Canada had introduced new legislation aimed at clamping down on crooked immigration consultants who dupe people into paying for non-existent visas.
Described as ‘ghost’ immigration consultants, a new act will make the activities of any unauthorised agent illegal.
‘In their quest for personal gain, crooked consultants have displayed a wanton disregard for our immigration rules and duped too many people out of their hard earned dollars,’ said Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
‘They are a menace, posing a costly threat not only to their victims, but also to the integrity and fairness of our immigration system. When crooked consultants encourage prospective immigrants to cheat the system, it slows down the immigration system for those following the rules,’ the minister added.
Any services offered or performed before an application is submitted or a proceeding begins will be illegal, thus closing a loophole in the law. It also paves the way for the introduction of a new regulatory body for immigration consultants.
A particular area of concern has been Indian based immigration consultants who have been operating in collusion with Canada based fraudsters. They often charge $30,000 fee for immigration advice and also encourage applicants to lie or make up stories about persecution in their home countries.
‘While most immigration consultants working in Canada are legitimate and ethical, it is clear that immigration fraud remains a widespread threat,’ Kenney added.
From now on only authorized consultants, lawyers and notaries in good standing can charge immigrant fees. It is likely that the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants will be replaced by a new organization and authorities will be able to share information about immigration consultants.
New Democrat MP Olivia Chow called the legislation a step in the right direction, but only if there are resources to enforce the law. ‘For too long the Conservatives have been soft on crimes committed by fake consultants who take advantage of innocent people wanting to make Canada their new home. We need a regulatory body that has integrity and commands the public trust. We need to have the muscle to enforce the regulations and protect new immigrants from being ripped off,’ she said.