Saskatchewan·Opinion

Scamming your way into Canada is easy. The fix is easy too, if government is willing to act

Some Canadian employers and their employees conspire against the country’s immigration program. Immigration officials in Canada know how they could fix this, if they were allowed to.

'Paper jobs' on sale for hundreds of thousands of dollars

The "paper job" immigration scam is easy, says immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Some Canadian employers and their employees conspire against the country's immigration program. "Paper jobs," like the one detailed by CBC after a recent undercover investigation, are for sale with price tags typically ranging from $150,000 to $350,000.

After CBC investigated CRA scams in India, that country worked with Canada to help fix it. Hopefully this latest investigation pushes Ottawa to work with China to shut down paper job scams operated from Chinese soil.

This is an opportunity to show the world that, notwithstanding some current pressing irritants, China and Canada can publicly show they are still working together right now to assist Canada.

How it works

The paper job immigration scam is easy.

The foreigner who wants to be an employee hands over cash, some of which covers their own future salary for at least a year of full time employment and the deductions the employer has to pay the CRA.

Toronto-based Wonhonta Consulting promises to help Chinese nationals gain permanent residency in Canada for $180,000. (WonHonTa Consulting Inc. )

The employer then doles out cash regularly to the employee's bank account and to CRA. This creates a fiction of continuous employment in Canada at a specific job at a specific place for at least a year.

The "work experience" from the paper job can then be used to upgrade the employee from a temporary foreign worker to a permanent resident of Canada. The free medical care that comes with being a resident is a bonus.

Meanwhile, the organization that coordinated the scam from outside Canada gets a hefty payment for its role.

Immigration scams not victimless

Immigration officials in Canada know how they could fix this, if they were allowed to. It's the same tactic in place to prevent immigration via marriage scams.

In a marriage scam, the Canadian spouse receives money for sponsoring the foreigner at a market rate of at least $50,000.

For example, say a foreign student prefers to not pay the $20,000 per year in foreign student fees. They marry a Canadian, getting permanent residence and access to local student fees. Meanwhile, the Canadian gets money to cover their university tuition.

Forget about whose fault it is. Fix it.- Richard Kurland

Some call this a victimless crime where "everyone" wins.

The losers are Canada and our immigration program.

How important is the relatively small volume of scam cases relative to the entire immigration system for Canada? How important is a relatively small hole on a submarine? 

How to stop it

The policy solution to uncover a "marriage of convenience" is simple: the interview. Interview the couple together and separately. Our immigration people are highly trained. It does not take long before stories pop and truth is uncovered.

It works.

The same solution could work for paper job scams in places like Atlantic Canada, where the number of both immigration officials and immigration staff are relatively small. Bring the employee and the employer into the immigration centre and interview them, both together and separately.

As in the marriage interviews, it will not take long before stories pop and truth is uncovered.

On top of catching scammers, there would likely be a deterrent effect. The marriage scam market in China largely evaporated after Ottawa made the decision to send specialized teams of Canadian immigration officers to systematically interview large numbers of spousal cases. Bad guys didn't try it anymore.

Ottawa may want to consider systematically interviewing work-based immigration cases for a while.

Forget about whose fault it is. Fix it.

Immigration scams take many forms. These passports and stamps used in a scam by New Can Consulting were seized by Canada Border Services Agency. (CBSA)

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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About the Author

Richard Kurland is an immigration lawyer and policy analyst. He has been invited as an expert witness on immigration issues by Parliamentary committees from 1994 to present and was awarded a medal by the Senate of Canada in 2017 in recognition of his valuable service to the nation.

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