[Explainer 4]: How to Detect Immigration Scams
The often thinly veiled desire, which is mostly shown by the younger demographic, to relocate to Canada within a short space of time, coupled with the preponderance of individuals out to make a quick buck may be partly responsible for the
increase in immigration scams that have been circulating the internet.
In recent times, there has been an increase in the number of fake immigration "opportunities" being promoted by the many unqualified and uncertified individuals posing as immigration consultants/agents. Many have lost their life's savings to these immigration fraudsters and you may unwittingly fall into their hands should you throw caution to the wind while you explore ways to move over to Canada.
In my experience as a practising lawyer in Canada, I have had opportunities to advise prospective migrants about ways to protect themselves from immigration scams.
This post outlines some red flags that would-be migrants should look for when presented with an “opportunity” to migrate to Canada.
1. Immigration Programs for Citizens of a Specific Country
Many immigration "programs" have been making the rounds on social media lately. The documents promoting these programs may look authentic to an untrained or impatient eye, but many of them are immigration scams and you can spot the fakes by taking note of the following:
a. The Canadian government is known to create immigration programs for specific countries. There have been resettlement programs for citizens of Somalia, Hong Kong, Syria, Afghanistan, and a few other countries. This may make you believe that the immigration programme that has been presented to you is real, but it may not be. The Canadian government’s programs to resettle a specified number of Somalis, Syrians, and Afghans was borne out of the unfortunate unrest in those countries. Nigeria is not in a similar situation as those countries.
b. Country-specific resettlement programs are not targeted at students only. Such programs, which are rare, do not require certain educational qualifications. They also do not specify medical or financial eligibility criteria.
It is not true that Canada is currently looking to bring Nigerians to Canada. There is no such immigration policy at present. Since the time Canada began welcoming immigrants through its well-advertised immigration streams, Nigerians have never been singled out for special favourable treatment such that an immigration stream would be created specifically for Nigeria.
2. Medium of Publication
The official medium of informing the public about new immigration programs is the Canadian government website: www.cic.gc.ca. If the “opportunity” to migrate that you have been presented is not on the website above or on a provincial/territorial government website, then it is an immigration program that the Canadian or a provincial government may not know about and has not sanctioned. Sometimes, the government will publish print-outs as a way of informing the public but it is not always the case. Also, the use of Canada’s maple leaf logo is not foolproof evidence that a program is genuine. Do not be deceived by its presence on a circular or on a website.
3. Jobs Offered Without Application
Many people have been contacting me to ask if certain job offers from Canada-based businesses are genuine. While I am not in a position to verify every job offer, certain issues, which I outline below, stand out when the details of such job offers are relayed to me.
a. An offer for a job that you did not apply for should not be taken seriously. The employer must have advertised the position and you should have applied for it.
b. Your resume, or a description of your profile, must have been sought by and presented to the employer.
c. Most employers would schedule an interview, either in-person or virtually (due to COVID and distance), which is an opportunity to determine your suitability for the position. Most employers will not offer you a job without a formal application and an interview.
d. Since you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, the employer will need to apply to the government for “permission” to hire a foreigner. This is called the LMIA process. Most employers do not want to go through the LMIA process because it is expensive and time consuming. It also delays the hiring process at a time the employer desperately needs to file the position.
e. Before you accept a job offer and pay the immigration consultant/agent who has arranged this for you, ask them to show you the LMIA application by the employer. You need LMIA before you can apply for a work permit, and you need a work permit in order to work in Canada.
4. Processing Timelines
One immediate impact of the COVID pandemic on Canada’s economy was the lack of temporary workers, especially in 2020. This forced the Canadian government to prioritize the processing of work permit applications for foreign nationals who were already in Canada at the time the COVID pandemic broke. This was a special dispensation which ensured that most work permit applications were speedily processed. There is also currently a special dispensation for processing study permit applications that have been submitted at the Lagos office of the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria. This is not typically the case. Generally, timelines for processing each type of immigration applications are publicly advertised on www.cic.gc.ca.
5. Immigration Consultants/Agents
Most of the scams are marketed by individuals who may have never been to Canada. They mostly reside in the country of habitual residence of the prospective applicants, but they present immigration “opportunities” that are packaged in ways that suggest the presenters are intimately familiar with Canada. The “consultants/agents” package these scams with the help of their accomplices in Canada.
You should ask that the “immigration consultant or agent” give you their membership number for the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). Visit this website, https://iccrc-crcic.ca/find-a-professional/, and check to see if their name and details are on it.
If the person is a lawyer like me, ask for their law society membership number. You should also ask them to tell you the name of the province in which they practice. You should search for the law society of that province on the internet so that you can determine if the individual is a registered lawyer.
You should do all of this before you hire a lawyer or an immigration consultant/agent because you should only seek advice from and hire a registered lawyer or immigration consultant/agent. Unlicensed “lawyers” or “immigration consultant/agents” do not belong to regulatory bodies that you can submit a complaint to if you later find out that you have been scammed.
This is not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice or an informed opinion on your matter, please contact me through any of the contact details below:
Barrister & Solicitor
September 8, 2021