With files from Candice Malcolm
Earlier this year, Larissa* came to Toronto from Brazil on a visitor visa. She worked illegally for a bit while in Canada before deciding she simply didn’t want to leave, so she contacted an immigration lawyer for guidance on how to stay in Canada legally and permanently.
It’s not an uncommon story, according to her immigration lawyer Richard Boraks.
One of the requirements to immigrate to Canada is to prove one’s competency in the English language, which can be done by taking an exam called the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). The IELTS exam (known colloquially as “the Yeltz exam”) is a standardized test that assesses the English language proficiency of those who do not speak English as a first language.
It is administered by a privately-run company that works with the federal government and immigration department to determine who can come to Canada.
Four skills are tested: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The maximum number of points one can earn in each category is nine.
To come to Canada under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, one must have received at minimum an average score of seven. To come under the Federal Skilled Trades Program, one must have at least an average of four in reading and writing, and five in speaking and listening.
Larissa decided she wanted an average score of 7.5, but she didn’t think she could obtain that score by actually writing the exam, so she searched “buy ielts online” and started contacting those who could forge a certificate for her.
True North was shown screenshots of the WhatsApp conversations between Larissa and the IELTS certificate hucksters. The first IELTS certificate seller Larissa contacted ended up swindling her out of £250 GBP (approximately $423 CAD). She sent the money, but never received the doctored certificate.
However, she eventually found another seller who made her a certificate for a pretty penny. This time, she paid £500 GBP (approximately $844 CAD), and successfully received an authentic IELTS certificate. Notably, her certificate was stamped from India, even though Larissa had never been in India – she was still in Toronto.
“Is the certificate valid? I don’t know. Never tried it,” said Boraks in an interview with True North. “But no one has been charged for a fraudulent IELTS certificate, ever. Period, finish, full stop.”
“Indian authorities and British authorities are cracking down on this, but in Canada, the CBSA [Canadian Border Services Agency] isn’t doing anything,” he said.
Boraks is referencing a recent report that Niagara College in Ontario ordered over 400 students who had been admitted to its January 2019 programs and had taken IELTS tests in India to undergo a second English test or risk losing their offer of admission. A probe found “inconsistencies” between the IELTS test scores submitted by some students from India, and their actual English proficiency. The college made 1,300 admission offers to Indian applicants during the winter 2019 term; of which 428 were asked to retake the IELTS test or take an alternative English test.
Boraks brings attention to the fact that IELTS is co-owned by IDP Education, and 50% of IDP Education is owned by SEEK Ltd.
“SEEK is in the recruitment business. They’re in the business of moving bodies around the world,” Boraks told True North.
This means an English proficiency exam company is in partnership with companies that help people find jobs around the world – mostly in the English-speaking world.
“Look at Laurentian University. They set up entire courses [for international students largely from India], and none of the kids showed up,” said Boraks.
“They all went to work illegally, working 60-80 hours as truck drivers. You need drugs to stay awake for that long as a truck driver. But eventually, if you’re taking drugs, you’re useless as a truck driver. Then these undocumented people become unemployed and turn to crime. That’s why there is so much crime in places like Brampton,” Boraks states.
Boraks claims the recent IELTS fraud cases have been brought to the attention of the RCMP.
“But these immigration scams, the RCMP has no permission to look into them. They’re not allowed to ask questions. There are hundreds of millions of dollars wrapped up in these scams.”
*name has been changed