helping to point applicants in the right direction,” said the immigration management’s meeting agenda.

Canada processes more than a million visitor visa applications a year and one out of five is rejected. Someone applying for a visa may just state the purpose of the visit as “travelling,” for example, without specifying he or she is here to see a Canadian sibling.

The department’s “vague and generic” refusal letters is the main cause of repeat applications from confused people over Canadian requirements, according to the document.

Kurland said the document underscores the need for immigration officers to be more flexible when processing applications that may include mistakes.

“How is the public supposed to get it right when these managers struggle?” he asked.

Source: Immigration officials find own website ‘confusing and not user friendly’

Billionaire got Canadian citizenship after renting a Montreal basement

I would not be surprised if more cases like this emerge given the abuse of the business immigration program and the imprecise definition of residency, both fixed by the Harper government through the termination of the former and specifying physical presence in its C-24 Citizenship Act changes:

Among the most curious revelations contained in the Paradise Papers is the question of Wafic Said’s Canadian citizenship, and how he obtained it, given his tenuous ties to this country.

Said, a Syrian-born, Monaco-based billionaire, was the broker of the 1985 Al-Yamamah arms deal to sell British warplanes to Saudi Arabia, in which £6 billion in “corrupt commissions” were allegedly paid to members of the Saudi royal family.

The longtime friend of Brian Mulroney also donated $4 million to the soon-to-open Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at St. Francis Xavier University, where he received an honorary degree in 2015 and was announced as a Canadian citizen.

But how did this Saudi-Syrian businessman pick up a third passport?

It’s not clear exactly when, but at some point in the 1990s, Said received Canadian citizenship. To fulfil the three-year residency requirement, public records show that instead of living in a luxury building, as he did in London, U.K., Said rented a basement apartment in Montreal.

“I am a Canadian citizen and am proud to be one,” wrote Said in an email to the Star and CBC/Radio-Canada. “I took appropriate professional advice about my entitlement to Canadian residency and citizenship. I followed this advice to the letter, met the relevant qualifications and was granted citizenship.”

A spokesperson for Said later added: “Mr. Said lived in Canada for three years thus complying with the immigration residency requirements.” He was only “absent” from Canada for a few weeks in 1989 and 1990, the spokesperson wrote.

The first trace of Said in Canada shows up in 1988, when he registered a numbered company in Canada that would later be renamed Safingest Inc. and declared himself president and sole shareholder.

In public filings, Safingest states its business is “indeterminate and imprecise.” Its office shares a Montreal address with the office of his lawyer, Annie Kenane. Said’s personal address is listed as an apartment in a building also owned by Kenane.

And it was not the kind of apartment where one would expect to find a wealthy international businessman. According to public records, for three years, Said appears to have been a billionaire in a basement.

The basement apartment is in a three-storey walk-up in the gritty Montreal neighbourhood of Côte-des-Neiges.

Elaine Gloutnez, who lived on the third floor of the same building from 1987 to 1991, said she had never heard of Wafic Said. When shown a photo of Said and his wife, Gloutnez said she had never seen them at the house.

“He’s not the type that would live here,” she told Radio-Canada. “Here it is simple people, young families, students . . . It’s not luxury housing. We’re not in Westmount here.”

“I’ve been in this area since ’85 and I’ve never seen a billionaire here,” Gloutnez said.

In his statement to the Star and the CBC, Said wrote that the apartment was “rented for me but when I was there with my family it was easier to stay in hotels.”

A representative for Said later added: “Mr. Said paid rent under the terms of the lease for the apartment at Légaré Street and used it often.”

Public filings in the U.K. show Said also stated he was living in the prestigious London neighbourhood of Mayfair at the same time, in 1990 and 1991.

In 1990, Said purchased a penthouse in a more upscale Montreal neighbourhood for $1.5 million. In 1999, he sold it for $825,000.

Said did not clarify when and where he received his Canadian citizenship.

The earliest trace of Said’s Canadian citizenship is a Canadian passport issued in Paris in 1996.

From 1986 to 2014, Canada had an immigrant investor program that granted permanent residency to wealthy foreigners who made large investments in the country. At the end, in order to qualify, an applicant had to have $1.6 million in assets and commit to invest $800,000 in Canada.

The program was shut down by the Harper government in 2014 and replaced with a one-year pilot program that raised the mandatory investment to $2 million. Quebec continues its own program that requires $800,000 is invested.

“Investments enabled me to qualify for permanent residence and then for Canadian citizenship,” Said’s statement reads.

Said said he made a “very successful investment” in a company called Jordan Petroleum Ltd., whose shares were held by Safingest Ltd. His Bermuda-based offshore company, Said Holdings, which counted Brian Mulroney among its board members from 2004-2012, “has continued to invest substantial sums in Canada,” he added.

Andrew Feinstein, the executive director of the group Corruption Watch in the U.K., has investigated Said for many years. He had no idea Said was a Canadian citizen.

“What on earth would he want a Canadian passport for? And how would he be granted one, because I’m not aware of . . . when he would have spent any meaningful time in Canada.”

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says the Canadian government can waive normal residency requirements and grant citizenship in “very special” cases.

“The special treatment to issue a national interest Canadian citizenship comes in two flavours,” Kurland said. “It’s direct in the open, the way we give it to the Dalai Lama. Or it’s behind the red curtain in Ottawa.”

“You don’t have to tell parliament you’re doing this. You don’t have to apply the normal way. If they don’t give it to you directly, they will tell you: ‘Just apply. Put it in the system. And our folks in the system will take your case and process it no questions asked.’ That’s how it’s done.”

Canadian citizenship is one of the most sought-after assets for Middle Eastern billionaires, Kurland said.

“Billionaires like two things: There’s the money and the freedom . . . A Canadian passport is the golden ticket,” he said.

“You’re not taxed in Canada because Canada taxes on residence, not on citizenship. And you can travel visa free, no questions asked, in almost every country in the world.”

via Billionaire got Canadian citizenship after renting a Montreal basement | Toronto Star