What is a Canadian Immigration Consultant?
First, let me make it clear I am only talking about Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants in this article. Under Canadian immigration law, you have to be either a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) or a lawyer before you can charge the public fees for advice. This is true whether the advisor is inside Canada or outside Canada.
Make sure your consultant is regulated!
An RCIC is a professional who has studied a formal program regarding Canada’s immigration laws and subsequently passed a professional licensing exam that attests to the fact that they have achieved a certain level of knowledge, training and skill to fulfil their duties. They have also accepted their responsibility to abide by a code of ethics.
RCICs are regulated by the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (the College). The College is authorized by the Government of Canada to set strict standards of practice in order to protect consumers of immigration services. The College website explains how to become an immigration consultant in Canada and what the public can expect both from their consultant and from the licensing organization.
The scope of legal education of an RCIC is strictly related to immigration law. The area of the legal system they can work in is confined to Canadian Immigration, refugee and citizenship law and policy.
What is a Canadian Immigration Lawyer?
Canadian immigration lawyers are also professionals who offer immigration services. They have completed a law degree from a recognized law school and have subsequently been called to the bar of a specific Province in Canada. The scope of education for lawyers is broader and encompasses all areas of the Canadian legal system. Thus, their training allows them to practice law in any part of the legal system. Lawyers who decide to practise immigration law can also advise immigration applicants on other parts of the Canadian legal system if needed, such as real estate system or the criminal court process. They can also represent applicants in court.
Question: Should I hire a lawyer or a consultant for my Canadian immigration application?
Answer: You should hire an expert in the type of application.
The simple answer is, it depends on what you need to have accomplished. No one individual, whether they are an immigration consultant or an immigration lawyer, will be an expert in every type of application. The system is too big, and encompasses a wide variety of situations. Most practitioners will specialize in a few areas. So you will want to find an immigration lawyer or immigration consultant with experience and expertise in your particular immigration matter.
Here are some general rules for getting started:
You can benefit from immigration consultants if:
- You are looking for options
- You are looking for information
- You need to make an application for a visa
You most likely need a consultant or a lawyer if:
- You already have a serious immigration problem
You most likely need a lawyer only if:
- You are seeking to overturn a refusal
- Your matter needs to go to court
- You need legal support in other areas (eg Canadian criminal charges)
When to hire a Canadian Immigration Consultant
If you need to get yourself to Canada or if you are already in Canada but want to stay longer, then you need to make an application for a specific type of status. For the processing of most types of applications – Citizenship, Permanent Residence, work or study permits, as well as all types of visas – you should be well-served by a consultant.
Consultants prepare and represent the vast majority of Canadian immigration applications each year – meaning experienced consultants should be very competent at what they do.
You will also likely find that their rates are lower than a lawyer. Hiring a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant for your immigration application results in the best of both worlds for you – you have the most qualified expert for your situation, and the price will probably be lower than using a lawyer.
As well, consultants come from many languages and ethic communities. You may find it more efficient to work with someone who shares your cultural background.
Hire a Consultant or a Lawyer
There are certain situations where you might choose to work with either a consultant or a lawyer and so your focus should be on determining whether the representative you are considering has direct experience in the type of situation you are facing. The normal process of immigration or refugee applications, including some obstacles in the road such as procedural fairness letters, admissibility assessments, detention reviews, removals or sponsorship appeals can all be handled by either a consultant or a lawyer.
Your focus should be on determining whether the representative you are considering has direct experience in the type of situation you are facing – don’t just assume that someone knows what they are doing. Ask them how often they handle cases like yours and how successful they are. If you have two equally qualified reps, then you could make a decision based on fees and availability to take your case; but generally, when you get to a situation that is as serious as those we have just mentioned – you really need competent counsel or you could find yourself barred from Canada. At this point, you want the most competence, not the lowest price.
Hire a Lawyer
If you need to overturn a Canadian immigration refusal that you feel was issued in error or was somehow unjust, in most cases you will need to file a court case (called Judicial Review) to challenge the decision in Federal Court. This is an application that only a lawyer can make for you. There are short timelines to file for Judicial Review, so do not delay.
If you prepared the application yourself – without counsel — and it was refused, for example a study permit or a spousal sponsorship, it may be the case that a consultant can help you as a first step. We know from experience it is very rare that an individual working on their own file will prepare an application to the rigorous standards that will be needed to achieve a positive result in federal court. In many cases, it is simpler to just file again, but a much improved application – an experienced consultant will know when this is worthwhile, or if you should actually see a lawyer to file for judicial review. To repeat our earlier advice, ensure that you ask any consultant about their level of experience in preparing files like yours in anticipation of a judicial review, because applications need to be extremely comprehensive in order for you to have a chance of success at Federal Court if it is refused again.
A final word about Unauthorized Representatives
No matter who you choose to work with – consultants or immigration lawyers– it is very important any person you hire is licensed. Taking advice from family, friends or fake consultants and lawyers (no licence!) is dangerous for you. For example, if you pay an immigration consultant and get faulty advice, you may well be in trouble with Canada Immigration, not them – and your immigration process can be derailed. You can also receive a 5-year ban from Canada for misrepresentation if you have worked with an unauthorized rep whom you have not declared on your application.
Hiring a regulated immigration consultant (RCIC) or a lawyer located inside Canada is the best protection as Canadian authorities can intervene on your behalf if you are taken advantage of.
To find out if a representative is authorized to practice Canadian immigration law – ask them. They should be able to point to their name on the CICC website (consultants) or with the Law Society of the Canadian province. If they can’t show you that their name is available on a public database, then walk away. There are plenty of authorized reps available for you to work with.
Are you hoping to visit Canada temporarily or become a permanent resident? No matter which expert you choose to work with, you want to ensure your case will be handled by someone who gives you the best chance of success. The Way Immigration has experts who can work within most areas of Canadian Immigration Law. However, if we feel that your situation needs attention that we are not in the best position to provide, we will refer you to a trusted colleague with expertise that matches your needs. Your success and well being is our primary concern.