Hefty fine for cheating immigration consultants

He was told that it was going to be easy for him. Sharjah resident Soyeb Mohammed always dreamt of moving to Canada. When a local immigration consultant promised that he would help him to get there, Mohammad was willing to pay the high fees charged.

But Dh9,500 and one year of waiting has got him nowhere.

There are many like Soyeb who are convinced by so-called immigration consultants that their services will help them reach the promised land, while in reality there is very little they can do.

In many cases, the candidate was never eligible or likely to be accepted, but that is information not passed until the payment is made. Sometimes, the applicant does not hear from the consultant at all one money changes hands.

"Before I submitted my application I was told they were going to give me training. They said that they have a branch in Canada, and that I would be getting an interview from there.

"I opened my file in August 2014 and they have not provided me any training or interview. They just lied so they could get the money," said Soyeb.

Kisho Kumar, a Dubai resident, faced a similar scenario. He paid a high fee to open a file, which later turned out to be invalid for application because he was not eligible. “I wrote all the correct information on the application form, but apparently this form was not even read.

“I was asked to sign the contract without reading it, and I was told that I could get a full refund if the case was rejected. The application was not even processed and I did not get the full amount back.”

Canada has stepped up efforts to counter immigration consultants that are not genuinely trying to assist individuals who want to migrate to the country.

"There are now stronger fines for fraud or misrepresentation," reported the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), quoting a maximum CAD100,000 (Dh300,000) fine and/or 5 year prison term.

"This is aimed at deterring unscrupulous applicants who are prepared to misrepresent themselves or advise others to do so.”

Further, the Global Residence and Citizenship Council (GRCC) was created last year, a new body that will deal with, among other things, transparency in the migration industry.

 “There was a great need for a unified voice,” said Armand Arton, president and CEO, Arton Capital, which is among the founding members of the council.

“The GRCC will protect the reputation of the industry and serve as solid ground for the development and maintenance of best industry practices."

When an applicant suspects to have been cheated or manipulated by a consultant, this can be reported to the council.

However, prevention is better than cure as many practices are condoned in a grey-zone of legal but yet immoral business.

In many cases, there is not much that can be done, because often the fees paid and services delivered are in compliance with the contract, which was voluntarily signed by the applicant.

Earlier, the CIC tipped that immigration consultants are not really needed. “You do not need to hire an immigration representative. It is up to you. Your application will not be given special attention or guaranteed approval if you use one,” it said to this website.

According to the CIC all the forms and information that is needed to apply for a visa are available free on the CIC website, and if you follow the instructions in the application guide, anyone should be able to complete the application forms and submit them without any assistance.

If a consultant is approached, it is important the consultant is accredited, as any person offering advice or representing the applicant against a fee, (s)he must be accredited by the Canadian government.

In order to make sure that your application is in good hands, checking the accreditation is the first step. This can be done by viewing the list of accredited companies on the CIC website.

If a company is not authorised to act as a representative of the Canadian government, the company cannot be held liable for its practice under the Canadian law, said the CIC.

It is also noteworthy that only the authorised immigration consultant is permitted to be involved with the applicant at any stage of the application process, and the employees in that company are therefore not authorized to deal with the applicant on a representative basis.

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