Fraud is a big problem in Canadian immigration; a problem best avoided.
You may know someone who has been frauded in the immigration process. Maybe by a lawyer who promised they could get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) in Express Entry, but never delivered? Or maybe by a consultant who has a misleading contract ended up charging more money than expected? Or, one of the most common, maybe by a fake recruiter who promised a job offer for money?
The best way to protect yourself from fraud is to use a consultant with a demonstrated record of success, but it is also important to know how to spot the scammers. We’ve put together this list of five common red flags to watch out for if you’re hiring an immigration consultant or lawyer. If you notice any of these things, proceed with caution: there’s something in the air. It’s the aroma of fraud.
Red Flag: Cannot provide an ICCRC number or provincial law association listing
In order to accept money to work on your immigration application, a representative must have the proper authorization. For immigration consultants, this authorization comes through the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) and for lawyers it comes through their provincial legal association, usually called a Bar Association.
To check if your consultant has the proper authorization, ask them to provide their RCIC number. You can then look this number up on this website to view the consultant’s status.
To check if your lawyer has the proper authorization, ask them to provide a link to their listing on the relevant provincial legal association website. You can also look up the lawyer directly, if you’d prefer, using this database.
In Ontario, paralegals can also represent you on your application, but must be in good standing with the Ontario Bar Association. In Quebec, notaries can also represent you, but must be in good standing with the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
Red Flag: Guaranteeing a successful visa, work permit, or permanent residence application
We all want a guarantee for success, no matter what we’re trying to accomplish. And, sometimes, unscrupulous Canadian representatives will tell us what we want to hear, even though there is no guarantee of success. Ever.
No person can guarantee the success of your immigration application. Any number of unexpected factors could impact the results of your application, from forgetting to attach a document to having the rules of your program change at the last moment.
If a lawyer or consultant guarantees you success then you should be extremely careful about working with this person. Often, the promise of success is a ruse used to lure in victims to be scammed.
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam!
Red Flag: Asking for money for a job offer
Immigration lawyers and immigration consultants are not employment recruiters. No reputable immigration lawyer or consultant will offer to get you a Canadian job offer if you pay them money. If you’re asked to pay money up front for a job offer in Canada, this is a huge red flag!
In Canada, an employer cannot charge you any money for a job offer; if you receive a job offer from an “employer” asking you to pay money, then you should proceed with caution. You should be extremely skeptical of any person who tries to get you to pay any money up front for a Canadian job offer. We’ve seen this kind of scam take many different forms:
- A fake recruiter asking you for money upfront so they can find a Canadian job offer.
- A fake employer sending you a fake employment contract and asking you to pay a visa fee, a processing fee, or some other kind of fee.
- A fake consultant asking you for money upfront with the guarantee of a Canadian visa and job offer.
In Canada, you should never have to pay up front to get a job offer.
One of our recommended Canadian immigration consultants, Deanne Acres-Lans from Canada Abroad, elaborates on how to spot a Canadian immigration job offer scam in this great video:
Red Flag: No retainer agreement or contract to sign
A retainer agreement is a type of contract that outlines the type of services a lawyer or consultant will provide, along with the duration of services, the payment structure, and what you are expected to provide as the client.
Do not pay a lawyer or a consultant up front if they cannot provide a retainer agreement or contract.
Also, be sure to read every word of the retainer agreement or contract. Untrustworthy lawyers and consultants are known for writing incredibly long contracts with the expectation that you will not read the whole thing. That gives them the chance to hide extra fees and other tricks deep inside the contract.
Red Flag: Asking for a lot of money up front without any consultation
Before spending CAD $2,000 or more on a lengthy contract for an immigration program, any reputable consultant or lawyer will first offer you a one-on-one consultation. During this consultation, the lawyer will review your personal information, your preferred immigration program(s), and your chances of success. Once they’ve confirmed the program is a good match for you, then they’ll offer you a complete contract.
Be wary of any consultant or lawyer who refuses to do a one-on-one consultation prior to offering a large contract. Often this is a red flag for a rip-off.
In certain cases, a consultant or lawyer will charge a fee for other one-time services. For example, if you’ve prepared a complete permanent residence application through Express Entry, a consultant might charge you a one-time fee to review your application before you submit it. This type of review can be a good idea if you want an expert opinion before submitting, but again, be sure that the services provided are outlined in a contract that both parties sign before you make any payment.
Not sure if it’s a scam? Ask our community!
Did you receive a job offer that seems fake? Or have you been approached by a lawyer who has a long and confusing contract? Ask the Moving2Canada community if they spot any fraud.