Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks to the committee for inviting me.
My name is Ni Fang. I've been practising immigration consulting since 2001. I'm one of the first group of consultants that were regulated and am now the chair of the Canadian Migration Institute, which provides immigration consulting services and advocates consumer protection and education.
I'm here today representing victims of misrepresentation and fraud. I have their consent, and they support my appearance in front of the committee today, hoping it will make a difference to protect future immigrants.
I have prepared two stories, but because of time restrictions I will speak of one. You can find the other one in my speaking notes.
Last summer, I was contacted by an entrepreneur who is making an investment in excess of $2 million on Vancouver Island. She received a letter indicating a potential refusal by the B.C. provincial nominee program, and one of the reasons was that her eligible investment was insufficient. The investment amount that the officer described in the fairness letter was significantly different from the amount in the business plan the applicant had provided in Chinese to the immigration company that was representing them. The applicant was therefore confused about exactly what plan was submitted by her immigration representative to the B.C. government, and she came to me for help.
She advised me that she was not provided with any completed documents before the submission of the application and that she had no idea what was submitted. I immediately became suspicious, because all applications need to be signed by the applicant before submission. How could she not have been provided with the final documents?
I requested a copy of her application from her previous agent. Upon reviewing her case, I discovered that this client had retained an immigration company in China and that her case was prepared by an unregulated Chinese agent; however, it included an IMM 5476 “use of representative” form in the name of a lawyer licensed by the B.C. Law Society.
When I pointed out the name of the lawyer, she said that she didn't know this person. I then pointed to the client's signature on the form and said, “But you signed it.” She looked at the form with a shocked look on her face and responded, “I've never seen this form, and that's not even my signature.” Further, I pulled out all her forms and showed the client signatures on them.
Most of the signatures were forged. She called the Chinese company and asked about the signatures. She was reminded that during her first visit to Canada the agency had asked her to leave some signatures on blank paper, which she did, and they then printed some documents on that signed blank paper. I'm not sure whether the lawyer's signature was real.
To the provincial immigration authorities, this case was presented legally by an authorized representative; yet the actual applicant did not even know what was in her application.
There are many cases like this. Unfortunately, a good percentage of these types of misconduct and fraud are hard to discover and, as such, are not being investigated or disciplined.
I would now like to discuss the types of changes that could be made to improve our legal, regulatory, and disciplinary frameworks so that this type of misconduct and fraud can be discovered and those who commit this type of misconduct be held responsible.
Among my recommendations on discovering the misconduct, fraud, and abuse, I think our first step should be finding out who prepared the applications and establish a database including everybody involved in preparing applications, regulated or not.
Currently, when an application is submitted, if there is a representative, an IMM 5476 “use of representative” form is included with the application. A ghost agent, however, will use the client's name to submit, and therefore no “use of representative” form is required. I therefore propose that everyone who submits an application without a representative include a declaration stating that they have completed the application themselves without any paid advice or assistance from a third party, confirming their understanding of misrepresentation on the statement and of the potential penalty for being untruthful.
The declaration needs to be certified and translated by translators recognized by the Canadian government, be in the applicant's native language, and be signed by the applicant in both the applicant's native language and one of Canada's official languages. The declaration can include all the information the government wishes the applicant to read and understand, such as the consequences of misrepresentation and fraud. Applications without an IMM 5476 or the aforementioned declaration of no representative will be returned to the client without processing. Concerning the IMM 5476, I suggest that all agencies or individuals who have participated in preparing the application with the authorized representatives will also need to be disclosed.
When the government has such a database to be able to identify all the players in the market, applicable laws should be in place to allow data sharing and exchange between governments and the regulatory bodies. The government can establish a black list of people who have consistently been involved in fraud.
I have recommendations on the investigation of misconduct, fraud, and abuse. Reform of disclosure of all parties involved in the application will push ghost consultants to work with an authorized representative as an agent and, as a result, they would be forced under a regulatory umbrella and their supervising authorized representative can be disciplined for their wrongdoing. However, I have serious concerns about the ICCRC's capability to investigate its own members. The feedback from many members is that their CMB department is really weak.
I have a recommendation on discipline for misconduct, fraud, and abuse. I recommend some legal changes.