An Ontario immigration consultant is under investigation for charging foreign clients up to $25,000 to help them enter Canada to work at low-skill jobs. In at least one case, the worker arrived to find the employer no longer existed.
“[The consultant] said, ‘You must be thankful to me. I legally brought you to Canada,’” said Mohamad Tehrani, one of David Aryan’s clients.
“But, I would not have paid this amount of money only to come to Canada and be unemployed.”
Tehrani, 29, is from Iran and said he wanted to work hard in Canada and build a life here.
He connected with Aryan, a regulated immigration consultant, last year. Aryan's services are advertised on a Persian website, promoting an "opportunity" for low-skilled jobs in Western Canada arranged by "agents."
“After a year of employment, we would proceed to apply for the permanent residency,” reads the site.
It stipulates clients must pay him $5,000 up front plus another $20,000 when the work visa is approved. However, rules governing immigration consultants forbid them from charging fees contingent on visa approvals.
Tehrani didn’t know that, so it sounded great to him.
“I wanted to change my life. Change my future. I can speak English fluently. I have academic degrees,” he said.
Tehrani’s family paid the full $25,000. He also paid for his flight to Vancouver in February for a food processing job, arranged through Aryan.
Under federal rules, employers are supposed to cover flights for low-skilled workers, but Tehrani said he didn’t know that either.
Employer out of business
When Tehrani arrived, he went to the job site in Delta, B.C., eager to introduce himself to his new boss. He said he was stunned when he found the employer, Trade Nine Enterprise Corp. Ltd., wasn't at the address he was given. An unrelated company was doing business there instead.“I found two or three workers there and they denied the existence of this company. I showed them the address, the name of the company… they said there’s no company like that.”
It turned out that when the federal government authorized one-year work visas last fall, for Tehrani and nine other foreign workers, Trade Nine Enterprise had already gone out of business.
The B.C. corporation was dissolved months earlier, in June.
Tehrani eventually reached someone connected with the former company. He said the man insisted he was not his employer, but said he might call him about possible work and never did.
He said he feels duped by the whole experience.
“[Aryan, his agents and the ‘employer’] deceive both the applicants and the government without being held accountable,” he said. “It’s a profitable business.”
Questionable government approval
“[The government] effectively gave a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) for 10 workers to a company that didn’t exist,” said immigration consultant Phil Mooney.
“This file clearly, in my opinion, should never have been approved.”
Mooney is the former CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, the body that regulates consultants like Aryan. He said he believes several rules were broken here.
“I am very convinced after looking at all of the information on the case that basically there is a … conspiracy here,” he said. “There are many people taking advantage of this individual who has paid a substantial amount of money to come to Canada.”
Seven months after arriving, Tehrani is still in B.C., unemployed. He said his parents are paying his bills because he said he can’t find anyone willing to hire him.
“Whenever they find that I have a job-specific work permit they rescind their offers. They say you must have an open work permit,” he said. “But, I am still trying my best.”
He filed complaints against the consultant with the regulator, which is investigating, and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Consultant blames client
CBC News tried to find Aryan, but his Toronto office is empty and his cellphone doesn’t accept messages. He responded to an email, saying everything that went wrong in this case was Tehrani’s fault.
“Tehrani has been one of the most problematic clients that I have served, in the past two decades,” said Aryan.
He insisted his client jumped the gun by showing up at the workplace too soon.
“Tehrani decided to not follow the instructions he was provided … he further took the liberty of taking matters into his own hands and approached his employer directly. He proceeded to aggressively demand his employer to allow him to begin working immediately.”
Aryan claimed it was Tehrani who was “cheating the system.”
“I believe that he is playing victim here while throwing me under the bus, simply because I was doing my job according to the books.”
When asked how he justifies his $25,000 fee, he said the money isn’t for job placement, but for various other services, including an “employment search.”
'Prices are what they are'
“I do not find it of any relevance to the matter. My prices are what they are and no one forced Mr. Tehrani to sign the contract that he did,” said Aryan.
Mooney said consultants are only supposed to charge for immigration advice and paperwork, not for a job. He added that Aryan charges at least 10 times what a consultant should.
Even though Tehrani did get his work visa, Mooney pointed out, he didn't get what he paid for.
“The individuals involved in this scheme saw nothing wrong with cheating possibly up to 10 people, with basically years’ worth of their income from their home countries.”
Tehrani claimed Aryan later told his family that if he wanted another job, they could pay him another $15,000. They refused. Aryan denies he ever offered to help Tehrani find another job.
Mooney said countless foreign workers are stung like this — people take their money but the promised jobs don’t work out. Often they end up working under the table, he said, because they desperately want to stay.
Creating illegal workers?
“What does an individual do if they are not able to work legally in Canada? They work illegally. If they work illegally, they are not paying taxes,” said Mooney.
“Desperate individuals do desperate things. Individuals with no way to make a living could also turn to a life of crime.”
The Canada Border Services Agency is aware of this case and said immigration consultants found guilty of misrepresentation face fines up to $100,000 or up to five years in prison.
“The CBSA takes this issue very seriously and works closely with its partners to identify, investigate and prosecute those engaging in immigration fraud to the full extent of the law,” said a statement from the agency.
In the last six years, the CBSA has investigated 172 serious complaints against immigration consultants. Thirteen have been found guilty so far.
Mooney thinks the key to curbing this is empowering foreign workers, by telling them exactly what the rules are when they apply or when they pick up their visas.
“I want to see things done to prevent this. So why aren’t we working harder to inform the potential foreign workers about how things really are?”
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