Is this Canadian immigration website legitimate?
The Canadian immigration system is increasingly using the power of the internet to facilitate many parts of the newcomer journey.
Toward the end of 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) “began its transition to 100% digital applications for all permanent residence programs”, a process that concluded on October 28.
Note: This transition still maintained alternative formats for applicants who require accommodations
Further to the digital transformation of Canadian immigration, IRCC has also created and launched an online portal designed to allow “permanent residence applicants in Canada to finalize their process and receive their permanent residency cards” online. According to data from a January 2022 news release, 225,000 permanent residents took advantage of this portal between June and December 2021.
Undoubtedly, Canadian immigration is becoming more digital than ever before. However, this development has not been entirely positive, as it may expose more prospective Canadian immigrants to fraud and scams through fake immigration websites.
To that end, and in the spirit of March being IRCC’s Fraud Prevention Month, here are six tips from the Government of Canada on how to identify if a Canadian immigration website could be a scam:
1. The website was advertised in an unsolicited email
If the link to an immigration website comes via an email from a stranger that the email recipient did not ask for, it is safe to assume that the website is likely a scam.
2. The website does not seem to be created by the Canadian government
Official Canadian government websites are typically identifiable by two key characteristics.
- They include content in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French
- They have a Canada.ca URL or a URL that ends in “gc.ca”
Websites that look like Government of Canada properties but do not have these characteristics should not be trusted.
3. It offers “guaranteed” immigration or makes other unrealistic promises
Under no circumstance can any immigration representative/tool (website etc.) guarantee success as a Canadian immigration applicant. Applicants should not trust any websites that make such affirmative claims, promise users a high-paying job once landed in Canada, or promote expedited application processing.
4. The website asks for payment to access forms/guides
IRCC makes it clear that payment is only required to process Canadian immigration applications. Forms, guides and other supplementary materials are free to access on the IRCC website.
5. It requires personal/financial information, a deposit prior to the application process
Similar to the above, any website that requests sensitive information such as banking details or a Social Insurance Number (SIN) prior to the application process should be considered untrustworthy. To that end, the same is true of any website that requires users to pay a deposit in advance of beginning to apply for a Canadian immigration program.
6. It is missing contact information and/or the representative’s credentials
Do not trust immigration websites that either omit contact information entirely or in cases where no human can be reached through the website’s provided contact information. Likewise, if the website provides the name of an immigration consultant/lawyer/representative or company but does not identify their credentials, users should assume that the service provider is unauthorized and therefore untrustworthy.
Avoiding immigration website scams
The best way to protect against online scams is to seek the assistance and advice of an authorized Canadian immigration lawyer. Certified lawyers in this industry must be registered as a member of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society.
The different ways that an authorized and experienced immigration lawyer can help prospective Canadian immigrants include:
- Accurately and completely preparing their immigration applications
- Ensuring applicants avoid mistakes with their application
- Responding to the Canadian government on behalf of an applicant
- Using their expertise to avoid unnecessary delays throughout the different application steps and application processing