Mario Bellissimo’s Answer:
A. Recent announcements by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and initiatives like National Immigration Protection Day aimed at stopping ghost agents from exploiting unknowing immigrant applicants are important steps. But as I have been writing for a long time, more is needed. How? One, all paid services regarding the advice, counseling, preparation and presentation before a citizenship, refugee and/or immigration application is filed should be lawfully restricted to authorized representatives. The current legal position is that work prior to an application being filed does not require an authorized representative and it is not unlawful to charge a fee. This in part is where ghost agents operate because they do everything without legal penalty expect placing their name on the final product. Two, the Immigration Department’s current position is that you cannot expect faster processing or a more favourable outcome with the use of a representative. Does counsel’s work to avoid improperly or incomplete filings not assist in faster processing or processing? Does counsel’s work to effectively and comprehensively present certain legal and factual arguments not lead to a more favourable outcome? Of course they do, each and every day and that reality should be reflected. The public relation campaign focuses on ghost agents and offers no information of how authorized representatives can meaningfully assist. This negative messaging goes a long way to suggesting “anyone” can prepare an immigration application and demeans the highly skilled individuals who help clients throughout the world each day. Again, this opens the door for the unscrupulous to prey on the vulnerable.