Immigration Consultants: The good, the bad and the ugly

DECEMBER 24, 2011

A couple of months ago, an immigration consultant was arrested in Halifax (whose clients were primarily from the Middle East and South Asia) and, as a result, 1100 cases filed by this consultant are under investigation for obtaining citizenship and maintaining permanent residency without physically residing in Canada.

The Canadian Government has indicated that, if proven, citizenships and permanent residencies will be revoked.
A Vancouver Sun article reports, "a statement from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the charges follow 'an investigation into whether the consultant fraudulently helped individuals create the appearance they were residing in Canada in order to keep their permanent resident status, and ultimately attempt to acquire citizenship.' Kenney said that "where evidence permits, we will seek revocation of Canadian citizenship and deportation.

Canadians value their citizenship.

It is not something to be bought and sold with the help of crooked consultants." (Vancouver Sun - March 2 2011)"
There are many reasons to use an immigration consultant.

Families do not want to take risks with such an important life decision.

Business immigration cases require the use of a professional consultant because of the complex financial and business experience analysis involved in investor and entrepreneur applications.

Even in the case of skilled workers, applications are extremely detail-oriented and time consuming.

Given the current procedures in place that require the submission of complete documentation with the initial application, applicants run the risk of having their applications returned because of one minor missing document.

As a consequence, applicants face delays - and delays could very well mean that they become ineligible because the quota for the category they applied under is fulfilled during the delay.

The most compelling reason to use a consultant continues to be the fact that applicants are looking for peace of mind, a level of professionalism and knowledgeable advice in this important life changing decision.
How should you choose an immigration consultant? What are the three most important questions to ask? (1) Are you authorised to give immigration advice? Be sure to pick a consultant who is either a member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) or the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), or a lawyer who is a member in good standing of a Canadian provincial bar.

Try to select a consulting firm whose CSIC member resides in Pakistan, as these consultants understand the local education system, job market and business documents.
(2) Are you a Canadian Citizen? Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to be authorized CSIC/ICCRC advisors.
(3) Have you experienced life in Canada? Individuals who have worked and/or lived in Canada are generally in a better position to educate clients on the Canadian experience.
It is probably best to use consultants who were professionals before they entered the business of immigration consulting.

Lawyers, Finance Professionals, Accountants and Management Consultants who are duly authorized by the government of Canada to provide immigration advice are probably your best bet.
In Pakistan, every type of consultant exists: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Good immigration consulting firms tend to be managed by Canadian citizens duly authorized by the government to provide immigration advice and tend to have senior managers that have practiced in a professional field prior to making a career in immigration consulting.

Good consultants and firms will give you honest and genuine advice based on their individual and corporate experience.

They have good knowledge of immigration case law, can quickly research any grey areas and provide you straightforward and upfront advice.

Good consultants will not negotiate on professional fees unless the client gives them a compelling business reason to do so.

Perhaps the most distinguishing element of a good consultant is that they will refuse to take your case if they feel if it is ineligible and they will never offer you a guarantee.

A professional cannot guarantee anything that is not under their control, as decision making power on applications rests solely with the Canadian immigration authorities.

Thus, a good consultant constructs a case within the constraints of the law and based on extensive research and their experience.
Bad consultants may be Canadian citizens, they may even be authorized to provide immigration advice; however, they are generally not experienced and may make guarantees of approval or processing timeframes.

In Pakistan, there are many consultants who promise clients quick processing time frames.

As a savvy client, you should do your due diligence and research the market of consultants.

For example, if you notice that a consultant's promised processing times are outside the average range advised by local and international consultants, then you are probably better off staying away from such consultants.

A good way to check processing times is to visit the Canadian government's immigration website on which estimated processing times are displayed (albeit the information is not updated as regularly as it should be).

Also, processing times are subject to change.

Processing time frames that were valid at the beginning of your immigration process may get extended due to the sheer volume of applications received by the immigration authorities.

This is beyond the control of any consultant.
Be aware that there are scrupulous consultants who operate under the supervision of relatives and friends who are non-practising CSIC members.

Usually, the consultant is not eligible for CSIC/ICCRC because of his/her prior track record or because he/she is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and uses his/her relative as a proxy to get around these requirements.

Consultants who work under the CSIC/ICCRC authorised advisors are expected to be supervised and monitored closely.

Often, the CSIC member providing oversight is not a practising immigration professional and serves purely as a proxy.

In such situations, important aspects of the client's case must slip between the cracks from time to time.

Many such consultants will be able to process run of the mill and straightforward immigration cases.

However, in the 20 or 30 percent of cases that require serious analysis and application of the law, the consequences to the client can be quite serious.
Finally, the consultant that makes the Chinese look like amateurs with his/her ability to create documents out of thin air, the ghost consultant that the ghostbusters could not bust - the 'ugly' side of the profession of immigration consultants.

These consultants, who are generally not experienced, help or advise clients to create counterfeit documents, and help clients circumvent citizenship and immigration laws.

Most of all, they are generally not authorised by the government of Canada to provide immigration advice.

Some claim to be authorised, even though they are not authorised to provide immigration advice.

There is a consultant in Islamabad, Pakistan who advertises his/her HR professional designation as a substitute for a duly authorised CSIC/ICCRC designation.

This consultant is not a recognised immigration advisor under Canadian law.

What he/she is doing is illegal.

Stay away from such consultants.

They tend to have lower professional fees than most of the legitimate consultants operating in the market and will often accept cases when every consultant has turned you down.

Many of these consultants provide clients with advice that, if followed, could expose the client to criminal prosecution in Canada.

Document forgery and misrepresentation are serious offenses that are punishable by both jail time and heavy fines.
The 'ugly' consultant or "crooked", as the government of Canada terms them, often tells his/her client that one can get Canadian citizenship without actually physically residing in Canada.

Current immigration law allows judges discretion in granting citizenship to those who have not physically resided in Canada for all 1095 days of the requisite period.

However, this exemption is only possible for those individuals representing the Canadian government overseas, or if they are placed on an overseas assignment by a major Canadian corporation.

Even in such cases, discretionary power rests with the Citizenship judge.

For 99% of all immigrants there is practically no way to obtain citizenship without 1095 days (3 years out of 4 years) of physical residence in Canada.

Those who obtain citizenship by maintaining active bank accounts, credit cards, utility bills and rental agreements while 'physically' residing outside Canada are circumventing the law and misrepresenting themselves before the Canadian citizenship authorities.

This is a crime under Canadian law.

If you cannot reside for 3 years out of 4 years in Canada, then it is probably better to explore alternative residency options.

There are providers in the market offering legitimate alternative residency options that do not require physical residency.

Note, however, that these options are generally only available to high net worth individuals who are able to make an investment in the range of US $500,000.
Stay away from consultants who offer unqualified and exaggerated promises for Canadian immigration and citizenship.

As noted at the beginning of this article, the Canadian government is actively investigating the citizenship and immigration applications of those who are suspected of misrepresentation.

They have clearly indicated that if there is evidence of misrepresentation or fraud, permanent residencies and citizenships will be revoked.

Applications for permanent residency and citizenship, particularly those from high-risk countries like Pakistan, will be highly scrutinised by the Canadian government.

In fact, the Canadian government has a specialised anti-fraud unit that closely examines applications submitted from high risk countries.
Do not jeopardise your future and that of your children by taking the 'easy road' offered by crooked consultants.

Two simple yet powerful proverbs aptly sum up the message of this discourse - "nothing in life comes easy" and "if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is." Only retain the services of those who are positioned to provide immigration advice and have an established track record.

Migration is an important life decision.

Work with those people who make it their interest to protect your interest.

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