Crooked immigration consultants in and outside Canada
Most people have this mistaken but rather valid observation that most immigration consultants in Canada are “crooked” The mass media will always have an article or a feature and will describe the Canadian immigration process as facilitated by an immigration lawyer and “crooked immigration consultants” this is usually said often within the same breath which gives the public the perception that almost all immigration consultants are either crooked or wallowing in money because they charge too much.
When I first landed in Canada, I went to Scarborough in Ontario to stay with relatives. Scarborough as we all know is known to be a melting pot for immigrants. While I was walking around I noticed that there were a lot of establishments such as laundromats, groceries, medical and dental clinics where you can find bulletin boards that have flyers that advertise different kinds of services for new immigrants. One flyer that caught my attention had “Canadian Immigration Expert Help Guaranteed”. I got one and tried to call the number written on the flyer. I asked a few questions and the guy on the phone seemed nice enough. He claims he used to work for the CIC and that he has helped hundreds of people immigrate to Canada and he can surely do the same for my relatives. I asked him how much he was charging and he said these fees were affordable. So far so good. As a matter of habit I asked him whether he was registered with the relevant Canadian Immigration Regulator and this is where he started to get a little edgy. He claims that most registered immigration consultants in Canada charge too much and you don’t really need a registered one as everything is already available online. If I were to retain him he would charge lower and I could have the assurance that he will give me enough of his time compared to a registered agent that he claims would be too busy to answer my concerns.
I thanked him and promised that I would call again.
I returned to the Philippines and established an IELTS Review center. The thing about having a review center is that you will meet a lot of IELTS applicants who are in the process of applying for a Canadian immigration visa either with an established agent or a “ghost agent”. These “ghost agents” claim to know the Canadian immigration system on the basis of having worked with a local Canadian immigration agency or just being smart and glib enough to fool some people. I have students that go to me saying that they need the IELTS because they were advised by their consultants to get one. When I ask them if their consultant is registered with the ICCRC they would say that it was not important as long as that person can help them and that they were cheaper than the registered agent.
In a way the Canadian immigrations system allows these ghost agents to thrive. If the application for a visa in Canadais already available online where everybody can see the process and the CIC itself says that there is really no difference between applying for a visa on your own and that of getting a representative then people will assume that a representative is just an option. They may get one or they may not. The people who get an immigration consultant are the ones that find it difficult to understand or too lazy to read the different OP’s and forms needed to apply. Thus, they will look for a person who can “guide” them through the process. For some people a person that claims to have helped hundreds of people go to Canada and charges less than a registered consultant is the person to go to. They don’t really care if a person is registered or not as long as he can help them answer all the forms and give them the feeling that they have a chance of going to Canada.
The Canadian government is on the right track in cracking down on ghost consultants in Canada. It has set up the ICCRC, and have enacted laws that would criminalize the act of giving immigration advice for a fee if that person is not registered to do so. Unfortunately it has not done enough to crack down on ghost consultants outside of Canada. There are three major feeder countries that supply Canada with immigrants. These are The Philippines, China and India. Most of the ghost consultants in these countries operate with impunity because the CIC either has no jurisdiction or no way of regulating the activities of these consultants. The Philippines is the biggest source of immigrants yet we have a lot of ghost consultants that continue to ply their trade because to date no serious effort has been made by the local visa office to warn the public against the use of a ghost consultants.
I believe the CIC is unwilling to go hard on these ghost consultants because they do not have jurisdiction or they cannot claim these consultants are doing a criminal act if these services are not criminal acts in the country where there consultants work In short they are beyond the reach of Canadian authorities.
The only viable alternative is to create a program that would educate the public about the importance of the ICCRC and the need to deal only with the consultants that are accountable if they behave in an unethical and ineffective manner. They can also “name and shame” these consultants to show the public that they are not authorized to conduct these consulting and advisory activities for a fee. Doing so would minimize the number of ghost consultants that by reason of their unaccountability are the ones that are most likely to be crooked because they know they can get away with it.