27 January 2009

Visa fraud against immigrants

The saddest part of my job is dealing with people, generally from the third world, and usually from conflict zones, who are seeking to immigrate to Canada to live or to work. It is sad not because they are seeking a new and better life, but because so many fall prey to unscrupulous fake immigration advisors and consultants. These shady businesses often promise visas and work in exchange for substantial payments to "government" offices. Just this past weekend I helped a man in Iraq who had fallen prey not to one scam, but to several at once. His letter to me asked for help, as he was now starting to realize he was not being dealt with fairly, and was probably defruaded. His letter outlined in some detail the names and often fake addresses of various persons and fake government offices. He believed he had been offered a job in a big name chain hotel in Canada at US$4000. per month plus room and board and flight. This is a common scam. He was even told to send more documents to Nav Canada, and to transfer money to the Canadian government in Cape Verde (Africa). Another awful scam is to set up email address including ".gc". Since only the Canadian government can use a .gc designation after the @ symbol, immigration scammers are putting the .gc text before the @ symbol to make unsuspecting people think the scammer works for the government of Canada. Below I have reproduced the letter I sent to him. I have removed some names, and deleted some of the reference footnotes and web addresses. However, you will get the idea. Let it be a sobering lesson.

Dear (name withheld):
* There is no such thing as an official agent representing Immigration Canada who can be hired by a visa seeker. There is no need for you to pay a representative to assist with the Canadian visa process. If you choose to hire a visa consultant, your application will not be given special attention by the government, and it will not be processed faster, and a visa is not guaranteed. Beware of representatives who claim that you will get a visa, obtain citizenship or benefit from special treatment from the Canadian government by using their services.
* According to the government of Canada: "You do not need to hire an immigration representative. It is up to you. The Government of Canada treats everyone equally, whether they use the services of a representative or not. If you choose to hire a representative, your application will not be given special attention by the immigration officer. Your representative also cannot guarantee that your application will be approved. All the forms and information that you need to apply for a visa are available for free on this website. If you follow the instructions in the application guide, you can complete the application forms and submit them on your own."
* If you want to immigrate to Canada, then you can apply directly to the Canadian Government at the Canadian Embassy in Jordan (for Iraq) (see address below).
* The so-called "Canadian Immigration Bureau" is NOT a government office. It is a private company. It cannot actually get a visa for you. It can only give advice. It does not issue visas for Canada.
* The website Fraudwatchers has posted a notice about fake hotel job schemes.
* Hotels in Canada are not telling people to get tourist visas to come as workers. This is a scam to get money from you.
* NAV CANADA is a government agency responsible for airplane navigation and air traffic control. It is not now, and has never been, responsible for visas or any immigration issues. The Canadian government does NOT receive visa applications through Nav Canada. Do not send anything to a Nav Canada address. Nav Canada is currently warning people about a fraud scheme which uses the Nav Canada name.
* No one has to pay for a Canadian visa through Cape Verde. This is nothing but a scam. The Canadian government does not take money in Cape Verde. Canada does not even have an embassy in Cape Verde. So you have probably lost your US$500. Payments are to be made only as follows: "paid to the order of The Receiver General for Canada".
* Here are the real prices charged by the Canadian government in Jordan for visa services:
Temporary Resident Visa - Single Entry $75.00
Temporary Resident Visa - Multiple Entries $150.00
Work Permit $150.00
Permanent Resident Travel Document $50.00
* The lawyer you contacted is a registered member of the Quebec Bar. This means he is legally entitled to practice law in Quebec, and is therefore a legitimate lawyer. (Name withheld) does not work for the Canadian government. He is a private immigration lawyer. The job of such lawyers, legal in Canada, is to help people fill in visa application forms with the correct information for a fee. With your written permission, they can also be your representative acting on your behalf to the Canadian government. (Law firm name) is a legitimate business. It is not the government. The law firm is a visa adviser. Its website states the company provides representation and advice to foreign nationals who are looking to obtain a Canada visa and enter Canada on a permanent or temporary basis.
* The address you have for Mr. (name withheld) in North York is not a government office. As it is not a government office, it does not issue visas. Only the Canadian embassy in Jordan can issue a visa to an Iraqi or Jordanian.
* The Government of Canada will not deal with non-authorized representatives who charge a fee for their service.
* The Canadian embassy in Jordan, as well as Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) (the official Canadian government agency responsible for immigration), are warning people about immigration fraud. This is fraud by persons and companies who seem to promise a quick or easy way to Canada.
* According to the Canadian government there are controls and limitations on immigration representatives. You can complain against such people or companies here if you feel you were not told the truth.
* There is only one real way for someone in Iraq and Jordan to apply for a visa. The link below is for the Canadian embassy immigration section in Jordan.
* If you really want to know if you have a visa, which you probably do not, then contact the Canadian embassy in Jordan. This is the ONLY office which can issue a visa to people in Iraq and Jordan. Below is the real government contact information. Write or telephone or fax or email asking about your case. You have a reference number (reference removed), but I doubt it is real.
* If you actually have a visa appointment at the Canadian embassy in Jordan, then you may really have an application being processed. Please contact the embassy at the address in Jordan to confirm your appointment with a consular officer of the government of Canada.
* We wish you well on your journey.

23 January 2009

Where in the world are you going?

One of the best travel tools available today is satellite imagery. Years ago satellite photos of the earth costs hundreds of dollars per image, and were usually of low resolution, so you paid a lot for a photograph in which nothing smaller than a house was visible.
Those days are gone, and thanks to various satellite image providers, you can see any place you want to travel, and do so for free.
One of the best services is provided by google. Their website googlemaps.com gives you access to thousands of images of every spot of land on earth.
This is a great trip planning tool, and a wonderful way to do research about your upcoming trip.
By using googlemaps you can actually see your airport or hotel or tourist destination from space, and often with a resolution so high you can make out animals in the zoo!
I frequently use googlemaps to help my customers discover more efficient ways and means of travel. It has also helped me locate border crossings and small island resorts.
Cruise passengers always find this useful, as they can see their cruise terminal in relation to the city. By looking at the photos, you may discover your ship docks beside something important, and you can walk rather than pay money to be driven across the street!
Try it out by looking for your house, or look for the Great Pyramids at Giza beside Cairo, or the Sydney Opera House, or Red Square in Moscow.
Googe Maps