Immigration scams and fraudulent schemes targeting temporary residents and potential immigrants are a serious problem as fraudsters try to take advantage of those who are going through any kind of visa or immigration process. These scams are constantly evolving and with the use of the internet and social media they continue to become more sophisticated.
Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there are serious consequences for those who submit fraudulent documents and fraudsters that are caught can be prosecuted under the Criminal Code. However, the most effective way to protect potential victims is to raise awareness, both inside and outside Canada, and ensure that people have information so they do not fall victim to a fraud in the first place.
Each year thousands of people want to apply for temporary visas and permanent residence in Canada. Unfortunately, there are countless fraudulent websites, emails, and social media scams that target these individuals. Here are some important points to keep in mind to avoid falling prey to a fraudster:
1. No one can guarantee an immigration outcome:
No one can guarantee you a visa to Canada or guarantee that they will get you a job in Canada. In all applications, it is an immigration officer who decides whether to issue a visa. You can hire an immigration lawyer or a regulated immigration consultant to assist you in preparing your application and ensuring that you submit a complete application and have the highest chance of success. However, if someone claims they can guarantee an immigrant or temporary visa you should be very careful and seek professional advice.
2. Does it sound too good to be true?
We often receive emails that direct us to visit a website or provide us with special offers. Pay special attention to the sender of any email and ensure that a website you are viewing is the official website of the Government of Canada (www.Canada.ca). If you receive an email that you have won the Canadian “Immigration Lottery” or visit a website that claims you can apply for immigration to Canada without meeting any requirements or providing any documents, then you have to ask “does this sound too good to be true?”
If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is a scam and you may end up parting with your money, and in some cases your personal information as well.
3. Immigration Officers do not call you for money or to threaten to arrest you for failure to pay application fees:
Increasingly sophisticated scams are targeting individuals who are already in Canada. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be an immigration officer who threatens you and states that if you do not pay or give your personal information you will be arrested, go to jail, or lose your visa or be deported, it is a scam.
While you are required to pay application fees for different kinds of applications, an immigration officer will never act in this way to collect fees or fines. Do not be fooled if the person that calls you gives you an “officer name”, “agent number” or “case number.” Often times these fraudsters are persistent and work in teams to contact you repeatedly to make you believe they are really immigration officers. You should not provide any of your personal information and can contact immigration directly to check the status of your application.
4. Do not pay fees to third-party providers:
In order to hide themselves, scammers ask that you provide them with payment through prepaid credit cards, private money transfer service providers such as PayPal and MoneyGram, and most recently through cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
If you are asked to make payments for your immigration application through any of these means it is a red flag that this is a scam. The government only accept payment directly through its website or through an Embassy or Visa office.
5. You are not absolved of responsibility just because someone else files a fraudulent document or provided false information on your behalf:
If someone promises that they will obtain a visa for you for a fee and “prepare all the documents” themselves, you should be extremely concerned. If fraudulent documents are filed on your behalf or false information is provided in support of your application, you will face the consequences of the misrepresentation that is made. It does not matter that you did not provide the documents yourself; you are always responsible for all information and documents presented to immigration on your behalf.
Once an immigration officer finds out the document is fraudulent or information is false, your application will be refused and you will face a ban on future applications for a number of years. Further, even if you receive your visa or even go on to receive permanent residence and the misrepresentation is discovered many years later, you could still lose your status in Canada because of the fraudulent information or documents in your application.
You should always ensure that you provide correct information and documents and check any file before it is submitted to ensure that all information and documents are correct.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.