Feds launch new probe into P.E.I. immigrants alleged to have used fake addresses to get permanent residency

The Canada Border Services Agency alleges 462 provincial nominee program applicants used so-called ‘addresses of convenience’cpt101-the-canadian-press2

A second federal probe is underway in Prince Edward Island alleging hundreds of people gained permanent residency in Canada by using local addresses where they didn’t live, under a provincial business immigration system that’s faced criticism for loose oversight. A man removes his belongings from a CBSA truck at a processing centre for asylum seekers at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que. Thursday, 

A search warrant from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) alleges 462 applicants to the provincial nominee program used Charlottetown homes belonging to two Chinese immigrants over the past four years as “addresses of convenience.”

Lead investigator Lana Hicks says in the document, filed June 13, that she suspects the immigrants didn’t come to the Island and settle, contrary to the requirements of the provincial program.

Rather, she alleged their immigration documents are collected and sent on to them, “at their real address elsewhere in Canada or back in China,” she writes.

The allegations, which have not been proven in court, come just two months after two Charlottetown hoteliers were charged with aiding in immigration fraud, with the CBSA alleging 566 immigrants used the addresses of the siblings’ hotel and home.

The siblings’ lawyer recently denied the allegations of misrepresentation in comments to reporters, and said they intend to plead not guilty.

However, the latest allegations, if they lead to charges, would bring the total number of “address of convenience” cases to about 1,000 in the provincial nominee program (PNP), with all but a few of these immigrants gaining permanent residency in Canada.

The numbers are indicative of what is known within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canada Border Services Agency as an ‘address of convenience,’ which is created to facilitate immigration fraud

Permanent residents are immigrants who are not Canadian citizens, but they have been given permission to stay and work in Canada for five years before applying for renewal. They have most of the rights of citizens and can take advantage of social programs, but they can’t vote, seek public office, obtain a Canadian passport or hold jobs that require a security clearance.

Under the P.E.I. program, the applicants provide the Island government with a $200,000 refundable deposit, and commit to invest $150,000 and manage a firm.

After the deal is signed, the province nominates the investor to the federal Immigration Department as a permanent resident, which they usually receive in the mail before they fulfil the conditions of setting up a business and living on the Island.

The province has already acknowledged that two-thirds of the PNP businesses in 2016-17, a total of 177 people, didn’t get the refundable deposit back, with the majority simply never opening a business.

The June search warrant alleges that the 462 people giving the three Charlottetown addresses are “well beyond what would be expected for single dwelling homes,” and says the use of the addresses is “concerning and unreasonable.”

“The numbers are indicative of what is known within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canada Border Services Agency as an ‘address of convenience,’ which is created to facilitate immigration fraud,” writes Hicks.

Hicks based her view that people weren’t living full-time at the homes partly on surveillance of the houses, and from “garbage grab” searches of documents thrown out from the homes.

She says the immigrants’ statements that they intend to reside in Prince Edward Island are “the whole basis for their approval,” and notes that the province’s website and forms repeatedly state this requirement and expectation.

The issue of false addresses has been arising in other provinces, say immigration lawyers.

“It undermines the integrity and objective of the (provincial) programs. That’s why Islanders and all Canadians should be concerned,” said Betsy Kane, a veteran immigration lawyer in Ottawa.

It is a serious crime to lie on an application, lie in an interview with an immigration officer, or to submit false information or documents

Last year, Chinese immigrants in Vancouver were sentenced to jail and fined for immigration fraud involving 1,600 immigrants for fraudulently helping them obtain permanent residency by measures that “included creating the fictitious appearance of Canadian residency.”

The CBSA says that to date it can confirm 81 deportations from that case, with orders to remove 160 other people, with some appeals pending.

Lee Cohen, an immigration lawyer who is representing the Charlottetown siblings in the earlier prosecution involving the owners of the Sherwood Motel, said in an email that he’s still reviewing his defence, and cautioned that there are problems with how the CBSA has proceeded.

He says he suspects CBSA went “much too far … intimidating these accused with the huge posse of officers that raided their home on P.E.I. and mischaracterized their behaviour.”