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Opinion: Don Curry, Immigration fraud continues to be a common and serious crime

'The site had my full name and RCIC identification number, but nothing it said about me was true'
20220305 immigration Fraud photo
Immigration fraud is an increasing problem in Canada.

The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants has declared March to be Fraud Prevention Month…and that’s a good thing.

I don’t want to bore readers with inside baseball talk, but the College took over in November from the former regulatory body for Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.

Now, all aspiring RCICs have to take their immigration and citizenship law graduate diploma courses through the Queen’s University Faculty of Law. Previously there were a number of accredited schools across Canada. I took my courses with the University of British Columbia.

The new College now has the power to go after unlicensed immigration consultants with legal action. That is a huge step in the right direction, as there are many examples of abuse readily available. I can tell you about my own experience.

Approximately 18 months ago I was contacted by phone by two individuals within weeks of each other. They had a similar story. They were both professionals, not living in Canada, and were convinced they had solid job offers in Vancouver, through an immigration company based in Edmonton called Burlington Associates.

They both had virtual interviews with people dressed in suits, sitting around a board table that looked like it was in a modern office building. They both had spent more than $20,00 for the privilege, an outrageous fee.

Why did they phone me?

They started to feel something was off so they decided to call me because I was listed on the company website as its immigration lawyer.

First, I told them, I am not a lawyer. Second, I have never heard of a company called Burlington Associates, and my profile on the site is completely made up. The site had my full name and RCIC identification number, but nothing it said about me was true.

I checked its website recently and noted my profile was no longer there, but the site continues to provide much information that is not true. You can see it here:

Burlington Associates has no legal team. It has no staff. I phoned and all you get is a recorded message. An RCIC in Edmonton checked it out and said there is no such company and its address does not exist.

I reported it to the RCMP, our former regulatory body, and Canada Border Services. I put it out on our email forum through our professional association, Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants (CAPIC.) What I heard back astounded me. Many RCICs had the same experience of having their identity stolen by criminals.

I heard nothing from anyone else. I concluded it was too common a practice for police to get excited about, and the perpetrators were almost certainly offshore somewhere, meaning it would take huge resources to find them, let alone prosecute them.

I put a disclaimer on my website right after talking to the first individual, pointing out that I have no connection with Burlington Associates whatsoever, and advised people not to deal with them because it’s a scam. I have had no further calls.

That doesn’t mean more people weren’t scammed. It may mean they Googled me, found the disclaimer on my website, and realized they had been had.

The College has released videos about being wary of fraudulent people selling immigration services. One can be found here:

It is in Punjabi, with English subtitles. There is a reason for that, as India, and specifically Punjab, is known for its unlawful practitioners.

It doesn’t matter where the immigration consultant lives, whether in Canada or anywhere else in the world…to provide immigration services you must be licensed by the College.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says fraud continues to be a common and serious crime.

“Canada’s immigration system can be complex and navigating it alone can be daunting,” he said in a news release. “Unfortunately, many unlicensed consultants are eager to exploit inexperience and anxiety for their own gain.”

He said the federal government has allocated $51.9 million to improve oversight, strengthen enforcement, and increase accountability to protect the public from dishonest consultants who take advantage of vulnerable newcomers.

The Indian Consulate in Toronto also issued an advisory on immigration fraud affecting applications to come to Canada.

The Minister says the immigration system can be daunting. I have worked with university professors, one of them born and raised in Canada attempting a sponsorship application, who came to me after trying to work through the immigration system on their own.

Ridiculous rules, wonky IT programs and constant repetition of the same information can make anyone tear their hair out. I swear at my computer screen almost daily while trying to focus on the end game…helping an individual or family have a better life in Canada.

For someone whose first language is not English or French it is an almost impossible task to complete all the immigration requirements to the satisfaction of the bureaucracy. It is difficult enough for me and English is my one and only language and I have immigration education and experience.

It is encouraging to see something finally being done to clamp down on the criminals in the immigration world. The two scammed professionals I spoke with 18 months ago were almost crying when I told them I am not the person profiled on the Burlington Associates website.

Their dreams of coming to Canada and starting a new life were shattered.

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay and is a member of Bay Today’s community advisory committee.