Monday, September 10, 2012

News Release — Canadian citizenship not for sale: Minister Kenney provides update on residence fraud investigations

The Government of Canada’s investigation into residence fraud continues to grow, with nearly 11,000 individuals potentially implicated in lying to apply for citizenship or maintain permanent resident status.
“We are applying the full strength of Canadian law to those who have obtained citizenship fraudulently,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Canadian citizenship is not for sale. We are taking action to strip citizenship and permanent residence status from people who don’t play by the rules and who lie or cheat to become a Canadian citizen.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has begun the process to revoke the citizenship of up to 3,100 citizens who obtained it fraudulently. Minister Kenney first announced the investigations last year. CIC is working closely with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Canadian offices abroad to tackle this fraud.
“Today’s announcement is the end-result of the hard work done by the RCMP and CBSA, and they should be congratulated for their dedicated effort in bringing these charges forward,” said Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. “These efforts reinforce our government’s commitment to protecting the integrity of our immigration system.”
The Department has also been working on cases of those who are not yet citizens. Nearly 5,000 people with permanent resident status who are known to be implicated in residence fraud have been flagged for additional scrutiny should they attempt to enter Canada or obtain citizenship. The majority of these individuals are believed to be outside the country.
Permanent residents must reside in Canada for three years out of four years prior to applying for Canadian citizenship. To retain their status as permanent residents, they must be physically present in Canada for two out of five years with few exceptions.
In typical cases, permanent residents will use the services of an unscrupulous immigration representative to fraudulently establish evidence of residence in Canada while living abroad most, if not all, of the time. This is perpetrated so that individuals can fraudulently maintain their permanent residence status and later apply for citizenship.RCMP and CBSA criminal investigations have found that a family of five may pay upwards of $25,000 over four or more years to create the illusion of Canadian residence.
Finally, CIC has flagged the files of another 2,500 individuals where, for various reasons, there are concerns. These individuals will be watched closely should they make future applications. This makes a total of nearly 11,000 individuals tied to citizenship and residence fraud investigations.
To date, CIC and its partners have removed or denied admittance to over 600 former permanent residents linked to the investigations, and have denied about 500 citizenship applications where the applicants do not meet the residence requirements. Almost 1,800 applicants linked to the investigations have abandoned their citizenship applications as word about these investigations spreads.
“We will not stand by and allow people to lie and cheat their way into becoming citizens,” added Minister Kenney. “I encourage anyone who has information regarding citizenship fraud to call our tip line to report it. There is no time limit for investigating this type of fraud.”
Over the past six years, Canada has had the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history. The Government of Canada is committed to creating an immigration system that brings the world's best and brightest to Canada while protecting our immigration system against those who would abuse our generosity.
Cases involving false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances in the citizenship process—for example, pretending to be present in Canada to meet the residence requirements for obtaining citizenship—should be referred to the citizenship fraud tip line at CIC’s Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100 (in Canada only, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday). Tips may also be reported by email at Those overseas can also contact the nearest Canadian visa office.
All other types of immigration fraud can be reported to the CBSA’s Border Watch Tip Lineat 1-888-502-9060. Tips accepted by the Border Watch Tip Line include, but are not limited to, suspicious cross-border activity, marriages of convenience, misrepresentation in any temporary or permanent immigration application, or the whereabouts of any person wanted on an immigration warrant.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dips welcome international education report | Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper

Dips welcome international education report | Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper

Several of the countries named in a new report as key target international student markets for Canada are welcoming the report's recommendations, which encourage Canada to boost the number of Canadians studying abroad and brand Canada via scholarships for international undergraduate students.
Diplomats from Brazil, India, and China say they were encouraged to read the 14 recommendations an advisory panel gave to the government in the panel's report on Canada's international education strategy released Aug. 14. Their comments echoed the generally positive feedback the report received from groups representing students and schools.
Piquing the diplomats' interest were proposals such as: doubling the number of international students studying in Canada by 2022; boosting the number of Canadian students abroad to 50,000 per year by 2022; federal co-funding for 8,000 new scholarships for international undergraduates to study in Canada; improved visa processing; and expanding training for Canadian embassy staff to understand what Canada's education system has to offer.
The panel, which included post-secondary school presidents and the head of Quebec aluminum producer Rio Tinto Alcan, also stated that besides maintaining recruitment efforts in "mature markets" such as the United States, Canada should specifically target markets with the biggest potential for growth: China, India, Brazil, the Middle East and North Africa, Vietnam, and Mexico.
International students represent a big business opportunity for Canada. A 2012 study presented to the government indicated that foreign students spent more than $7.7 billion, created more than 81,000 jobs, and funnelled more than $445 million into government coffers in 2010.
The panel report also noted that international students could be a great fit as immigrants for a country facing labour shortages; and if they don't stay, they act as ambassadors promoting Canada to the world.
Recognizing these potential benefits, Canada has been busy. The government assembled the panel after deciding in the 2011 budget to devote $10 million over two years to set up and implement an international education strategy.
The government named the group's members in October 2011. The panel heard from interested people at meetings across the country, and visited India and China.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper inked a bilateral education co-operation agreement with India in June 2010. During Mr. Harper's February trip to China, the two sides agreed to work toward seeing 100,000 Chinese and Canadian students study in the other's country within five years. And Governor General David Johnston led a large group of Canadian university presidents to Brazil last spring, where Canada secured its piece of a new Brazilian scholarship program. Mr. Johnston announced that 12,000 Brazilian students would study in Canada as part of the program.
The panel recommended the government develop bilateral agreements with priority countries focused on graduate education and research, and backed up with funding to make those deals a reality.
50,000 in 10
But diplomats from some of the target market countries say they were pleased to see the panel recognize that international education goes both ways. One of the few numbers-based recommendations it set was that 50,000 Canadians per year should be studying abroad within 10 years.
That led Renato Leonardi, a Brazilian Embassy second secretary who works on education, to tell Embassy by email that Brazil is encouraged not only that the panel is looking for Canadian institutions to receive more foreign students, but also for more Canadian researchers to study and work abroad.
"In our understanding, international education must be seen as a two-way street," he wrote.
Zhang Lanchun, a minister-counsellor for education affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, also noted the recommendation, in the report he called "constructive" and "positive."
Yet while Canada and China have set a goal of 100,000 students studying in each other's country in the next five years, the flow is currently "very unbalanced," said Mr. Zhang.
He said more than 70,000 Chinese study in Canada, but only more than 2,000 Canadians study in China (Canadian figures suggest more than 60,000 Chinese students attend Canadian colleges and universities).
China has more than 2,000 post-secondary schools that could accommodate Canadian students, he said. "So I think we have big capacity or great potential to welcome Canadian students to study in China," he said through an interpreter on Aug. 21.
Although 50,000 is a jump from the number of Canadians studying abroad now, Canada could go even further, said Jennifer Humphries, vice-president of membership, public policy, and communications with the Canadian Bureau for International Education, an association of educational institutions.
She also spoke for the Canadian Consortium for International Education Marketing, which represents the CBIE and school groups from elementary to post-secondary.
Although numbers are not always clear, Amit Chakma, the advisory panel chair and president of Western University, estimated that less than three per cent of Canadian university students now study abroad.
Based on her own calculations covering universities alone, Ms. Humphries said that if Canadian universities grow by 10 per cent over the next few years, 50,000 studying abroad would represent only about 3.8 per cent of the total student population. She said Canada could aim for 15 per cent.
Visa processing and scholarships
On the other side, Mr. Zhang suggested more international students, including those from China, would come to Canada if it improved student visa processing.
The panel said that while the integrity and quality of Canada's immigration system should be maintained, "[Citizenship and Immigration Canada] must be supported in efforts to ensure competitive processing times and client service in the face of growing volumes. Meeting this processing demand will put pressure on visa officers, requiring an increase in staffing levels and a need for accurate training."
Canada is the fourth top destination for Chinese students, after the US, UK, and Australia, said Mr. Zhang.
"With the assistance of scholarships to be provided by your side, as well as the visa processing improvement, I think there would be a big increase of international students, including those from China," he said, seated before a cup of tea in his office, a stone's throw away from the University of Ottawa.
Canada has in recent years seen a backlash from some countries against perceived long study-permit processing times. Saudi Arabia last year deliberately slowed the processing of Canadian visas to protest what it said were too-slow processing times of Saudi visas to Canada. Saudi students part of a Saudi government scholarship program were being affected.
Ms. Humphries said Oman used to send many students to Canada but numbers dropped off as students have the perception it takes a long time to get a Canadian study visa. In fact, wait times have improved recently, "but the perception takes forever to erode," she said.
Narinder Chauhan, India's acting high commissioner to Canada, said visa processing times for Indian students have gotten faster in recent years, and that has helped boost the numbers studying in Canada.
She spoke positively of the report overall, and echoed Mr. Zhang's comments that more scholarship opportunities would help bring more foreign students to Canada.
"We...very much welcome the fact that Canada would be increasing its international undergrad student scholarships, because that is perhaps one of the reasons why the Indian student intake in Canada has not kept pace with your southern neighbour and with some of the other countries," she said.
While school and student groups like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and Canadian Federation of Students spoke largely positively about the report's proposals, the CFS's Brent Farrington took issue with the panel's suggestion that Canada should boost scholarship opportunities for international students rather than just lower their tuition fees.
International students pay on average between $10,000 and $15,000 more than domestic students per year, depending on the province, he said.
Will it be implemented?
Trade Minister Ed Fast accepted the panel's report at an Aug. 14 news conference, noting that his government looks forward to reviewing its recommendations.
Another government document said the Harper government would "carefully review" the panel's proposals "over the coming months," and a "formal response and implementation plan for Canada's International Education Strategy is forthcoming."
Indeed, observers are optimistic that the federal government won't just leave the recommendations on a shelf to collect dust. They sense the political will to act.
Ms. Humphries said it's positive that the trade minister launched the report with some fanfare. Plus, she said it's good that the government linked international education to Canada's prosperity; it announced the report's release at the same time it declared the start of consultations on the government's renewed Global Commerce Strategy.
"We are very optimistic that the government will take this on board," said Ms. Humphries. "And we do have two very keen ministers that struck the panel: Minister Flaherty and Minister Fast."
The Canadian Bureau for International Education called the recommendations "bold yet achievable." The panel's chair, Mr. Chakma, said stakeholders at the provincial, institutional, and association levels are aligned in their support for international education, which helps to make the report's proposals "very much attainable."
Mr. Zhang said he thought the recommendations were "practical" but will require "painstaking efforts."
The panel didn't attach a dollar figure to implementing its proposals—partly because it just didn't have the time, said Mr. Chakma.
He said the federal government has up until recently been spending about $1 million a year on promoting education abroad. Australia, by contrast, is estimated to be spending more than $20 million a year.
The panel's recommendations
• Double the number of international students choosing Canada by 2022
• Introduce an international mobility program for Canadian Students to serve 50,000 students per year by 2022
• Make internationalizing education in Canada a strategic component of government of Canada official policies and plans
• Create a council on international education and research to provide policy advice to the ministers of international trade, finance, citizenship and immigration, and industry
• Maintain and enhance the quality of the education systems and ensure their sustainability
• Focus Canada's promotional efforts on a limited number of priority markets for targeted resource allocation
• Increase marketing of Canada's brand
• Develop a sophisticated and comprehensive e-communication system that will serve as a national portal for international students interested in education in Canada
• Brand Canada through scholarships for international undergraduate students
• Regroup grants and scholarships available to international graduate students and post-doctoral fellows under one label/brand, with a focus on priority areas aligned with Canada's innovation and prosperity agenda
• Develop comprehensive and multifaceted bilateral agreements with priority countries that focus on all aspects of graduate education and research, supported by appropriate levels of funding
• Improve education visa processing to provide consistent and timely processing of high-quality candidates
• Expand and facilitate comprehensive training for embassy staff on Canada's diverse education offerings and study pathways. Training opportunities should also be available for stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of both the programs and cultural support required by international students
• Support the expansion and promotion of the existing Canadian Experience Class program to contribute to Canada's skilled immigrant and labour market needs
—Source: Advisory Panel on Canada's International Education Strategy Final Report