Toronto, Feb 9 : Ghost immigration consultants have become a big threat to the immigration process in Canada which lets in more than 250,000 newcomers each year, a large number of them from Punjab.
According to figures, there are about 2,000 ghost immigration consultants as against just 1,655 registered by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. Operating out of the purview of law, these 'ghost' immigration consultants fleece thousands of prospective immigrants each year, defrauding them from $1,200 to $30,000 each.
Since India is the second largest source of immigration into Canada after China, the "ghost" problem is even deeper in the Indo-Canadian community as people here want to bring their relatives from India by hook or by crook.
The depth of the problem can be gauged from the following advertisement that appeared in a Chandigarh newspaper recently:
"JOB VACANCY IN CANADIAN HOTEL CANADA: Ominicity Hotel Director wish to advertise through this medium that the Following Job Vacancy in our Hotel. We need both men and females workers to fill in different categories of job openings. Currently, if your interested in working with us you can contact us back E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org Our Hotel Director shall connect you with our Canadian immigration director during your visa processing, SIGN BY DIRECTOR MRS RESOLING ANNA."
But inquiries revealed that there was no hotel by this name in Ottawa.
"Hundreds of such fly-by-night immigration operators have set shop in India to prey upon people desperate to move to Canada," Sheetal Jhuti, an Indo-Canadian immigration consultant based in Mississauga on the outskirts of Toronto, told IANS.
"These people go to Punjab and anywhere in India to scam the poor gullible people waiting to get any opportunity to get out of India," she says.
Jhuti adds, "Since an immigration consultant here has to pay high fees to the regulatory Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC), many of these so-called consultants choose to operate out of Canada in their native countries where they don't come under any supervision. That's what is happening in India."
Once you are operating outside the system, anyone can call himself or herself an immigration consultant, she says.
The modus operandi of these 'ghost' immigration consultants, she explains, is to open offices in Chandigarh or Jalandhar and appoint some people to fill up immigration forms for them.
Since these 'ghost' operators are not under jurisdiction of the Canadian regulatory body, they can advertise for jobs that don't exist. When people respond, they charge huge sums of money to fill up their forms and then vanish, sayimmigration sources here.
"Thousands of these ghost consultants advertise daily, thousands of so-called education consultancies lie and cheat in the name of getting student visas to the UK, Canada, and Australia," says Jhuti.
"So, while people like me are paying through our nose to get our licences to run a model consultancy, my neighbourhood pizza store owner is making more money than me by just providing form filling services," she adds.
"The situation is simply unacceptable. It not only threatens the integrity of our citizenship and immigration systems but it also raises in my mind national security issues," John Ryan, chair of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, told the Globe and Mail newspaper last week.
"We know who (the ghost consultants) are and where they're operating. But law enforcement agencies can't do anything currently to stop them," he said.
The cheating is equally rampant in immigration from China, Pakistan and the Philippines - the other major sources of immigration into Canada.
Copyright Indo Asian News