Canada to protect OFWs from unscrupulous Immigration Consultants


The Government of Canada released its budget for 2019 on March 18, which identifies planned government spending, sets expectations for government revenue and forecasts economic conditions for the next fiscal year. Included in the budget is CAD$59 million that has been earmarked to protect applicants from illegal recruitment undertaken by unscrupulous immigration consultants.

Canada has become the destination of choice for Filipino immigrants and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). It’s not hard to see why.

Canadians get universal healthcare and free education (up to high school). Canada is a beautiful country, and it’s comparatively safe and secure. Canadian citizens are welcome in most parts of the world without go through the hassle of applying for a visa, making travelling extremely convenient.

Did we mention that Canadians are super nice as well? We think that it’s because Canada is one of the most multicultural and diverse countries on the planet. We welcome people from all over the world, and most countries welcome us in the same manner too!

There are currently more than 851,410 Filipinos in Canada (since the last census in 2016). That’s about 2.42% of the total Canadian population.

While that might not seem like a lot, it’s a great start for one of the fastest growing communities in Canada.

The first Filipinos arrived in Canada in the 1950s, and ever since, we’ve been making quite the impression.

Today, Filipino Canadians can be found making positive contributions to every facet of Canadian society. From healthcare to politics, and entertainment and the arts, Filipinos have added their own unique touch to the ever expanding mosaic that is Canada.

That is not to say that coming to Canada is not without its own challenges. Despite what you might have heard, Canada is NOT an “open” country. The Government of Canada has one of the world’s most complex and dynamic immigration management systems in the world. In short, it’s not easy to get in (and even harder to stay, if you’re an OFW).

By far, the biggest problem facing most Filipinos is this: how do you apply for Canada in the first place? Unfortunately, the answer is pretty complicated.

There are many, many ways you can come to Canada, but there are four general paths for Filipinos. Most Filipinos come to Canada:

  • to visit,
  • to study,
  • to work, or
  • to immigrate.

It’s very important that you know which one you really want, and while it might be possible to transition from one immigration program to another, it’s never easy nor is it ever simple.

If you come as a tourist to Canada, you’re welcome to come and visit. If you decide to extend your stay, you can do so by applying for an extension. You can’t, however, decide on your own to stay indefinitely. Once your visitor’s visa is no longer valid, you must leave Canada. It is illegal to work in Canada if you are on a tourist visa. Tourists CANNOT apply for Permanent Residency.

If you come to Canada as an international student, it might be possible for you to work, depending on the conditions of your study permit. It might also be possible for you to eventually apply for Permanent Residency, depending on a whole bunch of different factors. Again, each case is different, always check with the educational institution if you will be allowed to work, and only check with the official Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website for programs that allow you to apply for Permanent Residency.

By far the most confusion centres on Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TWFP), the immigration program most OFWs use to enter Canada. The TWFP is the umbrella program that IRCC uses to manage the entry of foreign workers into the country, including the popular Caregiver Program. Depending on the particular subcategory of the TWFP, you MIGHT be able to apply for Permanent Residency after certain conditions are met. Generally, most OFWs (especially the low-skilled labourers) are not eligible to apply for Permanent Residence. Most OFWs are asked to leave Canada at the end of their employment contracts. One of the very few exceptions to this are OFWs under the Caregiver Program, who are given the opportunity to sponsor their families to join them in Canada.

The most straightforward way to come to Canada and stay is to immigrate. When you apply for Permanent Residency, not only are you authorized to stay, you get to bring your entire family with you as well. The requirements for Permanent Residency is higher than most other ways, particularly when it comes to providing Proof of Funds (Show Money). The reason being is that you are expected to provide for our family when you arrive in Canada, no one will give you a house and a job and money for groceries; you’ll have to do all of these things for yourself. As a rule of thumb, if you have the education and professional background (as well as the financial capacity to take care of yourself and your family), Canada will consider you for Permanent Residency.

Sounds complicated? You bet! There’s no one way to apply for Canada, and that’s where the problem is.

With so much information freely available on the internet, things can get confusing quick, fast in a hurry.

It is very important to note that, unlike the Philippines, Canada has very little regulatory oversight when it comes to immigration lawyers and consultants. That means, if something goes wrong, you likely won’t be able to get your money back.

Oh, by the way, Canada is a no-placement fee country. If you are an OFW who is coming to work in Canada, your Canadian employer is supposed to shoulder all the costs in relation to your recruitment.

That means, your Canadian employer is supposed to pay any fees being charged by your recruitment or placement agency, as well as your airfare from the Philippines (both ways).

We didn’t make these rules up, the Government of Canada did.

How is this even possible, you may ask? First of all, jobs aren’t for sale in Canada. You might not know it, but it’s actually the Canadian employer who initiates the entire process, not the OFW.

The Canadian employer actually has to look for local Canadian workers first, and when they are unable to find any, then they have to go through a lengthy process to apply for permission to hire a foreign worker from the Government of Canada.

That’s the document you know as the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Without a positive LMIA, Canadian employers cannot hire a foreign worker.

That’s where immigration lawyers and consultants come in.

Immigration lawyers and immigration consultants act as intermediaries or third-parties, providing service to Canadian employers by doing the paperwork, among other things.

The average Canadian employer doesn’t have a clue on how to navigate the complex Canadian immigration system. Which is why they pay for the services of a Canadian immigration lawyer or immigration consultant. All they’re concerned with is to find someone to do the job that needs to get done, and they’re willing to pay someone else to do the paperwork for them.

So what’s the big problem? Unlike other countries (such as the Philippines) that have systems in place to protect would-be workers from being victimized by illegal recruiters, Canada has very minimal oversight over the activities of immigration consultants.

Immigration consultants are supposed to be licensed, but the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (IRCCRC) themselves admit that enforcing regulations are iffy at best.

When complaints are lodged against immigration consultants, there isn’t much that IRCC can do.

Most common complaints made by prospective foreign workers (especially OFWs from the Philippines, the Middle East and Southeast Asia) are recruitment fees paid to immigration consultants for non-existent jobs.

These recruitment fees are usually paid for using wired transfer payments such as Western Union. These transactions are usually undocumented, with receipts almost never being issued to the OFW.

After being paid, unscrupulous immigration consultants generally use every delaying tactic in the book, making every excuse possible until they tell the unsuspecting foreign worker that the application was either denied or that the Canadian employer didn’t need them anymore.

And because the immigration consultants are usually based in Canada, there isn’t much that OFWs can do about it.

Unless they are physically in Canada, OFWs’ options are very limited. One very important thing to remember is that almost 99.9% of the time, immigration consultants are Canadian.

As such, they are subject to Canadian rules and regulations. If an OFW wants their money back, they should physically be in Canada and file a complaint against the immigration consultants in Small Claims Court.

Also 99.9% of the time unscrupulous immigration consultants get away with it, since their victims are in another country. Some do get in trouble with the law, but they’ve made so much money already that they’re able to afford high-powered lawyers to protect them, using the exact same delaying tactics to avoid paying the aggrieved OFWs (who successfully made it to Canada and realized that they weren’t supposed to pay them in the first place).

The Government of Canada has received enough complaints (after all, Filipinos are but a small part of the Canadian population), to allocate funding to protect their immigration system.

It’s not going to solve all the problems, but it should go a long, long way towards making more people aware of unscrupulous immigration consultants, but as long as people are willing to pay, there will be people willing to take their money.

Read below the full text of the funding proposed in the 2019 federal budget.

Protecting People From Unscrupulous
Immigration Consultants

Individuals seeking to immigrate to Canada or become citizens often rely on the advice and expertise of immigration consultants to help them navigate our immigration rules. However, these individuals can be the victims of unscrupulous immigration consultants who prey on their lack of knowledge of Canadian laws and regulations.

184 Chapter 4

To help protect newcomers and applicants wishing to obtain the services of legitimate service providers, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $51.9 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, and $10.1 million per year ongoing. Funding will improve oversight of immigration consultants and strengthen compliance and enforcement measures. It will also support public awareness activities that will help vulnerable newcomers and applicants protect themselves against fraudulent immigration consultants. These measures will help to ensure that all applicants have access to quality immigration and citizenship advice, and that those who are providing the services operate in a professional and ethical manner, with disciplinary powers in place should fraud or misrepresentation occur.

In addition, the Government proposes to introduce legislation and propose amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act in order to implement these measures.

SOURCE: 2019 Budget

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