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Protecting Immigrants from Fraudulent Consultants

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Prospective immigrants to Canada will soon be better protected against fraud and exploitation by unauthorized or “ghost consultants”. Last June, Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney proposed Bill C-35 entitled the “Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act” that will make it a criminal offense for unauthorized individuals to charge money to provide immigration advice and services. This Bill became a law on March 23 and will be enforced in the coming months.

The new legislation permits the Minister to designate a new body to govern immigration consultants and establish measures to oversee and regulate this organization. The Government of Canada will be establishing the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, which will be directly accountable to Ottawa. This regulatory council will be responsible for providing relevant information to help the Minister determine if the members are representing their clients in a professional and ethical manner. Currently, immigration consultants are regulated by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC). This self-regulating association is not formally recognized by Ottawa and is not accountable to the Canadian federal government.

Immigration consultants operating within Canada and those operating abroad will be required to be licensed by the new council. Unauthorized individuals who provide immigration advice or representation for a fee will be subject to fines of $20,000 to $100,000. The new law will not affect lawyers who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society, Quebec notaries who are members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec, and unpaid third parties, such as friends and family members.

As part of its strategy to protect people from immigration fraud, the Canadian government has also launched a multilingual advertising campaign last month warning prospective immigrants to be cautious when choosing an immigration consultant.

“Crooked immigration consultants pose a threat not only to their victims, but also to the integrity of our immigration system,” said Immigration Minister Kenney in a statement last week. “This new legislation will help us protect people wanting to immigrate to or stay in Canada, as well as the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.”

Prospective immigrants who are interested in using a representative to aid them with their Canadian immigration application should ensure that the representative is authorized by the proper authorities, such as the Canadian Bar Association, and is well experienced.

You can verify Attorney David Cohen’s authority to represent you as a member in good standing of the Barreau du Quebec and the Canadian Bar Association here.