Language school scam
Feds say students enrol as way to get into Canada
By TOM GODFREY
Last Updated: 6th September 2009
Federal immigration officials are looking into a scheme in which some foreign students are allegedly buying their way into Canada by enrolling in but not attending private language schools springing up in the GTA.
The scam involves Korean students who are here to study English for six months or longer. They are eligible for a work permit, which Canadian officials said allows them to take the jobs of Canadians, and they can then apply for permanent residency based on the work experience.
“The tuition fees paid to the private language schools effectively becomes the cost of purchasing a work permit,” said Martin Mundel, an immigration counsellor and program manager at the Canadian embassy in Seoul. “The value has recently increased given the prospect of obtaining work despite the global economic downturn.”
The scam surfaces as thousands of Toronto students get ready to return to classrooms on Tuesday.
“The majority of prospective students in certain programs do not actually attend a single course,” Mundel said. “A very small proportion of students authorized to work and study in any given year ever attend any courses.”
Mundel alerted his bosses in Ottawa last May of the scam. He estimates Korean students, who do not need a visa to travel here, generate about $1 billion yearly for Canada through tuition, books, clothing and other needs.
“The growing popularity of this route … is reflected in a significant jump in demand for internship and co-op placements,” he said in a confidential memo that was obtained by lawyer Richard Kurland and made available to Sun Media.
“The value to Canada of Korean students is in excess of $1 billion per year,” Mundel said. It is roughly “equal to the value to Korea of their automotive sales to Canada.”
Mundel said the demand from Korean students for internship and co-op placements at Canadian schools spiked from under 10% in 2007 to more than 40% in 2009. Keun Ha Kim, president of the 28-member Federation of Korean Canadian Associations, said most of the students return home after studying here.