– Kaisree Chatarpaul
Unscrupulous immigration consultants and lawyers can affect the practice of immigration lawyers, as genuine people can be denied entry into Canada.
During an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday, Canadian Immigration lawyer Kaisree Chatarpaul said that he is really concerned about the recent reports in the press of a reported scam within the immigration consultancy profession. According to him, of recent, there has been a lot of ‘unscrupulous advice’ given to persons applying for visas to Canada.
He said that, some time ago, this caused great concern to the Canadian Government, resulting in the conduct of a study entitled ‘The case of unscrupulous immigration consultants.’
Yesterday, the lawyer of 29 years sought to give this newspaper an in-depth review of the Canadian Immigration Law in light of the recent reports appearing in the media.
He said that under the present immigration law, which is known as the ‘Immigration and Refugee Protection Act’ that came into effect on June 28, 2002, only two groups of professionals are authorised to make representation on behalf of individuals: licensed immigration consultants, and lawyers.
“When you take on a case, you have to make representation on behalf of that individual…that person has to sign a document which is known as IMM 5476, which is called ‘Use of Representative.’ That form has a provision for the immigration consultant license number.
“If you don’t have a licence number, then you are not licensed, and as such are not authorised to practise.”
According to Chatarpaul, because of the concerns raised by many, the Canadian Government began licensing consultants about five or six years ago.
And given the rising problem in Canada, a list of all persons who were practising as immigration consultants was submitted to the Government, and they were registered and given provisional licences.
He said that under the amended law, consultants are now required to write an examination, and as such a significant number of those individuals have stopped practising.
In the legislation passed, the Minister of Immigration now has the authority to instruct visa officers of the category of applications that can be granted visas.
Chatarpaul said that all applications within 38 categories, after February 2008, are governed by ministerial instructions.
“If you are not in any of the 38 listed categories, your money will be returned, and the consultants know that. There is no educational requirement for the consultants… You get your license; once you pass you can practise.”
All Canadian immigration consultants are governed by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC), whilst immigration lawyers are covered under the Law Society Act.
“If lawyers act improperly, they can be disciplined or can be debarred once they are found guilty.” The same does not apply to consultants, who fall under CSIC.
In the practice, he added, consultants are required to make an assessment of individuals who want to go to Canada as skilled workers or under any other category.
“You would meet with them…and make a determination whether that individual will succeed or not …everybody going to Canada have to have a legal basis.” There are many cases, he added, of consultants taking people’s money, knowing that the client does not even meet the minimum requirement.
Only licensed consultants and lawyers are allowed to represent people for a fee.
Using himself as an example, Chatarpaul said that if an individual retains him and at some point he decides to give up the case, then the onus is on him to ensure the person to whom he is directing the client is capable of doing the job properly; and above all, is licenced to do so.
“I must find out that the person is a licensed consultant. So in the recent case, where I see money passing, US$5000 upfront, the money should have been returned to the person applying.”
Further, the person who allegedly transferred the handling of the clients should have ensured that the person to whom he was passing on his clients was licenced.
In relation to student visas, as lawyers, he noted, they are not responsible to select schools for a person applying for a student visa. Even licensed consultants cannot do that, he added
“We can give advice, but that person’s basic qualification will have to be sent to the school for assessment. Then there would be the letter of admission. The consultant will then prepare documentation for immigration.”
However, unless the school is recognized, the visa will not be granted. The names of the recognized schools are published and can be found on the Internet.
People applying for a student visa must also have some level of tertiary education. A student that does not have the basic GCE or CXC pass levels will not be granted a visa. For a consultant to promise a student a visa is dishonest and an attempt to mislead, Chatarpaul said.
He pointed out that the rules and ethics of lawyers and consultants require them not to mislead people.
The paying of a mandatory US$5000 upfront, he added, looks like an intention to scheme or scam people. Yes, he pointed out, consultants are allowed to charge a fee, but they should be ethical at the same time, and not unscrupulous.
Lawyers can be mandated to disclose how they charge their fees, and to give a breakdown. The consultant is not so mandated, and this is why there is a move to have a regulatory body monitor licensed consultants.
One Guyanese, Bashkar Sharma, who once performed as an immigration consultant, can no longer do so since he is not a licensed consultant.
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