Beware of these immigration scams

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Many people all over the world are dreaming of moving or working in Canada. It’s great that there are various federal and provincial immigration programs they can explore. Just be warned that there are unscrupulous entities out there who want to take advantage of this dream. Here are some examples of illegal immigration schemes out there so that you can avoid becoming a victim:

Fake job/scholarship offers

There are variations of this scam:

  • Ads with the heading: “Guaranteed visas and jobs in Canada.” These ads target teachers, cleaners, or sales people with a promise of employment in Canada. They offer higher-than-standard salaries and perks like free airfare and six-week vacation leaves. Others offer study visas and scholarships.
  • Job offer from a fake Canadian company. Examples of these include Orange Farm, Flourish Hotel, Cathy Ranch and Farm in Quebec and various oil and gas firms from Alberta and Vancouver. These reach prospective victims via email. They guarantee work visas in exchange for thousands of dollars in “processing fees.”

Know that nobody can guarantee a visa or job in Canada. The Canadian government does not partner with private agencies to get jobs or visas. If you receive such an offer, don’t provide personal information or payment. Do a quick Google search to check if the company exists and if it is a legitimate operation.

Sure signs that the job offer is a scam include: free housing, extremely high salary and benefits, no interview required. Read Internet, email and telephone scams from the IRCC to know other signs.

Paper job immigration scam

To put it simply, it is a fake job that an employer sets up. The foreigner who wants to be an employee in Canada pays an amount that will cover their salary for a year plus the deductions the employer has to pay to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). The employer then sends an amount to the employee’s bank account and to CRA monthly. After a year, the employee can use this “work experience” to apply to be a Permanent Resident. Aside from the amount to cover the salary and deductions, the employee also pays a big sum to the fake job organizer for their services. Foreigners are charged around $170,000 based on this story of an immigration consulting company in Toronto that was found to be involved in this scam.

Marriage of convenience

This is an arrangement wherein the foreigner wishing to live in Canada pays a Canadian citizen to be their spouse and sponsor them. The foreigner pays at least $50,000 for this scheme. This is a precarious situation to be in as immigration officers are highly trained to spot fake marriages. They conduct rigorous document checks, visit people’s homes and interview both sponsors and applicants. Couples found to be engaged in marriage fraud are charged with the crime and fined for up to a $100,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both. They will also be deported and will not be allowed to return to Canada for five years. This will be a permanent mark on their immigration record.

Immigration agency “guaranteed visa”

These are travel agencies or “immigration representatives” who will handle your application in exchange for a considerable fee. While there are legitimate immigration representatives, stay away from those who seem to be more interested in the processing fee (and demand it in advance) than explaining the actual process of application to you. Red flags to watch out for:

  • Guaranteed visa.
  • Guaranteed quick processing time.
  • Unreasonably higher processing fees compared to those charged by Canadian visa offices.
  • The lawyer or immigration consultant is not a member of any professional organization.
  • No update is given after payment is made.

Nomination from the “Canada Immigration and Resettlement Bureau”

In this scheme, targets receive an official-looking email about the “Canada Resettlement Provincial Nomination Program.” The “nominee” is informed that they have been chosen to settle in Canada as a result of an electronic ballot system. The letter is from the Canada Immigration and Settlement Bureau and is signed by a program coordinator (to see a copy, go to: Scam

Applicants to the Provincial Nominee Program may be the primary targets of this scheme. An important detail to note is that there is no Canadian government agency called “Canada Immigration and Settlement Bureau”.

What you should watch out for:

  1. Typographical and grammatical errors on the letter, ad or email.
  2. The email or letter not addressing you by name.
  3. The website or email address not coinciding with the company/agency name. Take note that the email and website address of IRCC (or any government agency in Canada) ends in or .ca not .com.
  4. The company address does not exist, or if it does, it’s not the same company.
  5. The offer is too good to be true.
  6. Everything is guaranteed.
  7. The letter conveys urgency. For example, “Act now, this is a limited offer!” or “Respond immediately as the deadline is closing”.
  8. Requests for sensitive or personal information like date of birth, passwords, and credit card information.
  9. Requests for payments before sending you the visa and other necessary documents.

How to protect yourself:

  1. Know Canada’s immigration streams and be aware of the application process. Go to the official site of IRCC to know more.
  2. You don’t need a representative to apply for immigration. All forms are free on the IRCC site: forms and guides. If you choose to have a representative, read Use of a representative before your hire one.
  3. Do not share personal or financial information online. Never send personal documents like passports or birth certificates to people you don’t know.
  4. Do an internet search on the company offering the job or immigration assistance. Scam websites are easy to detect: Check when the site was put up (it’s usually just days or months old) and read the description of services (or the About Us page). If it’s full of grammatical errors or if it seems vague, you can be sure that it’s not a real website.
  5. Read forum threads or join immigration forums. Some victims of immigration scams post their experience to warn others.
  6. Never agree to short cuts or pay for services that agents will say speed up the approval of your application. The immigration process is tough. But this should not push you to cheat or misrepresent yourself. If you’re found out, this will be a permanent mark on your record even if it was an agent who did it for you.
  7. If an offer seems iffy, trust your gut. Always make sure that you understand what you are signing up for – ask questions, do your research and check all their claims and promises before agreeing to anything. Don’t be afraid to say no if you have doubts about what is being offered.

Article updated September 18, 2020.

Sources: Scamming your way to Canada is easy. The fix is easy too if government is willing to act, Richard Kurland, CBC News; Protect yourself from immigration fraud, IRCC; and Internet, email and telephone scams, IRCC. Accessed February 18, 2020.

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Community Resources

Read Protect yourself from immigration fraud to be aware of other dangerous schemes out there.

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