Canada’s Official Immigration Website on Disclosed and Undisclosed Canadian Immigration Consultants

By Author: Admin | May 17, 2010

Canada’s immigration system is contrasted by US immigration in many ways.  One way is Canada’s toleration for immigration consultants who represent people for a fee before the immigration department.  The US INS, now subsumed under the Department of Homeland And Security will only deal with a representative if that representative is a lawyer.

Canada also has the odd toleration for people who supposedly represent people before the immigration department for no money.  This is apparent in the use of representative form which asks a person if they have a paid or unpaid representative. The unpaid representative need not be a licensed Canadian immigration consultant or Canadian lawyer.

Canada’s immigration department offers a bureaucratically mild warning about unpaid representatives as follows:

Other people who offer immigration advice or assistance

People who provide immigration-related advice or assistance for a fee before the application is filed are not obliged to be authorized representatives. However, be aware that non-authorized representatives or advisors are not regulated. This means that they may not have adequate knowledge or training. It also means that you cannot seek help from the professional bodies (that is, the law societies, CSIC, etc.) if that person provides you with the wrong advice or behaves in an unprofessional way.

Canada Immigration’s above characterization of people who give advice “before the application is filed” is disingenuous; this characterization fails to capture the volume of people who are served by these unlicensed advice-givers.  The above excerpt ignores the reality that there are many unlicensed persons (usually advertising in non-English newspapers) who are retained to compose all of the application forms.  As my other blog posts imply, the forms are the make-or-break element that could seriously damage a chance of success (or at least cause excessive delays due to the higher likelihood of an interview being called for).

It is correct and proper that the above excerpt from Canada’s Official immigration website mentions that the advisor on immigration matters can collect fees and give advice as long as said advisor is not representing a person before the immigration department.  Perhaps this element in the law  presumes that only a small amount of stupid people would give money to a person who is giving advice without the appropriate licence.  I disagree.  It is also the financially vulnerable, or those who have little skills in English or French who end up giving money to an unlicensed person.  In seeing some of these poorly composed visa applications, I have had the opportunity to ask a financially vulnerable or English language-challenged person why they hired the person who filed a badly prepared application.  The answers vary from ‘good word of mouth’ to ‘he told me he was a lawyer’, to ‘my friend’s case was done successfully by him’.  Ironically, the fees many of these unlicensed consultants charge are not that different from a licensed person.

What the official website for Canada’s immigration program does not indicate is that there are visa officers who have refused applications when a person seeking a visa has failed to disclose an unauthorized representative.   Some visa officers are of the view that a person seeking a visa has made a misrepresentation by failing to disclose that they used an undisclosed representative.  The basis for refusing based on misrepresenting facts is in the following section of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act:

40. (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible for misrepresentation

(a) for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act;

The law also requires a person to disclose any representative they have.  Specifically, regulation 10(2)(c.1) and (c.2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations states the following:

(2) The application shall, unless otherwise provided by these  Regulations,

(c.1) include the name, postal address and telephone number of  any person who represents the applicant, and the person’s fax number and  electronic mail address, if any;

(c.2) if the person who represents the applicant is charging a  fee for representation, include

(i) the name of the organization referred to in the definition  “authorized representative” of which the person is a member, and

(ii) the membership identification number issued by that  organization to
the person;

Given the fact that visa officers are after these undisclosed representatives (by refusing those persons who retain them), I would like to see the elimination of these invisible, fee-collecting representatives completely.  All meaningful immigration services are paid for.  It is highly implausible that a ‘friend’ who knows English and another language to input all of a person’s information from one language into English for free.  There are too many forms for a ‘friend’ to do this for free.

One way to capture this is to add a question on every visa application form which asks if an applicant for a visa received advice during the course of the visa application.  If yes, they would then be asked the name of the advisor who gave the advice.  paid a fee for advice in relation to the visa application.  If the applicant says yes, then another question should ask for the name of the advisor who collected the fee and gave the advice.  This would capture well-intentioned NGOs, as well as greedy, incompetent ghost consultants.

The requirement to disclose when advice was sought for a fee  would eventually eliminate those unlicensed representatives who charge a fee (since visa officer’s will recognize that the unlicensed representative’s work is often identifiable by repeated errors and cookie-cutter work reference letters or fake stories of refugee persecution).

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