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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Bill C-35: Licensed to shill ?

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.


#1AnniebeeMay 15, 2013, 4:20 pm

It is a shame that C-35 is being used to try to limit the ability of student advisors to assist international students with their study permits, student work permits and visas. The consultants and lawyers think that without the advisors helping, there will be more business for them, but that is not true – the students will just rely on each other and then end up in very difficult situations that will jeopardize their ability to continue studying. Students are not charged for seeking the advice of advisors – there are no extra fees if they get help. Whether they see one student or 200 students, the advisers are paid the same, and it is just one part of many services that the advisers offer. CIC tells applicants that they don’t need help to submit applications, but the processes are anything but clear and the new online applications are definitely not innate. What a bigger mess there will be if advisors aren’t allowed to continue to assist international students.

#2ISAJune 14, 2013, 2:00 pm

I am totally in agreement with Anniebee. You don’t need to be a lawyer or ICCRC member to competently assist with a student’s OCWP or study permit extension. As an international student advisor for the past 5 years, I’ve seen many students muck up applications on their own, and come crying to me to fix the problem when they get refused for using the wrong forms, attached the wrong documents, answered the questions wrongly or incompletely.

At a conference last year, a CIC official said, most arrogantly, on the topic of Bill C-35 that maybe it should be an IQ test for being able to enter Canada, that people be able to fill the forms on their own. I have seen native English speakers with graduate degrees become frustrated and confused filling out these applications.

CIC is cutting off its nose to spite its face by including int’l student advisors in the scope of Bill C-35.

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