Archive for May, 2010

MacLeans Magazine Reports on Fraudulent Canadian Immigration Consultants

Henry Chang | May 30, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

Image of Canadian Passport

We have previously reported that the Canadian Federal Government is in the process of introducing new legislation to crack down on fraudulent Canadian immigration consultants. One such operation was described in an article published by on May 29, 2010.

The article describes Mr. Ehab Lotfi’s website, which promoted the “Canadian Immigration Lottery.” Of course, no such lottery exists in Canada. For $115.00, applicants paid for their chance to win Canadian permanent residence. In reality, they were entering a lottery to win a free visa application, which would be prepared without charge to the “lucky” winners.

At the time, Lotfi insisted that his site was an innocent “marketing tool,” and not a scam to trick the naive and the desperate into thinking they could really win a spot in Canada. But when industry regulators launched an investigation, Lotfi opted for a name change – the “Canadian Immigration Lottery” became “CIFA” (Canadian Immigration Financial Assistance).

Today, the controversial website is called “” Of course, Canada does not give out green cards either – that is a term used to describe United States permanent residence.

The full article appears here.

Globe and Mail Reports that Ghost Agents Continue to Slip through Immigration Loophole

Henry Chang | May 26, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

According to the Globe and Mail, Mr. Alykhan Velshi (communications director for federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney) has stated that the federal government will introduce legislation to “crack down on crooked consultants” by the end of the parliamentary session next month. He would not comment on the specifics, but said the government is taking aim at several issues, including barriers to sharing information on problematic consultants, the lack of specific sanctions, and the regulatory loophole that has led to an increase in unlicensed consultants, nicknamed “ghost agents.”

Under the six-year-old system, an immigration consultant must be accredited with the federal regulator, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (“CSIC”), to present an application, including appearing before an immigration tribunal. However, if consultants limit their tasks to filling out paperwork and providing advice, no credentials are required and CSIC has no jurisdiction over them. That leaves ghost agents free to make promises that licensed consultants cannot make, said Phil Mooney, past president of CSIC.

“They make false promises about everything,” said Mr. Mooney, an immigration consultant in Burlington, Ont. The RCMP could pursue fraudsters, but that rarely happens, he said. Two years ago, the House of Commons standing committee on immigration and citizenship recommended replacing CSIC with a regulator similar in structure to a provincial law society with added powers, including authority over currently unlicensed consultants.

CSIC chair Nigel Thomson said he strongly agrees with any move to bring ghost agents under regulatory scrutiny, particularly since his organization estimates that ghosts account for more than half of all immigration consultants in Canada. But he said the immigration committee didn’t fully understand his organization’s limited mandate, and that instead of being wound down, it should be granted investigative authority to pursue ghost agents, among others. Mr. Thomson said the government has not consulted CSIC.

The Globe and Mail article is available here.

HRSDC Announces Termination of the IT Worker Program

Henry Chang | May 25, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

Human Resources Skills Development Canada (“HRSDC”) has announced that on September 30, 2010, the IT Worker Program will come to an end, except for employers wanting to hire foreign workers for positions in Quebec, where the program will remain in place for a limited time after September 30, 2010.

Effective October 1, 2010, employers who wish to hire temporary foreign workers previously eligible under the IT Work Program will be required to apply for a labour market opinion. As of this date, work permit applications received by Citizenship and Immigration Canada or by the Canada Border Services Agency at a port of entry will require a copy of the labour market opinion for the seven specific IT occupations that were previously under the program.

My article on the IT Worker Program has been revised to reflect this change.

HRSDC Revises Minimum Advertising Requirements for LMO Applications

Henry Chang | in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

In May 2010, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“HRSDC”) revised its minimum advertising requirements applicable to labour market opinion applications. These revisions include the following changes (among others):

  1. Reference to Newfoundland and Labrador’s job bank;
  2. For Skill Level B occupations, a requirement that recruitment activities performed in addition to the job bank posting be for a minimum of 14 days;
  3. A more detailed list of what information must be included in the job bank advertisement;
  4. The addition of 3 new variations to minimum advertising requirements; and
  5. More detailed information regarding advertisement criteria specific to Quebec.

My article on Labour Market Opinions has been updated to reflect these revisions.

USCIS Updates H-1B and H-2B Cap Count

Henry Chang | May 24, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has updated its count of FY2011 cap-subject and advanced degree cap-exempt H-1B petitions receipted. As of May 14, 2010, approximately 19,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions were receipted. USCIS has also receipted 8,100 H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees.

USCIS has also updated its count of FY2010 cap-subject H-2B petitions receipted. As of May 12, 2010, USCIS approved 65,498 H-2B petitions out of the 66,000 allocated per fiscal year. Currently, there are 784 petitions still pending.

U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fees to Increase on June 4, 2010

Henry Chang | in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

On May 20, 2010, the Department of State (“DOS”) published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to increase nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, also known as the Machine-Readable Visa (“MRV”) fee, and Border Crossing Card (“BCC”) fees. The interim final rule also establishes a tiered structure with separate fees for different nonimmigrant visa categories. The new fees are scheduled to go into effect on June 4, 2010.

According to DOS website, it is increasing fees to ensure sufficient resources to cover the rising cost of processing nonimmigrant visas. The fee increase applies both to nonimmigrant visas placed in passports and to border crossing cards issued to certain applicants in Mexico.

According to DOS, the new, tiered fee structure was created to cover the higher unit costs for processing certain categories of nonimmigrant visas that are more complicated and require more in-depth consideration than most other categories of nonimmigrant visas. For a number of reasons, including new security enhancements, DOS believes that the $131.00USD MRV fee set on January 1, 2008 no longer covers the current, actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas.

As of June 4, 2010, the following MRV fees will be applicable:

  1. Applicants for all visas that are not petition-based, including B-1 tourist and B-1 business visitor visas and all student (F, M) and exchange visitor (J) visas, will pay a fee of $140.00USD.
  2. Applicants for petition-based visas will pay an application fee of $150.00USD. These categories include:
    • H visa for temporary workers and trainees;
    • L visa for intracompany transferees;
    • O visa for aliens with extraordinary ability;
    • P visa for athletes, artists and entertainers;
    • Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors; and
    • R visa for religious occupations.
  3. The application fee for K visas for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens (and presumably K-3 spouses of U.S. citizens) will be $350.00USD.
  4. The fee for E visas for treaty-traders and treaty-investors will be $390.00USD.

DHS Announces Elimination of Paper I-94W for Visa Waiver Program Travel

Henry Chang | in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

On May 20, 2010, Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the elimination of the paper arrival/departure form (“Form I-94W”) for authorized travelers from nations participating in the Visa Waiver Program Program (“VWP”)—streamlining secure travel for millions of visitors to the United States every year by consolidating the collection of traveler information and enhancing security by automatically providing DHS with important passenger information prior to departure.

“The Visa Waiver Program facilitates secure and hassle-free travel for citizens of participating countries—making international travel safer and easier,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This step to eliminate the paper I-94W leverages the latest technology to further bolster security, increase convenience for visitors and better protect privacy.”

Following a successful seven-month pilot program conducted with the support of the Government of New Zealand on Air New Zealand flights from Auckland to Los Angeles International Airport, the use of paper I-94W forms will be eliminated for VWP travelers with an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) arriving in the United States at all airports by the end of this summer. United States Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) will activate automated processing for U.S. airports on a rolling basis over the next several months.

Under the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, applying for an ESTA became mandatory on January 12, 2009, for all nationals of VWP countries prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States. This requirement does not affect U.S. citizens returning from overseas or citizens of VWP countries traveling on a valid U.S. visa, and allows DHS to determine whether a VWP traveler presents a threat long before the individual boards a U.S.-bound aircraft.

The elimination of the paper I-94W form enables travelers to provide basic biographical, travel and eligibility information automatically through ESTA prior to departure for the United States —reducing redundancy and enhancing the security of sensitive personal information, as CBP stores and protects all VWP data electronically on secure servers.

CBP recommends that travelers submit ESTA applications as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, will be valid for two years or until the applicant’s passport expires. To date, CBP has received more than 19 million ESTA applications from citizens of VWP countries—applications that will now automatically cover I-94W submission.

VWP—established as a pilot program in 1986 to help facilitate travel and made permanent in 2000—currently enables the nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

June 2010 Department of State Visa Bulletin Available

Henry Chang | May 13, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

The U.S. Department of State has released its June 2010 Visa Bulletin. One significant change for this month is that it now includes a country-specific priority date for visa applicants chargeable to the Dominican Republic.

The Visa Bulletin shows backlogs for each permanent residence category that is subject to annual numerical limits. By examining the cut off dates shown on the Visa Bulletin, it is possible to estimate (roughly) the extent of the backlog for a particular category.

If there are sufficient numbers in a particular category to satisfy all reported documentarily qualified demand, the category is considered “current”. Whenever the total of documentarily qualified applicants in a category exceeds the supply of numbers available for allotment for the particular month, the category is considered to be “oversubscribed” and a visa availability cut-off date is established. The cut-off date is the priority date of the first documentarily qualified applicant who could not be accommodated for a visa number.

According to the June 2010 Visa Bulletin, continued heavy applicant demand for family preference numbers has resulted in the oversubscription of the Dominican Republic chargeability for June, to hold issuances within the annual numerical limitation. The result has been the establishment of cut-off dates in the family second preference categories which are earlier than the Worldwide dates.

The June 2010 Visa Bulletin is available here.

U.S. Green Card is Green Again

Henry Chang | May 11, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it has redesigned the Permanent Resident Card, commonly known as the “Green Card,” to incorporate several major new security features. The Green Card redesign is the latest advance in USCIS’s ongoing efforts to deter immigration fraud. State-of-the-art technology incorporated into the new card prevents counterfeiting, obstructs tampering, and facilitates quick and accurate authentication. Beginning today, USCIS will issue all Green Cards in the new, more secure format.

“Redesigning the Green Card is a major achievement for USCIS,” said Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “The new security technology makes a critical contribution to the integrity of the immigration system.”

The enhanced features will better serve law enforcement, employers, and immigrants, all of whom look to the Green Card as definitive proof of authorization to live and work in the United States. Among the benefits of the redesign are:

  1. Secure optical media will store biometrics for rapid and reliable identification of the card holder.
  2. Holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints, and high resolution micro-images will make the card nearly impossible to reproduce.
  3. Tighter integration of the card design with personalized elements will make it difficult to alter the card if stolen.
  4. Radio Frequency Identification (“RFID”) capability will allow United States Customs & Border Protection officers at ports of entry to read the card from a distance and compare it immediately to file data.
  5. A preprinted return address will enable the easy return of a lost card to USCIS.

In keeping with the Permanent Resident Card’s nickname, it will now be colored green for easy recognition. USCIS will replace Green Cards already in circulation as individuals apply for renewal or replacement.

Image of New Green Card

The official announcement from USCIS appears here.

Canadian Immigration Minister Applauds RCMP Immigration Fraud Investigation

Henry Chang | May 4, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

On April 21, 2010, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney offered his appreciation to the Windsor detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) for their ongoing efforts to investigate immigration fraud. The official press release is available here.

“Unscrupulous consultants heap misery upon their victims and pose a serious threat to the reputation of Canada’s immigration system,” said Minister Kenney. “All levels of government and law enforcement must work together to ensure that those who commit fraud are dealt with appropriately.”

“I commend the outstanding work of the Immigration and Passport Section of the Windsor RCMP which resulted in these charges being laid,” said the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety. “This government takes the issue of fraud very seriously and we will continue to provide law enforcement with the tools it needs to disrupt criminal activity and protect innocent victims.”

The week before, an investigation by the Immigration and Passport Section of the Windsor RCMP resulted in criminal charges against an unlicensed Ontario immigration consultant. Francesco Salvatore Burgio, 45, of Amherstburg, has been charged with eleven counts of fraud. It is alleged that the head of the firm Burgio and Associates was paid by clients to submit on their behalf appropriate applications and accompanying fees to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, though victims later discovered that no immigration applications or fees had been submitted. The RCMP has identified eleven victims but believe there may be more who have not yet come forward.

Only members of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (“CSIC”), a provincial or territorial bar, or Quebec notaries can advise, represent or consult clients on immigration matters before the Government of Canada for a fee. Mr. Burgio was a member of CSIC until 2006.

Minister Kenney noted his intention to pursue further measures on this issue. This reflects the Government of Canada’s Speech from the Throne commitment to take steps that would shut down unscrupulous immigration consultants.

Despite the recent crackdown on the worst offenders, there are still many unscrupulous and/or incompetent, unlicensed immigration consultants operating with impunity, both in Canada and abroad. We would once again recommend that any potential applicant read our article on choosing a Canadian representative.