Residency faked for citizenship seekers
Last Updated: Thursday, September 17, 2009 | 9:49 PM ET
Some immigration consultants in Montreal are helping landed immigrants bypass the residency requirements for Canadian citizenship by offering “life simulation” services, according to an investigation by CBC's French-language service.
Radio-Canada's Enqute program tracked down several consultants willing to guide permanent residents seeking citizenship through the process of creating a paper trail, to give officials the impression they live in Montreal.
Under Canadian law, immigrants with permanent resident status must live in Canada for three consecutive years out of four in order to apply and qualify for citizenship.
The consultants offered to take care of maintaining the immigrant's fictional Canadian life including paying bills and picking up mail in exchange for fees of up to $4,000.
Thousands of foreigners, many from the Middle East, might have obtained citizenship through these channels without living in Canada for the required amount of time, according to the investigation.
Jason Kenny, Canada's immigration and citizenship minister, said he is aware of the allegations of fraud and is looking into the matter.
Leases, phones lines, mail
Producers at Enqute recruited Arabic-speaking collaborators willing to go undercover and pose as immigrants seeking advice from various consultants in Montreal.
While many consultants they met flatly refused to help them fake residency, others outlined every step needed to establish an official presence in Canada including opening a small business and a bank account, filing an annual tax return, signing a lease, getting a telephone number and receiving mail in Montreal.
Some suggested their clients open files with as many public agencies in Quebec as possible.
Other consultants offered to take care of the paperwork and to withdraw money on a regular basis from their clients' checking accounts to maintain a transaction history.
Revenue Quebec is investigating at least one of the consultants contacted during the undercover operation, according to the Enqute report.