It now plans to revoke the citizenships of those involved in fraud and turn down applications of those trying to obtain citizenship in a fraudulent way, announced Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Canada.
In a television interview the minister referred to a probably disproportionate number of Canadian citizens residing in the Middle East and the Gulf in particular, committing residence fraud in order to acquire Canadian citizenship.
“We are typically talking about people who are living in tax havens making decent money.
“Then consultants come along and they say: if you get citizenship in Canada you can double your salary, you get the best political insurance in the world, free healthcare and your kids can go to the best universities in the world.
“But Canadian citizenship is not for sale,” was his uncompromising statement.
In order to acquire Canadian citizenship a person needs to apply for a permanent residency first. The resident is then required to live in Canada for 3 years (1,095 days) continuously in order to be eligible for Canadian citizenship.
Investigations showed that often people fake their residence in Canada, while they actually live somewhere else.
“Once the residency status is acquired, the consultant says: don’t worry, you do not have to leave Dubai (or wherever it is) to go to Canada. Stay there and I’ll take care of the rest for a tidy fee of 20-25 thousand dollars.”
According to the minister, consultants offer to create a fake residential address in Canada, fake utility bills, fake subscriptions, fake club memberships and submit that package of counterfeited documents to the immigration department after three years.
Deepak Kohli, an immigration consultant and president of Transcend Consultants in Canada points out that there are loopholes in the Canadian immigration system which allows for the practice to continue.
“When you enter Canada at the airport, there’s an entry stamp (but not always), and there’s no exit stamp from Canada.
“So, the system relies on the entry stamp in the country of arrival (e.g. UAE or Pakistan). From what I have been told, some countries are flexible in putting these stamps on the passport.
“Similarly, when you arrive or depart from Canada by land border (with USA), there are no stamps from the USA (only if you require a USA visa).
“So, some people drive to the USA and fly out from there. While they are away, the agent in Canada ‘maintains’ their residency by keeping a supposed residential address, creating a banking history, etc.”
“It is true, it is not very difficult to maintain your Canadian residency while not living there, I know quite some people who have done this,” tells S. Kumar, an Indian resident of Dubai. “If I wanted to I could have done the same, I once had a Canadian residency. But I did not want to lie, and told the government that I do not live there anymore.”
“This practice has been going on for some time, and has neither increased nor decreased,” believes Deepak. “However, the current administration has a lower tolerance for such activities and hence is trying to actively discourage it by going after such people and making widespread announcements.”
Until the recent investigations of the current government revoking citizenship has been a rare act and acquiring citizenship has been relatively easy, a trend that needs to be revised if you ask the minister.
But expected is that most of the cases will be appealed. “Remember that there are legal avenues available to people who are alleged to have defrauded the government, more so if you are a Canadian citizen. People have already approached us for consultation and assistance.”