Immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah was interviewed about immigration fraud by Calgary EyeOpener on CBC Radio Canada on July 8, 2019. Following are excerpts from the interview.
Shady immigration consultants are causing huge headaches and even legal problems for some newcomers to Alberta.
Eyeopener: An immigration consultant in Edmonton has admitted to unethical behavior after conning several clients who hired her to do their immigration paperwork... Shady immigration consultants operate all over the country... Is this something you've heard before?
Evelyn: There are some wonderful, reputable regulated consultants that do the best job they possibly can for clients.
But yes - we call them 'ghost consultants' - some of them are not regulated by the body that's supposed to regulate immigration consultants, and that's where the problems occur. When clients choose unregulated ghost consultants or don't do due diligence.
Eyeopener: Can anyone call themselves an immigration consultant?
Evelyn: They're supposed to be members of the ICCRC, the governing body for immigration consultants across the country...If you're coming from overseas you can't tell the difference and know to check the website for membership to see if they're properly regulated and if they're in good standing. It leaves people from other countries to being very vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
Eyeopener: What sort of situations have you encountered?
Evelyn: As lawyers, we are highly regulated by the Law Society of Alberta and there are lots of risks if anything goes wrong with a client file. Once or twice a month I get a file that was messed up by someone who was a ghost consultant - they were not regulated.
Eyeopener: Some people can't afford a lawyer like you. What are they supposed to do?
Evelyn: Sometimes there is a difference in fee, sometimes there isn't. Sometimes we hear of consultants who are paid for people to have jobs here, and some other scheme. Lawyers don't do that , we don't find you a job.
People need to think of the cost of spending maybe a couple thousand more dollars versus the cost of being barred from your family or spouse for up to 5 years. There are wonderful consultants out there:
- Look for people who can refer you to someone they've already used
- Do your due diligence
It's not just about money, its about the cost of time, not having medical coverage.
We work with wonderful consultants in our firm who are overseen by a lawyer. There is a difference.
Eyeopener: How willing is a lawyer to take on a bungled immigration application?
Evelyn: Sometimes I just say no - if they've been messed up so significantly there is very little I can do. I need the client to know we can put together the best application but if you've already had a refusal, it's very difficult to shift that decision no matter how much new legal information your provide. It's a 50/50. I tell the clients up front they have to be prepared.
We can fix it over time - it's not a quick fix. Doing it right at the beginning really prevents missteps
It's been proven that immigration applications filed by immigration lawyers have a much greater success rate than immigration consultants. The Canadian Bar Association is looking at immigration consultants - we want good ones. It affects all of us.
Eyeopener: I feel for these people who are giving away money to others who aren't following up. It must be a horrible situation when they have so much at stake.
Evelyn: It's really tough, yes.
Listen to Evelyn Ackah's full interview with Calgary Eyeopener HERE