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Fake Canadian immigration consultation ads spread on Facebook

An extensively viewed Facebook post purports to offer assistance to foreigners seeking to live or work in Canada. This is false; the page associated with the ad has used different names -- some not associated with migration -- and it is not registered with the country's college of immigration consultants.

"Unlock your future with scholarships, permanent residency, and career opportunities in Canada!" says the text of a March 12, 2024 Facebook ad, which was liked more than 24,000 times. The video in the post claims Canada needs 1.5 million immigrants by 2025 to fill a supposed labor shortage.

Over 6,000 comments on the post were filled with users claiming they were interested and asking for help.

<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post, taken March 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post, taken March 28, 2024

In 2022, Statistics Canada reported that immigrants made up the "largest share of the population in over 150 years" (archived here). But in light of a tighter labor market, the country announced in March 2024 that it would be reducing its number of temporary foreign workers.

The ad follows previous posts falsely publicizing Canadian visa services to Africans.

The page claiming to offer immigration assistance -- called "Work in Canada" -- lists its location as Bronx, New York, and a search in Meta's Ad Library reveals it had circulated similar versions of the same ad before deactivating them. The page has also changed its name three times since 2016, according to its transparency section, with the initial names having nothing to do with immigration.

<span>Screenshot of the Facebook page transparency informaion for "Work in Canada," taken March 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the Facebook page transparency informaion for "Work in Canada," taken March 28, 2024
<span>Screenshot of Facebook Ad Library, taken March 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of Facebook Ad Library, taken March 28, 2024

The ad does not link to a website. Rather, it prompts the user to begin a conversation in Facebook Messenger.

After responding to questions with pre-programmed answers, the message links to a site that promises immigration advice. But AFP journalists received error messages while trying to navigate the site.

<span>Screenshot of the message received by AFP journalists who attempted to access the purported immigration website, taken March 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the message received by AFP journalists who attempted to access the purported immigration website, taken March 28, 2024

The Government of Canada recommends that those interested in coming to the country check whether an entity is licensed to give advice by verifying if it is a member of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC) or a provincial legal or paralegal society (archived here).

Searching the CICC's public register of consultants does not yield results for "Work in Canada," or any of the other names previously used by the page (archived here).

While AFP was not able to see if the website prompted people to pay for immigration consultation, Stef Lach, the CICC's manager of stakeholder and government relations, said that anyone providing advice "for a fee or other consideration" would be considered an "Unauthorized Practitioner" (UAP).

"UAPs pose significant risks to the public as they are not regulated or licensed," Lach said.

Local media in Canada have reported on illegitimate immigration advice schemes including a foreign student who discovered a service had faked material for his study permit, leaving him facing deportation. In March 2024, two people were charged for accepting over $40,000 CAD (about $29,500 USD) for visa advice they never provided.

People living in Canada are frequently the target of fake ads and scams on Facebook. Read more of AFP's reporting on misinformation in Canada here.