Catching Immigration Scammers

By Klaudios Mustakas | January 17, 2017

Klaudios MustakasKlaudios Mustakas – Senior Immigration Advisor: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has taken drastic enforcement action in the past several months. They have deported a number of people for using fraud to pretend that they have met permanent residency or Canadian Citizenship requirements. Here’s an example from last month:

Fifteen former clients of an imprisoned B.C. immigration consultant have now been deported to China. And the failed appeals by two women who fought to remain in Canada provide a rare glimpse into the illegal tactics used to carry out what has been labelled as the biggest immigration scam in B.C. history.

Immigration Appeal Division transcripts obtained by CBC News detail lies and deceptions, including one immigrant pretending to attend university in B.C. while actually obtaining an education outside the country. Another fraudulently claimed to work for a fictitious B.C.-based company while in fact living in China.

Back in March 2013, I wrote a blog identifying the problem of fraud. I also outlined the steps that the Canadian authorities were taking to maintain the integrity of the Citizenship and Immigration program. At that time, over 3,000 individuals were under investigation. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately, the problem stemmed not only from crooked immigration consultants and their clients trying to scam the system, but also from the “alphabet soup” of government agencies not communicating properly.

Alphabet Soup

In 2013, both Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now known as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC) and CBSA decided to take a zero tolerance approach to individuals who used misrepresentation to obtain status in Canada. The CBSA also decided to take a very proactive approach in identifying unscrupulous lawyers and consultants that were making money helping individuals fool the authorities.

Since then, things have gotten better, but there’s still room to improve. Earlier this year, the Auditor General (AG) had some very harsh words about the immigration department and their lack of coordinated efforts with such departments as CBSA and the RCMP in protecting the integrity of Canadian immigration.

Catching Immigration Scammers

The AG’s report flagged a number of individuals who are now subject to revocation of their citizenship and eventual deportation from Canada. It also made clear that the most common fraud involves individuals who pretend that they are living in Canada in order to meet the residency requirements for citizenship. While that may sound quite devious, the AG wasn’t describing master criminals at work. In a face-palm moment, the AG noted that at least 50 different applicants used the same Canadian address from 2008 to 2015, yet the IRCC did not detect the discrepancy.

Spurred by the AG’s report, more due diligence is now being exercised and hundreds of cases are under investigation. IRCC has finally embarked on a project which, by mid-2017, will likely have an exit control system put in place in which individuals leaving Canada will be logged in and their information will be shared with both the CBSA, RCMP and other government agencies.

Exit Control System At The Border

Currently, when someone requests a copy of their travel history, the records reflect when the individual has left Canada via the USA. This will be expanded to include any other exit from Canada. By doing this, the IRCC will allow for better control on both permanent resident applications (where you need to prove residency in Canada for two out of five years) and citizenship applications (four years out of six).

This isn’t just about catching scammers. One of the most legitimate complaints about the immigration process is that it’s constantly backlogged. By screening out those individuals who try to cheat the system, it will make it faster for the genuine applicants to finalize their cases.

Klaudios Mustakas is a retired former Manager of Enforcement Operations with the Canada Border Services Agency. He travels extensively in the Middle East to counsel individuals on immigration issues.