A recent CBC News article profiling a South African woman’s struggle to get a refund from her Canadian immigration representative highlights the need for stricter regulations.
In the article, Rene Todd outlines how her immigration representative used deceptive business practices, fake testimonials, and high-pressure sales tactics to get her to make a purchase she would later come to regret.
This led to Todd requesting a refund of the $279 US payment that she made to Professional Immigration Consultants of Canada or PROICC. What came next was a series of emails with a PROICC employee who denied the refund request and flaunted Canadian laws designed to protect the consumer.
How to pick the right Canadian immigration representative
The first thing to consider when picking an immigration representative is to determine if you even need one. You do not require a representative to immigrate to Canada. But if you are unfamiliar with the Canadian immigration process, you have a difficult case, or if you are too busy to handle the work for your application, a trained representative can provide invaluable assistance, guidance, and motivation.
Always remember, Canadian immigration authorities generally don’t ask for clarification or additional information if the documents you provide are insufficient. They will usually just reject your application. Authorized Canadian immigration representatives should understand the requirements of your immigration program. They will advise you how to prepare your documents in a format the visa office will understand, which can save you time and effort.
Canadian immigration representatives
There are two types of professionals who can charge for immigration services and legally represent you on your application:
- Accredited lawyers/attorneys
- Certified immigration consultants
Lawyers are governed by the Canadian Bar Association and in Quebec, the Barreau du Quebec. Their credentials and standing within their governing society can be verified by checking on the respective websites. Immigration lawyers require more education and training than a consultant does. When stories break about fraudulent Canadian immigration representatives, it rarely involves lawyers, but it can happen.
Immigration consultants are governed by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). You can verify your immigration consultants credentials with ICCRC by searching through their registry.
If your representative is outside of Canada, things are more complicated. Be aware that making complaints to Canadian authorities like the Canadian Antifraud Centre or the governing body for their occupation will be difficult. Additionally, since the individual is outside Canada’s legal jurisdiction, the person in question is less likely to be held accountable.
Red flags you should look for when choosing an immigration representative
Canadian immigration scams are getting more sophisticated. Knowing how to spot the red flags starts with how to choose the right immigration representative.
Do your research
Many of us rely on recommendations from trusted friends or family members to make purchasing decisions. In lieu of that, we often seek out online testimonials to see if a company is as good as advertised. But online testimonials from a Canadian immigration representative’s website can be problematic. These types of reviews are almost always positive because they are curated by the website owner.
You can look to other online resources like Google or social media for a more unbiased opinion but these can also be misleading. Anyone can create fake online profiles. Then there are companies that receive bad reviews that might not be reflective of their overall quality of service.
To cut through the noise, a good way to evaluate online customer testimonials is review as many as you can. Weigh the bad ones against the good ones and make an informed choice. A Canadian immigration representative that has a longstanding social media presence with frequent and recent posts is a good indicator the company has a public face and is, therefore, less likely to be fraudulent.
If there are no testimonials and no social media presence, this is a red flag and you may want to consider a representative that has a more public profile.
Listen to what they say
Does your potential Canadian immigration representative promise you things that others do not, like relationships with official immigration authorities? Are they making guarantees of success? If you answered yes to either of these things, take notice of it and consider getting a second opinion.
Other things to consider, are they upfront about their qualifications? Are they clear about the terms of their agreement? If the answer is no, these are major red flags and you seek other businesses to represent you.