Immigration consultancy is a big business in Dubai.
People insecure of how to go about the big move to another country often choose to adopt the services of an ‘immigration consultant’, who facilitates the process from assessment to settlement. However, many of the emigrants end up feeling cheated and disappointed with what they get in return for the large sum of money they paid, the effort they made and the time it took.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 2009 conducted a research to find out which methods people used most when they migrate to Canada, one of the most popular immigration destinations in the world and in the UAE in particular. Results of the research indicated that 50 per cent of the respondents had used help, and of this group 51 per cent had opted for an immigration consultant or lawyer to facilitate the process rather than family or friends.
Immigration consultants are a much preferred option for people migrating. According to the research results, most people who had done so, wanted help with the cumbersome immigration process because it was difficult to understand or complete. A large number of people thought that professional assistance would increase their chances of success and a few believed (mistakenly) that they needed to hire a representative in order to migrate.
“I would definitely recommend people to ask the help of an immigration consultant,” says Felix Roy Tom, Canada immigration consultant at Vision Dubai. “The paperwork can be really complicated and a small mistake could affect your chance of success. However, we are here only to help and we do not affect the outcome of the application.”
Resorting to an immigration consultant does not come without a price. In the UAE, costs range between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000, which people are willing to pay to make a life change.
However, satisfaction with the services paid for is often low. According to the research done by CIC, one-third of the respondents had a negative experience with the consultant they had dealt with. Judging by the numerous complaints on forums discussing migration consultancy offices, negative experiences are still common into 2012.
“It is very unfortunate, but there are a lot of consultancies that require people to pay before anything is done,” acknowledges Felix.
Contrary to the genuine approach towards a successful application, many people say they feel that they were ‘tricked’ into signing a contract regardless the potential of a successful application. “I can't understand what really happened, it's like they are using ‘black magic’ there,” says Emma, a UAE resident who tried to migrate to Canada through a consultancy company in Dubai. “The pen was ready for me to sign and the consultant was in a hurry to get my credit card to do the transaction. I don’t know how they tricked me into signing, I am usually very careful of signing papers.”
Another person who tried to migrate to Canada writes on a forum that he was told he would be assessed with 71 points, enough to be eligible for application. Once he had signed the contract and paid Dh12,000, his assessment turned out to be 61 points and application was impossible.
Once the contract is signed between a customer and an immigration consultant, the customer is bound to pay, and disappointed people describe how there is a ‘before signing’ and ‘after signing’ treatment. The latter is often characterised by rudeness and inattention. On a forum discussing immigration consultants in Dubai, a UAE residents describes how she filed her application in 2009 and paid Dh11,000, after which she never heard from them again, despite her trying to contact their office.
According to Emma, the problem is that, on paper, the company is doing nothing wrong. “They clearly state that once the contract is signed, one must pay the full amount, which cannot be refunded.” However, what consultants say before the customer signs might be a complete different story.
“The consultant told me that if ever I or my husband would be declined, we could get a 100 per cent refund of what we paid to them… even if we would not be satisfied with the development of our application and wish to cancel it.”
In the research by CIC, the most common complaint of respondents having a negative experience with an immigration consultant was that the information given by the consultant later turned out to be wrong. Other complaints included being promised a job in Canada that did not exist, being asked to pay for placement for a job, being asked to pay for papers that were usually free or being guaranteed a visa.
Complaints and negative experience are shared openly on public forums and people seek advice from others in selecting the right consultancy agency. However, the agencies discussed are in thriving business. “Seeing their too-large ads in newspaper really still makes me feel bad,” says Emma, who finally decided not to complete her application with the agency she had signed with and paid.
What to watch-out for:
• Do thorough research on the company you are about to deal with.
• Do not pay for assessments before all necessary documents are delivered.
• Read the contract you sign carefully.
• Information regarding visa application procedures, assessments, labour categories or current status of available applications can often be found on the official immigration website of the country you wish to immigrate to.
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