Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tougher laws sought to punish "ghost" immigration consultants

By Mike Barber, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 3, 2010
OTTAWA — The federal government needs to introduce tough penalties for uncertified immigration consultants, the industry's professional society urged Wednesday.

The Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants said vulnerable new Canadians need protection from "ghost" consultants who "don't have to prove their competence and (are) not accountable to anyone."

John Ryan, the society's chief executive officer, said ghost agents routinely prey upon landed immigrants, providing false advice and posing as guarantors of their clients' citizenship ambitions.

There are about 1,600 certified consultants across Canada. But with more than 200,000 immigrants coming here each year, some are bound to end up working with those outside of the professional body's jurisdiction.

As it stands, there is a provision under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that punishes fraud by up to five years in prison and a fine of $100,000. But Ryan said the breadth of the law is too narrow, allowing agents to charge for services without ever committing their signature to paper.

Ghost agents "'front end' their advice by providing representation and consultation functions and simply withhold their name from submitted applications, said Ryan. "When things go wrong, it is the consumer who is ultimately responsible and ends a victim."

With prospective Canadians paying anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 for a consultant's services, a failed application can all but scuttle the chances of some for becoming a citizen.

Calling it a "serious offence," Karen Shadd, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, confirmed that the minister, Jason Kenney, "intends to tighten the rules to make it more difficult for unauthorized third parties to operate."
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