Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Bill C-35, which gives considerable attention to addressing the problem of unscrupulous agents in the international student recruitment field, is already being undermined by guess who … education agents.
One education agency representing Canadian institutions in India, is doing all it can to scare students and families, and in doing so, directing them to that agent’s own doorstep.The agency plasters banners, flyers and brochures with proclamations: “Don’t choose an unlicensed consultant”. Their self-interest here is obvious, and their guidance on studies is often dubious.
Of course, holding a license ensures neither accuracy nor integrity. There are plenty of lawyers and licensed agents who mislead their clients every day, and post Bill C-35, shout that advice given by competitors is illegal. Fact is, Bill C-35 prohibits giving unlicensed paid advice. There is nothing wrong in giving advice freely.
It’s this paid advice on student visas which is where the big money is for many education and immigration agents. Fees for facilitating a student visa to Canada can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. This also drives the visa traffic in dubious or flat out fraudulent applications, where those who prepare the applications stand to benefit irrespective of outcome. Our Canadian government officials are quite cognizant of the traffic in fabricated academic and financial documents generated by the consultants themselves.
Thus with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in such fees, education agents/consultants have mushroomed in some countries, and Bill C-35 tries to bring some light onto a very shady industry by forcing anyone who charges for this service, to be duly licensed by a Canadian regulating body.
The Canadian government is not only interested in consumer protection but also in system integrity. It does not want consultants encouraging students who are not genuine in intent, and financially capable. The government recognizes that in many countries, the unethical money-driven practices of consultants drives them to push people towards study permit applications enabling big fees.
The idea behind Bill C-35, is a good one. But just as a driver’s license does not guarantee the laws of the road are not broken, it’s the same with licensing immigration agents.