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.