Lessons From 2019

We find ourselves at the end of another year. Indeed, the end of 2019 also marks the end of a decade. This is a time for contemplation and an opportunity to ponder lessons to learn for the future. I want to start but expressing my thanks and gratitude for my team. I am thankful every single day to work with an amazing group of professionals who put their hearts into their work. My main job is to provide guidance and support to ensure that we remain focused on providing the absolute best service for our clients.

I want to take time at the end of 2019 to think about lessons learned; hopefully, 2020 will bring positive change.

  1. Applicants Remain Vulnerable

Over and over and over and over, we have seen how applicants have paid thousands upon thousands of CAD dollars to shady representatives for poor service. I find it deeply frustrating and infuriating to see clients punished as a result of negligence. These applicants are the victims and they remain vulnerable. I recently attended an interview with a CBSA Officer and an Egyptian client shared her story. She paid an immigration consultant $15,000.00 for an application and she was not even eligible to apply. In my view, that is pure theft.

We are working with a Vietnamese family who paid a Chinese representative for a Study Permit. Completely wrong. Thankfully, CBSA started a criminal investigation against him and I hope his former clients are not punished.

In 2019, the Government of Canada took action “to help protect vulnerable people” against “fraudulent immigration consultants”. We will have to see if things get better in 2020 and the next decade.

  1. Canada is the New Hope2019

Clarke Immigration Law is based on Canada’s status around the world and I am constantly reminded how fortunate we are to live in one of the best (if not the best) countries. From our office, this past decade marks a strong collaboration with the news. We were called upon by CBC News, CTV News, Global News, Winnipeg Free Press and many other news sources to comment on different stories. Primarily, these stories stemmed from Canada as the New Hope in the world, replacing the United States as the “best” country for applicants from around the globe.

It was my pleasure as the only Canadian lawyer at the international EB-5 Conference in Las Vegas, USA. I was asked to present as a result of the interest by investors around the world in Canadian business opportunities, including the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program – Business Investor Stream. And, of course, I must mention the amazing people at TEDx Winnipeg who gave me the stage to talk about open borders and refugees which has been published on YouTube.

It is clear that 2020 will be a decade of growth for Canada and we will continue to work to build this country.

  1. Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Generally speaking, I stay out of politics. I have worked with Members of Parliament from all political parties and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our client regardless of the party in power. That said, I firmly support the current Liberal government and I am hopeful for this coming decade.

My hope for positive political change in 2020 is also balanced with a plan to consider the worst. Minister McCallum made significant changes to IRPA that rolled back many of the inhumane changes by the former Conservative government; however, this government needs to do more. I feel privileged that we were able to work with the Liberal government to make changes to section 38 of IRPA (Medical Inadmissibility) on behalf of the Warkentin family.

  1. Uncertainty on the Horizon

As my mum often says, the only constant is change. There is no doubt that 2020 and the new decade will bring change. Here are a few predictions for this coming decade:

  • The Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba will continue to buttress immigration laws to attract STEM graduates and professionals;
  • The current Liberal government will focus on quicker processing times, including Family Class applications;
  • Regional migration and new programs that focus on smaller communities will thrive;
  • International students are the strongest stream for Permanent Resident status;
  • Refugees will be recognized for their economic contributions;
  • The changes to regulation of Immigration Consultants will fail and the government will be forced to revisit this issue.

We wish you all the best for 2020 and the coming decade. We have many reasons to celebrate 2019 and, at the same time, learn from past lessons.

Lawyer Fees Online

Clarke Immigration Law is founded on principles of being open and honest with our clients. Our reviews on Google, by verified clients, and our testimonials from our past clients reflect the quality of work that we do. When we first founded this firm, we wanted to create a relationship based on trust with our clients and part of that relationship means that we charge “fair” lawyer fees for our service.

From the beginning, we have published our pricing & fees on our website. I can see from the online traffic that our pricing page is very popular. Feel free to use our page to negotiate with other lawyers. Feel free to use this page to compare our services and lawyer fees for family and friends. We understand that lawyer’s fees are expensive; however, the work that we do is so important that it takes long hours and great care to ensure each and every application is handled properly and professionally.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash - Lawyer fees

When we first published our fees, there was only one other law firm in Canada who are publishing their fees online: North Star Immigration based out of Halifax, NS. Since then, many more firms have, perhaps, followed our lead and I want to encourage my colleagues to do the same. I want to give strong support to these firms:

The purpose of this page is to help you have a page with quick access to the fees published above so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your family. We recognize that you work hard and that every $dollar (or yen or dinar or euro, etc) matters. We fully understand you need to find the best representative and you need to consider many factors. Legal fees is only one of those factors.

For quick access, I will note that two of the most common applications done by immigration lawyers is a Spousal Sponsorship and a TRV. For comparison, here are the fees, respectively (all funds in Canadian dollars) and these are the fees that are published today:

  • Clarke Immigration Law:
    • SCLPC Class: $5,500
    • TRV: $1,800
  • North Star:
    • SCLPC Class: $6,000,
    • TRV: $2,500
  • Matkowsky:
    • SCLPC Class: $5,500
    • TRV: $3,000
  • Kahane:
    • SCLPC Class: $4,500
    • TRV: $2,000
  • ACM:
    • SCLPC Class: $6,000
    • TRV: $2,500
  • Kazembe:
    • SCLPC Class: $5,500
    • TRV: $2,000

I have published other posts on excessive fees charged by immigration lawyers including a Toronto law firm that charged $170,000.00 in lawyer fees. I have also published warnings by the Government of Canada on agents in India. I support the work done by Noel Semple, a faculty member at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law on the ethics of lawyer’s fees. This is important work. In 2019, we considered increasing our fees as we have not raised our prices since 2015; however, based on a review done in April 2019, we opted to keep our pricing & fees at the same rate.

 

 

Toronto firm charges $170k in fees

Another investigation has uncovered unfair and abusive fees charged by a Canadian immigration firm. The Toronto firm WonHonTa Consulting offered immigration solutions for their clients without disclosing any fees. CBC News uncovered a scheme where clients were charged $170,000 CAD for Permanent Resident status.

At this point, we cannot comment on whether WonHonTa Consulting is criminal; however, it is clearly in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and these clients are potentially subject to misrepresentation per section 40 of IRPA. These clients may be banned from Canada for 5 years.

Misrepresentation

  • 40(1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible for misrepresentation
    • (a)for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act;

The keyword above is “indirectly”. This means that clients and/or applicants are caught by any mistakes made by their representatives, even in cases where they may not be aware of the information submitted on their behalf.

Buyer Beware

So the first mistake these clients of this Toronto firm made was to hire this shady firm. The CBC investigations revealed many red flags:

A Toronto immigration company offered a job to an undercover CBC journalist posing as a Chinese national seeking permanent residence in Canada for $170,000.

For that fee, WonHonTa Consulting Inc. said, the would-be immigrant would be buying the job and paying their own wage. Toronto firm

And the company said the applicant was to pay the fee to the personal bank account of WonHonTa’s sole director in order to avoid taxes.

Jiacheng Song, a manager with a China-based affiliate of WonHonTa, Nanjing Youtai Investment Consulting Co. Ltd., explained how the business works to the undercover journalist using WeChat, a Chinese social media app.

During the month-long investigation conducted through a translator, the journalist posed as a Chinese citizen wanting to become a permanent resident of Canada by obtaining skilled employment.

“To be frank, we have employers who work with us,” Song wrote. “We pay them money, they are willing to sponsor our clients for immigration.”

Clearly, this job is fake. The scheme is fake. The applicants who hire the Toronto firm are the victims.

Clear and Transparent Fees

When we started Clarke Immigration Law, we sought to run our firm differently from other law firms. Unlike other firms, we publish our legal fees online. We provide excellent services and we work to get the best results. We do not charge excessive fees. These are the values of our firm.

I have spoken with many other lawyers about publishing fees. I have heard these excuses:

  • A lawyer who serves Chinese clients quotes them much more than other clients. If he charges too little, they do not believe that he provides quality services.
  • For example, he will charge $8,000.00 for a Spousal Sponsorship (he is in Vancouver and his fees are higher than Winnipeg) for a non-Chinese couple. He will charge $12,000.00 for the same application for Chinese clients.
  • His justification is that high fees equal good service. This is simply not true.

I strongly advise clients to retain legal firms who publish their fees online. Lawyers are taught in law school the importance of transparency and predictability of the law. Canada is a common law country (save Quebec) with a history of upholding precedence; however, these principles do not seem to apply to the relationship between clients and their representatives. Lawyers do not practice what they preach. They want courts and decision-makers to provide clear reasons; however, legal fees are often completely arbitrary.

I have seen arbitrary fees charged at other law firms. The lawyer will demand a certain retainer, for example $2,000, and open a file. Then, as the file progresses, the “new” issues will arise in the same legal matter and the lawyer will charge additional fees.

Expensive Consultants

The CBC report clearly shows that immigration consultants may not be cheaper than lawyers. This Toronto firm was clearly over-charging their clients:

Song recommended the undercover journalist consider either Saskatchewan or Atlantic Canada because the qualification requirements are low and the wait times are short. He said it’s $180,000 for a job in Saskatchewan or $170,000 for the Atlantic provinces.

Song told the undercover reporter that over the past year his company had placed more than a dozen Chinese nationals in Atlantic Canada and just under ten in Saskatchewan.

I am not aware of any of these cases in Manitoba.

 

Warning: Agents in India

The Government of Canada has published a warning against using agents and immigration consultants in India. This information campaign is based on rampant fraud, fake documents and abuse by agents in India.

As noted by esteemed and veteran reporter Nicholas Keung of the Toronto Star, the information campaign in India is designed to “educate applicants who choose to pay for advice or representation on the importance of using an authorized representative and to discourage applicants from using unauthorized, fraudulent consultants.”

This campaign highlights the fact that applicants are the victims. These Indian applicants are seeking help from agents and immigration consultants; in turn, they are paying money to criminals who are operating outside Canada.

From our experience at Clark Law, we have seen many applicants in India and other countries suffer after their previous representative failed to submit quality work. In many cases, agents or consultants charged high fees based on the applicants trusting them with their important applications. They were scammed.

These cases are common both outside of Canada, in countries like India, as well as inside Canada. A recent immigration consultant in Alberta, Ms Tamara Judge has admitted to unethical behaviour and she has been sanctioned. She lied to her clients. She lied about having the support of a Member of Parliament (MP).

WARNINGS:

  • Many agents and/or immigration consultants are not authorized to charge money for immigration services;
  • Agents and/or immigration consultants often charge excessive fees;
  • No agent and/or immigration consultant can guarantee a visa to Canada; and,
  • Be aware of fraudulent consultants and scams.

For Citizens of India, our advice is to follow the warning from the Government of Canada. This warning is based on many, MANY cases of abuse and fraud. They have seen too many cases of unscrupulous consultants who submit Study Permits, Work Permits, Permanent Resident application and/or other applications to IRCC. The Canadian Officers have long recognized this is a problem in India. This warning will hopefully help applicants find better representatives.

If you or any of your friends or relatives have been victims of immigration fraud, please contact our office immediately. 

2019 Legal Fees

Here at Clarke Immigration Law, we want to ensure that we provide the best quality of service for reasonable fees. This is extremely important to us, as we are service providers. It is also extremely important that our clients understand exactly what they are paying for. You work hard for your money and you should expect legal fees in line with those expectations. Based on our research, we are the ONLY immigration law firm in Manitoba that publishes most of our legal fees on our website. These fees are calculated based on knowledge of our knowledge of immigration firms’ fees from Manitoba and Ontario, minus 20%. We want to pass along the savings to our clients. At the same time, we also provide the best possible quality of service because we know how important your applications are. We treat our clients like family and, just as family, we do not want you to suffer under huge legal bills.

Canadian Lawyer Magazine released its 2019 results for legal fees across Canada. These results are based on national averages. Some firms charge more, while others charge less. Clarke Immigration Law is pleased to report that our fees are in line with national averages. Across the board, you can see that we have met and/or exceeded expectations. Thank you to CLM for confirming that our legal fees put our clients first!

Legal Fees

To be clear, CLM has only published the average amounts for four (4) different types of applications: 1. Work Permits; 2. Family Class sponsorship (includes Spousal Sponsorship, both regular stream and SCLPC Class, Dependent Children and sponsorship applications for Parents and Grandparents); 3. Express Entry application, which would include the initial application; 3. Refugee Protection claim, which would include representation at the RPD.

Here is the above information in a clear chart:

SERVICES – CLM FEES – NATIONAL AVERAGE
Work Permit $2,501 – $3,000
Family Class sponsorship $5,601 – $6,000
Express Entry less than $3,700
Refugee Protection Claim $4,901 – $5,500

For comparison, our fees are published below:

SERVICES – CLARKE IMMIGRATION LAW BLOCK FEES
Work Permit $1,800
Family Class sponsorship $5,500
Express Entry $1,800
Refugee Protection Claim starting at $3,500

Please note that the fees quoted above are current as of 8 APRIL 2019 and may change at any time. In addition, the fees quoted above are based on cases where there are no previous refusals. Contact us directly if you have any questions and/or you would like to retain our services.

The last point that I would like to mention is the fact that only 28% of immigration law firms accept Legal Aid Certificates. On a personal note, this is a sore point. I strongly believe that immigration services should be provided by the government. Lawyers in BC planned to take job action starting 1 APR 2019 as the tariffs for legal aid are not sufficient. Tariffs in Manitoba are even worse than in BC and when I started this firm in 2015, many lawyers advised that I should not take Legal Aid Certificates. I decided, however, that is not the right thing to do.

Approximately 30% of the files at Clarke Immigration Law are on Legal Aid Certificates. You should be aware, however, that when you retain Clarke Immigration Law on a private retainer with the fees above, you are also helping to support our clients who are on Legal Aid Certificates. The only way we can accept Legal Aid Certificates and pay our bills is through our work on private retainers. For any lawyers reading this, I would strongly urge you to adopt this model. We need to put our clients first. Keep up the good fight!

Warning Chinese Nationals

Over the past 6 months, we have seen an increase in the numbers of Chinese citizens who have been victims of fraud and abuse. These are individuals who have submitted applications to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and/or Hong Kong. In particular, there are a number of immigration consultants and shady firms that are taking advantage of Chinese citizens. We have seen many individuals and families pay fees +$10,000.00 and their applications have been mishandled.

NOTE: If you are aware of any individuals or families that are using Chinese consultants and/or firms and they are not receiving sounds legal advice, please contact our office immediately.

Currently, there are numerous ongoing investigations into large Chinese immigration firms, including criminal convictions. These unscrupulous individuals are taking advantage of the ignorance of their clients. They make false promises and, ultimately, we believe that many people are suffering.

As reported by CBC News, more than 1,200 clients have been negatively affected by NEW CAN CONSULTANTS and WELLONG INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT CO. This has led to an RCMP investigation in what has become the biggest immigration fraud in Canadian history.

According to CBC NEWS:

Wang pleaded guilty to offences under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in July 2015 after the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) raided his offices in Richmond and Vancouver and found fraudulent Chinese entry and exit passport stamps and dozens of passports.

He was caught holding a client’s passport with cut-and-paste alterations when he was arrested in October 2014, according to the civil action.

Wang was sentenced to almost seven years in prison but was released on parole after serving less than two years of his sentence.

In addition, the report includes details on how others may be affected:

Wang had 14 employees but some of them were part of a complex scheme that pretended clients were employees to meet immigration residency requirements in Canada while they lived in China.

“Mr. Wang did not report any of the income he earned from his fraudulent immigration consulting services to the Canada Revenue Agency.”

Based on our review of the situation and our meetings with Chinese clients in Winnipeg, we strongly urge all individuals to carefully choose their representatives.

MPNP and Misrepresentation

The Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) is one of the best and easiest ways for Permanent Resident status. The Manitoba government helps thousands of Skilled Worker, Investors and Entrepreneurs every year to achieve their goals of settling in Canada. The steps to Permanent Resident (PR) status can be arduous for many applicants who are looking for a quick and easy way to move to Canada. One of the issues that applicants face is misrepresentation, per Section 40 of IRPA.

Under Canadian immigration law, the legal definition of “misrepresentation” is broad and covers both direct as well as indirect misrepresentation. This means that applicants may be subject to a 5-year ban from Canada even when their representative is at fault.

Fraudulent claims for provincial nominees is a problem across Canada. Recently, the program in PEI has been under (another) investigation due to applicants who are providing incorrect information to the government. As reported by the National Post:

A second federal probe is underway in Prince Edward Island alleging hundreds of people gained permanent residency in Canada by using local addresses where they didn’t live, under a provincial business immigration system that’s faced criticism for loose oversight.

This issue may be a problem for both applicants and representatives should they find that the representatives knowingly assisted these applicants to mislead the government.

The allegations, which have not been proven in court, come just two months after two Charlottetown hoteliers were charged with aiding in immigration fraud, with the CBSA alleging 566 immigrants used the addresses of the siblings’ hotel and home.

This case is similar to another case from British Colombia. In that case, representatives provided fake documents to Chinese citizens in order for them to qualify for the program. The agency in Vancouver is also under investigation by the police:

Last year, Chinese immigrants in Vancouver were sentenced to jail and fined for immigration fraud involving 1,600 immigrants for fraudulently helping them obtain permanent residency by measures that “included creating the fictitious appearance of Canadian residency.”

The CBSA says that to date it can confirm 81 deportations from that case, with orders to remove 160 other people, with some appeals pending.

Fraud and misrepresentation is not tolerated under Canadian law; however, applicants have the right to due process. In circumstances where the allegation is unfounded and/or there are mitigating circumstances, we advocate for applicants to have their cases reconsidered so that they are able to stay in Canada.

Former Immigration Officer: “Gave Bad Advice for Money”

As reported in the Windsor Star, former Immigration Officer Flavio Angelo Andreatta used a store as a “front” and provided bad immigration advice to clients. He was an unlicensed representative who should have known better and he has been sentenced in criminal court.

Here is an excerpt from the Windsor Star article:

Andreatta, a retired Canadian immigration officer grandfathered into the Canada Border Services Agency, would instruct clients to make cheques out to the cultural charity, headquartered at his Kingsville home. He would then make withdrawals from the society’s bank account, a fact that caused the group’s treasurer and former bookkeeper to resign in 2011.

Andreatta, who turns 68 next week, pleaded guilty in Superior Court Wednesday to contravening Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by providing immigration advice for a fee. Only lawyers or people vetted by a sanctioned body can charge for that work.

As punishment, Andreatta will spend the next year on house arrest, followed by two years on probation.

Court heard Andreatta collected more than $25,000 for his services between June 2011 and December 2014.

Having the money flow through the Italian Genealogy and Heraldry Society was the “subterfuge” Andreatta used, federal prosecutor Paul Bailey told the court.

Having been an immigration officer in the past, Andreatta “certainly was in a position to know better,” Bailey said.

“He gave some bad advice for money.”

Authorities first learned of Andreatta’s activities in May 2012 when a woman who was an Italian national was denied a visitor’s visa. She had been working at the Caboto Club on a work permit that was about to expire. She was later deemed inadmissible to Canada because she had continued to work past the expiry date.

Clearly, this former Officer set up the charity with the purpose of deceiving the government and breaking the law. In my view, house arrest is too lenient on this gentlemen, no matter his health “ailments”, his background and his years of service. As stated in the article, “Only lawyers or people vetted by a sanctioned body can charge for that work.” Those described in the second part are sanctioned by ICCRC and they are subject to discipline by their professional organization. In my view, there are benefits to the system in the United States where they do not allow immigration consultants to represent clients.

Note that the decision by Superior Court Justice Kirk Munroe does not preclude the Law Society of Ontario from imposing additional punishment to the immigration officer and ordering separate fines for providing legal services in Ontario without a licence.

Law Society Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter L.8. Section 26.2 of the Law Society Act states as follows:

Non-licensee practising law or providing legal services

26.1 (1) Subject to subsection (5), no person, other than a licensee whose licence is not suspended, shall practise law in Ontario or provide legal services in Ontario.  2006, c. 21, Sched. C, s. 22.

26.2 (1) Every person who contravenes section 26.1 is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of,

(a) not more than $25,000 for a first offence; and

(b) not more than $50,000 for each subsequent offence.  2006, c. 21, Sched. C, s. 22.

 

Free Presentation: Law in the Library

As part of the Law in the Library series, Alastair Clarke will be giving a free presentation to the public on October 19, 2017 at St. Boniface Library at 131 Provencher Boulevard. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Free Presentation

Topics:

Please note that we cannot give individual legal advice during this free presentation. The purpose of the presentation is for information purposes and to inform the public on changes to Canadian Immigration Law. We constantly talk to clients who hear wrong information or information that is out of date. The laws in Canada for immigration and refugees are constantly in flux. Our goal is to make sure that Manitobans understand the laws so they can avoid mistakes and they have clear expectations when they submit applications to IRCC or CBSA of any of the Visa Offices around the world.

For more information, check out the CLEA Website for more details and to RSVP.

CLEA’s Mission Statement:

CLEA is a charitable organization that provides legal information to Manitobans. We believe that legal knowledge is necessary for full and equal participation in our society.

CLEA develops programs and resources especially to work with communities where there are understood needs. These services help individuals better understand our legal system and how to resolve their legal issues.

Goals

Program Strategy

To meet the diverse information needs of our community, we have adopted the following objectives to help us plan our programs:

  • Individuals Focus To provide information about the law, legal system and sources of legal assistance in response to requests.
  • Intermediaries Focus To provide service providers and representative groups with information about: the law, legal system, sources of legal assistance and law reform.

Access to Justice Focus

To identify barriers and promote possible solutions to support a more equitable and accessible justice system that is responsive to the needs of Manitoba’s diverse communities.

Free Presentation: Law in the Library – Transcona

Please note that Alastair Clarke will be giving a free presentation on citizenship law and other changes to immigration law at Transcona Library as part of the Law in the Library Series presented by the Community Legal Education Association.

Here is a description of the program:

Are you new to Canada? Are you looking for help in some legal aspects of immigration? Join us for a free program to help provide you with legal information that you may need. Our guest lawyer Alastair Clarke will cover issues like immigration options, sponsorship, citizenship applications, bringing family members to Manitoba, MPNP and other options. Please bring questions for the lawyer to answer!

For more information, contact the library directly at 204-986-3954.