Forging passports and falsifying clients’ records will be harder to do thanks to new legislation aimed at cracking down on those who take advantage of new immigrants – a move being praised by a Richmond-based immigration consultant.
The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act came into force on Dec. 9, after it received royal assent in June 2019.
The act will create a new regulatory body, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, set to open in 2021.
“It’s a great approach, and I welcome the new (regulation) with heavier enforcement,” said Ken Tin Lok Wong, a Richmond-based registered immigration consultant with the law firm Lim and Company.
“As a practitioner, I think my reputation is being protected and those who are seeking help to immigrate to Canada via immigration consultants, they know that these people are legitimate… It only takes one bad practitioner to make us look bad in public.”
The college will have new authority to investigate unlicensed immigration consultants, including allowing investigators to enter the premises of a consultant to gather information for an investigation, compelling witnesses to appear and testify before court and the ability to request court injunctions against those providing immigration advice without authorization.
“We’re taking decisive action to hold immigration and citizenship consultants to account by improving oversight and increasing accountability to protect both the public and consultants in good standing from dishonest consultants who are taking advantage of vulnerable people,” said Marco Mendicino, federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
In 2015, an unlicensed Richmond immigration consultant, Xun Wang, was handed a seven-year sentence for wide-spread immigration fraud, including creating fake Chinese passports and falsifying the amount of time an applicant had spent in Canada so that they would meet the standards of permanent residency (a precursor for citizenship).
Wong, meanwhile, said he’s often seen new clients whose cases are “already messed up.”
For example, often those who are “borderline providing immigration services” will give the wrong advice, such as telling the client that “with the purchase of this particular business, you would be eligible to apply to immigrate to Canada,” said Wong.
In the cases that he’s seen, Wong said the clients found themselves with a failing business, meaning not only were they no longer able to apply for immigration under that program, but they also had to pay out of pocket to keep the business running.
“Had they come to me and asked for my advice, I would not have advised them to purchase that particular business.”
The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), the current regulatory body, has applied to transition into the new college. Currently, anyone providing immigration services is required to register with the ICCRC.
“We are pleased that the College Act is now in force and that we are one step closer to fulfilling our mission of protecting consumers and enhancing the profession,” said ICCRC board chair John Burke in a statement.
The new act also empowers the college to establish and administer qualification standards, standards of practice and continuing education requirements of licensees, ensuring code of professional conduct compliance and undertaking public awareness activities.