Visa Crunch

Immigration Consultants Are Outraged by Punjab Government’s New Proposal

Immigration consultants are outraged by the Punjab government’s new proposal to form an organization that will funnel students to Canadian institutions and universities.

Punjab is a major source of immigrants and international students to Canada.

The conflict was exposed when the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants (CAPIC), which has over 4,000 members, was invited to a roundtable meeting with the Punjab administration but declined. Just after a sequence of exchanged communications between the two parties sparked suspicions that the Indian state (similar to Canada’s provinces) is attempting to form its own “para-governmental” consultant agency, NCM has discovered that CAPIC has declined the Nov. 17 meeting.

As per the Globe and Mail, “in the 2018-2019 school year, the most current time for which figures are available,” 105,192 Indian students “were enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges.” In the same year, 150,000 Punjabi students went abroad to pursue their studies (not just in Canada). According to the Globe and Mail, Brampton is home to Canada’s largest Punjabi diaspora.

According to the publication, most Indian students enrol in college programs rather than universities. The Punjab government aspires to become the primary organization that recruits kids from the province to study in locations like Canada, as per Dory Jade, the CEO of CAPIC.

The state government will effectively “hold their citizens (foreign students) hostage” by requiring them to apply through the government alone, Jade said to NCM.

According to a description of the Zoom event, the conference was called to “understand how an Indian applicant with foreign country competency-based training in India (with or without formal qualification) might service the demand in the ‘Country of destination’ [Canada].”

The invitation was posted on the Study Abroad Consultants Association SACA Facebook’s page, which describes itself as an “organization of recognized & Punjab Govt. Approved Agent (sic).” They’re “dedicated to finding measures to improve the public image of the profession (sic),” according to their website. Requests for comment addressed to SACA’s official Facebook page went unanswered.

The invitation to the Nov. 17 meeting was denied by CAPIC because they believed there was a “secret agenda” that had not been conveyed to the rest of the attendees. The government initially stated that they “wanted to see how to…be an authorized [immigration] practitioner,” according to Jade.

CAPIC warned them that the Punjab government needed to pass laws making it illegal to act as an unauthorized immigration representative. However, Jade soon realized that they were attempting to cover the entire market, not merely enter it.

Jade explained that representatives from the Punjab government wanted CAPIC to help them connect with Canadian Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) “since CAPIC has important members with the relevant industry knowledge who could conclude such agency agreements.” The Punjab government needed a list of DLI administrative personnel to contact.

According to Jade, they even confessed: “that the money they get from (DLI) commissions will finance the agency” in one of their interactions with a Punjab government official. Jade also requested John Murray, the CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), to decline the meeting, stating “concerns over the attitude and program offered by the [Punjab] government personnel associated to this event” in a letter posted on CAPIC’s website.

The ICCRC is the licensing and regulatory authority for Canadian immigration consultants. CAPIC is a lobbying organization that works on behalf of consultants. “We don’t have to tell what other governments have to do. It’s not our job,” he says. “But if we see something that is going wrong, we will not support it.” Murray could not be reached for comment right away, and it is unclear whether the ICCRC was present at the time of publication.

According to Jade, if the Punjab government had obtained the DLI connections, it would jeopardize the institutions’ autonomy as well as Canada’s immigration system. When it comes to overseas students, Jade believes DLIs are “at capacity,” and they “don’t need any more agencies” to help them recruit. If DLIs accept business from the Punjab government’s proposed body, it could tarnish their image among Canadians, especially if it is revealed that the primary purpose is the commissions that these post-secondary schools receive.

If extra charges in Punjab are included for students, says Zool Suleman, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, it might lead to further uncertainty, bureaucracy, and expenditures. The change would also reduce the number of immigration advisors working in Canada, both at home and overseas.

Apart from intruding on licensed immigration consultants’ “function under federal [Canadian] legislation” – which states that only licensed immigration consultants and immigration lawyers are permitted to provide immigration advice – it also takes away the profession’s independence, according to Jade.

Finally, as per Jade, the ICCRC will suffer reputational damage consequences if the proposal proceeds, both with and without their approval, particularly if it fails to persuade the Punjab government to not implement it.

Under the jurisdiction of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act, the ICCRC will become the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC) on Nov. 23. It is anticipated that it will clamp down on unauthorized consultants now that it has expanded authority to take action against unregistered practitioners in Canada and abroad.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government’s intentions may put a stop to that. The Punjab government, according to Jade, has made it known to CAPIC that they plan to press on with their para-governmental agency.

On the contrary, if the strategy “leads to the Punjab government stopping unlicensed consultants in Punjab,” argues Suleman, “that may be useful.” “However, we need greater openness about what the Punjab government is doing and how that would affect Canadian student visa processes,” he says.

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