Monday, June 18, 2007

Watchdog needs teeth

The Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants was created to clean up and professionalize a troubled industry. But the model has critical flaws

Jun 18, 2007 04:30 AM Nicholas Keung Jim Rankin Staff Reporters

People who hope to call Canada home often seek advice from immigration consultants to fulfil their dreams. But consultants who are incompetent, negligent or unscrupulous can destroy dreams, tarnish Canada's image, and burden taxpayers by clogging the system with applicants who don't stand a chance. Three years after Ottawa set up a self-regulating body meant to clean up the lucrative industry and protect vulnerable newcomers, a Star investigation finds that little has changed. The regulatory body says the future looks bright, but it lacks a big stick.

Today: Lessons and solutions

Offering immigration advice in Britain without proper credentials will land you in court, facing a fine and up to two years in prison.

The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner – a public body created in 2001 to police the industry – has the power to knock down doors. There have been 55 successful prosecutions. Nearly one in five went to jail.

Its investigators, 10 former police officers, go after "ghost" advisers – people who charge for their services but are undetected because they don't sign documents – and charge them with a criminal offence.

But along with wielding a big stick, the office also proffers a carrot.

Some illegal operators are simply persuaded to go legit and join.

To read more: