How to Avoid Being an Easy Target for Unauthorized Practitioners as an International Student
International students with hopes of achieving the Canadian dream often fall prey to unscrupulous immigration agents looking to exchange cash for fraudulent documents, such as fake admission letters.
Some international students who arrive in Canada discover that their admission letters from post-secondary institutions are fraudulent only years after they have studied, worked, and applied for permanent residency.
Since coming to Canada can be a lengthy and challenging process, most immigration applicants rely on their representatives to fill out applications and advocate on their behalf. However, there are unauthorized practitioners (UAPs) who charge a fee illegally in exchange for offering services, and then cease all communication or do whatever they think convenient once the money has been received. It is difficult for Canada to police those bad actors abroad, resulting in international students being exploited by these unscrupulous actors.
This was the case for some students from India, who obtained a student visa and got entry into Canada after receiving a letter of acceptance to a designated learning institute (DLI). They are facing removal after being accused of using a fraudulent admission letter to get into Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) makes it a legal enforcement measure to remove individuals in Canada who are inadmissible under an enforceable removal order. Even though Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced the stay of the removal of those students' pending investigation, those international students still have to live with the uncertainty of whether they will be forced to go back home after having invested a fair amount of savings of their parents for a Canadian post-secondary education. In this article, we’d like to provide some information to help individuals avoid falling into the same unfortunate situation.
Types of Representatives
There are two types of immigration representatives: authorized representatives/ practitioners and unauthorized representatives/practitioners (UAPs). Only authorized representatives are allowed by IRPA to provide Canadian immigration and/or citizenship advice and/or service for any consideration, including charging fees. UAPs getting any form of return for their advice or service commit a crime punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine.
Authorized representatives have specialized knowledge of Canadian immigration, refugee, and citizenship law, and are regulated by their respective governing bodies. For example, Canadian lawyers and paralegals are regulated by the Canadian provincial or territorial law societies. Citizenship and Immigration Consultants (RCICs), along with Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIA), are regulated by the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC).
Regulating immigration and citizenship consultants is important because it guarantees the fairest process and treatment for people looking to immigrate to Canada and ensures immigration and citizenship consultants are trustworthy and ethical.
Unauthorized representatives can be friends, family members, and other third parties who may give the same services as authorized representatives but FOR FREE.
The Government of Canada has implemented the College of Immigration and Citizenship Act to regulate the immigration and citizenship consultant profession and protect the public from unauthorized practitioners. CICC has enhanced powers and tools to ensure Canadian immigration and citizenship consultants operate ethically and competently. For example, CICC sets standards on obtaining its licensees, investigates incidents of misconduct by licensees, sanctions licensees who engage in misconduct, and ensures licensees meet educational and professional standards. And it also has the power to seek court injunctions to block the unauthorized practices. By contrast, the Government of India does not have any formal licensing body or process, making it easy for illegal agents to take advantage of international students from India. Because unauthorized practitioners are not regulated, it would be hard for victims of their actions to pursue legal actions against them.
To protect their own interests, if in need of assistance with their immigration applications, international students should do their due diligence when seeking immigration advice or service.
How to Verify the Status of an RCIC and RISIA
CICC has an online Public Register which clients can use to verify the status of an RCIC. Only RCICs and RISIAs with an active status can provide immigration services. Keep in mind, RISIAs work for their DLIs and do not provide immigration advice and/or services to those who are not a student of the DLI they work for. If an immigration consultant does not appear in the Public Register, clients can check the Other regulatory bodies' registers to determine if they are licensed under another organization. As well as if an immigration consultant is located in Quebec.
Active status means an RCIC is in good standing with the College, and thus is legally allowed to practice Canadian immigration and citizenship law. The status of revocations, suspensions, restrictions in the CICC public register restricts the licensee’s practice.
To locate an ethical and competent RCIC, also check the current proceedings and past decisions of licensees.
How to start working with an authorized representative
Undoubtedly, international students who come from poorer households with weaker social networks and little to no family history of migration tend to rely on immigration consultants more often. To avoid being cheated and defrauded by unauthorized practitioners, international students should guard against handing out their money to anyone. Students should rely on information posted on the Government of Canada website, choose a consultant in which they can verify their status, ask for their references and how long they have been in business and get a written contract that lists the services and fees they provide.
Is DIY (doing it yourself) a good idea?
Immigrants may consider the option of applying to immigrate without hiring an authorized representative. All the forms and information needed to immigrate to Canada are available for free on the Government of Canada website. Individuals who have reviewed all the forms and documents needed for their application can then decide if they are comfortable applying on their own. DIY has its pros and cons. The advantages include avoiding an unscrupulous or incompetent practitioner which can protect them from fraud or refusal. On the other hand, the disadvantages include increased stress, more time spent researching the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website and an increased chance of your application being incomplete. Therefore, though DIY is an option, it only fits for applicants who are detail-oriented and have adequate immigration knowledge and excellent research skills.
Overall, immigrating to Canada is a lengthy and complicated process. In any case, choosing whether to hire an immigration representative should always require being detail oriented, doing careful research, providing truthful and accurate information in an application, and signing forms only after thoroughly reading and understanding them.
Dozens of students who could be kicked out of Canada say they were duped by immigration agents in India | CBC News
International students face exploitation in Canada and abroad (theconversation.com)
Learn about representatives - Canada.ca
Statement from Minister Fraser concerning reports of international student fraud
How to choose an immigration or citizenship representative - Canada.ca
Do you need to hire a lawyer or representative for your immigration application? | Canadian Immigrant