Immigration fraudsters have been fraudulently exploiting Canada’s Atlantic Immigration Pilot to offer quick permanent residence to individuals willing to part away with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Unlicensed ‘ghost’ immigration consultants are using the employer-led AIP platform to help draw more working-age immigrants to a region struggling with an ageing population and labour shortages, according to a CBC media report.
The illicit pathway to Canadian permanent residence has become known as a ‘golden ticket’.
The fraud sees applicants given fake jobs and paid fake wages and salaries from companies in one of the four Atlantic provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
Companies are accomplices, paid off by the consultants to offer fake jobs and pay salaries.
Given the business strategy is based on a series of cash payments, there is no paper trail and records, making it very difficult to detect. It means these particular fraudulent activities could have been going on unchecked since the AIP was introduced in 2017.
Some CBC news reporters had to pose as immigration candidates to expose the fraud, spending weeks exchanging emails and phone calls with WonHonTa Immigration Service, located in the city of Toronto.
Finally, they were told Canadian permanent residence through the AIP would cost them $170,000.
What Is The Atlantic Immigration Pilot?
Launched in 2017, the AIP is the federal government’s strategy to attract more skilled worker immigrants to the four Atlantic provinces of Canada.
The four provinces struggle with attracting and keeping newcomers, who prefer to settle in Canada’s major cities, such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
With routes for high-skilled workers and intermediate-skilled workers, as well as international graduates, the AIP requires an employment offer, settlement plan and provincial approval before permanent residence is issued, all measures aimed at ensuring immigrants are retained in the region.
However, it seems that not long after the AIP was established, fraudulent immigration agencies had already worked out how to make use of the terms of the program.
Regulating Immigration Consultants
This latest fraudulent act is the latest in a long line attributed to unlicensed ‘ghost’ immigration agents. The industry is presently regulated or controlled by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).
There have been a number of recommendations and calls for the ICCRC to be dissolved and the regulation of agencies brought under the direct control of the Canadian federal government.
However, In April 2019 Ottawa released a plan to introduce or replace the ICCRC with a new College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC).
On creating the new body, Ottawa plans to institute a new licensing regime and a new code of professional conduct for immigration agents.
The federal minister of immigration will also get new powers, including in the creation of the code of conduct and in the development of the board of directors of the CICC.
Self-regulation is set to continue in spite of a parliamentary committee recommendation dating back two (2) years calling for the regulation of immigration agencies to be brought under the direct control of the federal government.
Years of Abuse and Violations
The initiative comes after several years of investigations and reports alluding to abuse and violations by immigration fraudsters in the Canadian immigration industry.
The advice for candidates wanting to immigrate is to exercise caution when hiring an immigration consultant.
Individuals who wish to receive representation is encouraged to get a qualified and accredited immigration lawyer, who is controlled by a provincial law society.