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by Sumeet Dhami

Indian international student Prem Mehra didn’t think fraud was something that could happen in a country like Canada. Until he – like many other foreign students – fell victim to it while unintentionally applying for an LMIA(Labour Market Impact Assessment)

When Prem Mehra came to Canada, he says an acquaintance of his reached out to him via Facebook. “He said his wife was an immigration lawyer and would help me with obtaining an LMIA”. Mehra was falsely guiding into believing that obtaining this LMIA would make it easier for him to get a work permit and eventually his permanent residency (PR). Mehra sent the ghost consultant a total of $13,000 via e-transfer. When he was starting to feel suspicious, he asked if he could receive a confirmation, to which the fraudster said she’d already gotten this on his behalf.

After waiting some time, Mehra eagerly made some calls to figure out the status of his LMIA application. It was then that he found out that there was no such file. Mehra is now struggling to get the thousands of dollars he had been frauded of back, alongside the stress of achieving PR status in Canada.

This case isn’t unique to Mehra.

Jaspreet Singh has been advocating for Indian international students in similar situations through his Instagram page @international_students_canada_.

Singh says he has heard this story many times. He explains LMIA fraud as a ‘vicious cycle’ in which consultants sell fear to vulnerable students. Singh says he has been told of instances in which an international student approaches a consultant requesting to extend their study permit or apply for a work permit but instead the consultants incorrectly advise students to drop their case, leading them into spending $30,000 – $40,000 on obtaining an unnecessary LMIA. Without knowledge on their options or rights, Singh says many international students easily fall prey to this.

How can international students take the correct steps to avoid ghost consultants?

Immigration lawyer Arshdeep Kahlon clarifies that there is a major difference between an LMIA and a work permit – something many foreign students get mixed up between.

According to Canada’s federal government, “a Labour Market Impact Assessment is a document that an employer in Canada may need to receive prior to hiring a foreign worker. When a Canadian employer is seeking to hire a foreign worker, it must first be determined if an LMIA is needed or if the position is LMIA-exempt before applying for a work permit”.

Kahlon agrees that obtaining an LMIA is something that a lawyer should not be completing for a foreign student. “The average person needs to understand the role of a lawyer in Canada and learn whether they truly working with a certified lawyer or with an immigration professional or ghost consultant. To my knowledge, Canadian lawyers do not have the ability to obtain an LMIA for an international student. If they are, a complaint should be made with the province’s law society” adds Kahlon.

While Prem Mehra continues to regret his mistake in trusting an acquaintance he only knew through a friend, he hopes that sharing his story will prevent other international students from falling into a similar trap.