Representational image. (Photo: Hermes Rivera via Unsplash)
Nearly 700 Indian students who had moved to Canada in 2018-19 on student visas are facing deportation because their admission letters were found to be fake. Most of these students had sought the help of a Jallandhar-based unlicensed immigration consultant that has now shut shop.
The fraud was discovered when the students applied for permanent residency in Canada and the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) examined the documents based on which their visas were issued and found that these letters were fake.
What is a Study Permit?
The Study Permit is a document that allows foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada. Most international students need a study permit to study in Canada. Before you travel to Canada, the Study Permit should be in your hand.
Remember, the Study Permit is not a visa, the Permit does not let you enter Canada. You will need a visa or an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada for your study program. If your Study Permit is approved, the Canadian immigration issues an entry visa along with the Permit.
Most students approach an immigration consultant to apply to Canadian learning institutions. How does one find the right consultant? Here’s a quick dos and don’ts of finding the right consultant and avoiding fraud.
Find the Right Consultant to avoid immigration fraud
- Check the credentials of the consultancy before signing up with them
- Only licensed lawyers and consultants registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultant (CICC) can legally offer immigration advice and services for a fee.
- The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants licenses and regulates the practice of Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) and Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs) in the public interest.
- A RISIA is an employee of a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) who may provide immigration advice to international students.
- Anyone who provides Canadian immigration or citizenship advice or representation for a fee or for any other benefit must be a licensee in good standing of the College, a member of a Canadian law society, or a member of the Chambre des notaires du Québec. Immigration consultants providing Canadian immigration or citizenship services in countries other than Canada are still subject to Canadian law.
- Education agents must also be licensed with the CICC.
- Check the online Public Register of RCICs and RISIAs to find out the Canadian immigration consultant’s status as a licensee. This Public Register can be used by anyone to help verify a Canadian immigration consultant’s status.
Tips for hiring an immigration consultant
- It is an offence punishable by law for someone to provide Canadian immigration advice for a fee or other consideration without being licensed by the College, a Canadian law society, or a member of the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
- Verify your immigration consultant’s status on the Public Register of CICC. Check disciplinary notices in the CICC’s Complaints and Professional Conduct section.
- Ask your immigration consultant for references, and read reviews online.
- Compare your immigration consultant’s fees with others.
- Directly contact the immigration consultant handling your application. Always use the contact information provided on CICC’s Public Register.
Services provided by RCICs
- If you are in a job or study program, contact your employer or school directly with questions.
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) is a licensed immigration consultant who can provide all immigration services to clients, such as:
- Explaining immigration and citizenship options
- Choosing the best program for you
- Filling out and submitting your immigration or citizenship application
- Communicating with the Government of Canada on your behalf
RISIAs do not charge a ‘fee’
- Representing you in an immigration or citizenship application or hearing
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) set their own fees. However, Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs) do not collect fees directly from students. They are paid employees of specific Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).
Say no to ghost consultants
Ghost consultants are unlicensed immigration representatives who offer services to international students (among others) in exchange for a fee and then cease all communication with the victim once money has changed hands.
The big red flags
- Be wary of phishing scams. Do not respond to email or a text message that solicits sensitive personal information. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), phishing scams ranked in the top three most reported types of fraud in Canada throughout 2022.
- Hang up if you receive an automated call that threatens legal action regarding their immigration status. If you have any doubt about your status, call up the immigration office directly.
- Be careful of job offers that you have not applied for and sound too good to be true.
- Avoid any message from an unknown recruiter who offers help in exchange of cash or personal information.
- Avoid finding immigration consultants on social media — there are too many fake accounts.
- There are several ways to verify that an employer is legitimate. If an employer’s website is missing contact information, this can be a red flag that they are illegitimate.
Do not rush into signing a housing lease agreement before arriving in Canada. Scammers offer fake accommodation for upfront cash payment and then ‘vanish’.