Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Canada, Australia, or cash back? UAE immigration applicants fear 'sink or swim' deals

Immigration consultancy is big business in the UAE. Immigration aspirants pay thousands in fees for assistance in applying for immigration, especially to Canada and Australia.
However, some clients complain of fraudulent consultants. And consultants claim, their complaints are unreasonable or wrongly addressed.
 
Applicants who complaint of lack of services by immigration consultants, often demand a full or partial refund, which is not justifiable in each and every case, say the consultants.
 
Policy changes
 
According to Sohail Saleem, general manager of Premiers Consultancy, a lot of the complaints are the result of the frequently changing immigration policy of Canada, which has affected qualifying applications retroactively.
 
According to him, this can be traced back to 2008, when the Canadian government started implementing a series of reform movements intending to bring back the waiting time of approximately 40 months to less than a year. One of these reforms was the introduction of priority occupations.
 
"Many applicants who submitted their applications between February 28, 2008 and November 2008 were rejected because their occupation was suddenly not on specific occupations list released as per Ministerial Instructions. Applications submitted before February 28, 2008 and not processed until March 2012 are being returned now as the CIC ‘cannot carry on’ this back log any further and have taken a ruthless decision to ‘discard’ such applications; which is very unfair, says Saleem.
 
According to Saleem, overall about 280,000 qualified applicants affected by the policy changes of the Canadian government. Many of these applicants have expressed their anger over the turn of events, and would like to have their money back.
 
"I engaged with Premiers to apply for immigration to Canada three years ago. It was the time when rules were changing and unfortunately my job category was taken off the list. Instead of refunding the fee I paid (Dh12,000), they made me apply under the wrong category with irrelevant experience. Obviously the case was rejected," tells Jamal.
 
"In the case the government rejects a case with full refund; we offer to resubmit the applicant without extra charges. In case they don’t qualify anymore, other options like making spouse principle applicant or in some cases part refund of services fees is also considered.
 
“But the applicant pays for our services, and these services have been rendered. We are not responsible if the government introduces changes that have retroactive affects,” tells Saleem.
 
Documentation
 
Another bump on the road for many applicants is the IELTS test, one of the requirements that every aspirant of immigration to Canada needs to pass. However, the process of arranging the test and obtaining the required document proving minimum language score takes time. This needs to be done by the applicant after the contractual agreement with the immigration consultant is signed.
 
"I paid Dh1,840 up front for consultation and 14 post-dated cheques of Dh618, dated monthly. The process itself is costly. IELTS for example costs around Dh800 and I have to get the required score to meet the immigration score," tells CA who just saw her last cheque redeemed this month.
 
"I tried thrice. I was not bad in the test but the point required to meet the immigration score was too high. Finally I then gave up. Nothing has been submitted from my application and I was paying monthly. I approached them and told me my situation. I even asked if they could at least give me part of what I paid and keep the rest for them but every time they told me that as per management decision there is no refunding. I approached them a lot of times."
 
On an internet forum, where numerous complaints are shared, a person writes: "When I met the sales consultant he told me I have 71 points already and I would need only 5.5 out of the total score in IELTS. Then you feel you have to do it! They made me sign everything so quickly and I signed the cheques – a total of Dh12, 000. Then, after three months they told me I have only 61 points and I will need to have all my IELTS categories high to have only 67 points. Still I would not reach 71 points!!!"
 
"A lot of people make complaints without looking at who is really responsible for the unsuccessful application," says Sohail. "All they want is their money back. Their only demand is a refund.
 
“They do not look into the case to see why it was not successful, whether there was non-submission of some documents from the client’s side, amendment to immigration policy with retroactive effect, or improper review of the file by the immigration officer.
 
”Jorawar Singh, assistant general manager of WWICS, an immigration consultancy company in Dubai agrees. "It is a service industry. In a service industry we cannot satisfy each and every customer. But we try our best," he says.
 
"In our contract we clearly state that the documentation is the responsibility of the client. When this documentation is incomplete, or not rendered satisfactory by the government the case might get rejected. If the client sends in an incomplete file with the intention to add the rest of the documents later, we make sure that the client is aware of this."
 
Contractual agreement
 
Immigration consultants are generally tasked with guiding the applicant in the process. The duties of the company are mentioned in the contract, as well as the responsibilities of the client.
 
"We make sure that the client signs every page of the contract. We will not start the payment before this is done," says Jorawar, while Sohail claims the same about Premiers' policy.
 
But according to duped applicants the signing process does not lend itself to integrity at all. On the contrary, many applicants feel that they were pressurized while signing the contract.
 
"They gave me a bunch of papers and application forms, and an agreement that I tried to read but in between she spoke about something and I could not concentrate, while I had to sign it," writes a person on the complaint board.
 
"I was applying for immigration to Canada and the immigration rules were going to change in a week time. They told me that I should apply now or never, that really feels like the door will close forever."
 
An applicant for immigration to Australia writes a similar message: "I was told that the immigration rules are going to change in a week time and that I had to start my application with them, otherwise new rules would come and I may not have achieved the target points.
 
"After I made the first payment I changed my mind and decided to apply myself, and therefore started visiting the department's website regularly to get more information. I got to know that no such change was going to happen in at least one year. This shows how they trap people."
 
According to Jorawar each and every client is directly informed about all immigration policy changes. "And we encourage the client to send in each and every document within 30-35 days, because the system keeps changing. In the future you might not qualify."
 
But pressurizing the client is something that never happens, he comments. "Do you think this is possible? Do you think we can pressurize educated people? The people who come here and apply know what they are doing and are very well informed."
 
Similarly, Sohail explains that everything is clearly mentioned in the contract, with the refund policy stated in bold. "We are a regulated consultancy company and we cannot misguide the client," he says.
 
Furthermore, the Canadian government closely monitors the consultants all over the world and there is a discussion moment every six weeks, explains Saleem. Frequently it is demanded that the contractual agreement changes in its terms and condition.
 
Most recently, this meant a change of contract for Premiers Consultancy, whereas it is now mentioned that the company will only refund $1,500 if a list of conditions does not apply. In case these conditions (such as insufficient information, points lost on language, or points lost because the government was not satisfied with the evidence furnished in the documentation) apply, Premiers may not be responsible for a refund at all.
 
Both companies claim to have a successful business where 60 per cent of the clients end up in the office through referrals. Only a few cases are unsuccessful, claim both and the complaints are unreasonable.
 
In fact, when it comes to complaints made about WWICS, these are not even real, says Jorawar. "We are aware of the complaints, but we have investigated these complaints and it turned out that most of them are uploaded by our competitors."
 
This website has not been able to get a comment from the Canadian authorities on the matter.
 

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