Saskatoon

Sask. consultant worries immigration scams will affect local credibility

Immigration consultant Jeric Mendoza says recent cases of immigration fraud make him worry about both his clients and his business.

Jeric Mendoza has a successful immigration consulting business that international fraud could hurt

Some immigration consultants are charging prospective foreign workers to jump the queue, sometimes setting them up with fake employers. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Saskatoon immigration experts know all about work-permit scams.

One consultant heard of a temporary foreign worker who paid a few thousand dollars to a consultant in their home country, illegally buying a Canadian job that segued into permanent residency after six months of work.

But there's danger in line-jumping and the scams just keep getting bolder.

Recently an undercover CBC journalist found that one Toronto immigration firm charged $170,000 for a fake Canadian job. The price tag for the would-be Chinese immigrant covered the Canadian employer's fee, the paper trail and the immigrant's wage.

'People might not trust consultants'

Jeric Mendoza, an immigration consultant in Saskatoon, worries the work-permit scams will reduce the credibility of his licensed business. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Jeric Mendoza started his consulting business, J.Mendoza and Associates, several years ago.

He works with clients who obtain job offers from hotels or restaurants or other businesses within the hospitality industry legally.

He's been thinking about the problem of immigration fraud for years.

"We're skewing the job market. If you have a skilled Canadian citizen who isn't paying $10,000 and we have some [foreign workers who] have, then Canadian citizens and permanent residents are losing out," he said.

Mendoza worries for his clients, but also for his own business.

"I think at the end of the day people might not trust consultants like me."

He doesn't see the problem as insurmountable.

Mendoza suggests penalties for everyone involved in the fraud, from the "employees" to the company to the immigration consultants.

He believes the penalties should work according to the magnitude of the fraud. For instance, a person paying $170,000 would receive a heavier fine than someone who paid $2,000 to jump the queue. 

"We know the scammers are getting more creative these days and I think the immigration system should be able to adapt to this, " he said.

He says there should be robust reporting system, including cash rewards for whistleblowers. "The only way to break this conspiracy is to provide incentive for any of those players to report."

Scams aimed at new arrivals also an issue

'The Canadian immigration system is very strong and a program that really works,' said Ali Abukar, the CEO of the Saskatoon Open Door Society. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Saskatoon's Open Door Society helps newcomers to the city after they've made their way to Canada. 

CEO Ali Abukar sees the Canadian immigration system as "very strong."

But he recognizes that people don't play by the rules, no matter how effective they may seem.

"If you're being asked to pay money and it is for trying to get a secure job and you know you can't come here without having one, then it is not right."

He has heard of scams similar to the one out of Toronto. But he's far more preoccupied with Canadian phone scams that cause problems for his clients who are new to the country.

The Saskatoon Open Door Society inform their clients about domestic scams, such as threatening phone calls. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Canada Revenue Agency fraud calls are widespread. A voice on the other end of the phone urges the listener to give them access to their finances or else wind up in jail.

Canadians are mostly used to it by now. They deal with the scam by hanging up or blocking the number.

But newcomers might not be as familiar.

"If you don't know, then you probably would think that somebody is calling legitimately from the government," said Abukar.

"We say, 'Immigration officers wouldn't call and ask you to pay money over the phone.'"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bridget Yard is the producer of CBC's Up North. She previously worked for CBC in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as a video journalist and later transitioned to feature storytelling and radio documentaries.

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