Immigration is never easy. It is a complicated interplay of reason and emotion: dream of a better life portrayed beyond a maze of real and challenging decisions. Immigration is much more than just arriving there. It is risking all you have created for something you wish to create. Therefore, it is never the goal, but a meaning to your visions. If your visions are misinformed, naïve and merely wishful, then you will have risked it all for so little. Thus, it is crucial that you think long and hard about your goals and dreams after you arrive, before you look for an immigration representative.
Your representative can play a very important and constructive role in helping you verify and carefully assess your goals before you embark on your challenging journey. Alternatively, your representative can play a destructive role by appealing to your emotions and give you false hopes because they only care about their retainer. Finding a representative who would truly care and give you the dedication and support you deserve is not easy. The best way is for you to see and consult as many professionals as you can before making your decision. But there are thousands of immigration professionals and you cannot go about this without a strategy. At the very least, you should ensure that whoever you short list to consult with is duly qualified and authorized to represent you.
Authorized “Paid” Representatives
- There are only a few people who can legally charge you a fee or receive other type of payment for representing you in your immigration matter:
- Lawyers and paralegals who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society;
- Citizenship or immigration consultants who are members in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council;
There are many differences between a lawyer, a paralegal and a consultant. The most important are:
- Lawyers and paralegals are regulated by provincial law societies that hold them to very high standards of professional and ethical conduct. The consultants however are regulated by The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) that is not nearly as effective in enforcing high standards on its members;
- To be licensed, lawyers need 7 years of post-secondary education including three years in law school and have to pass the challenging bar exam. Paralegals need 1-2 years of post-secondary education and have to pass a licensing exam. Consultants need to pass an ICCRC-accredited program (3-6 months) and pass an exam;
- Only lawyers can represent clients before the Federal court;
Verify, Verify and Verify
You should always check if a person you have short-listed is licensed to represent you:
- Citizenship or immigration consultants must be a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council. You can check the name of the consultant here to see if they are a member in good standing;
- Lawyers must be a member of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society;
- Paralegals (Ontario only) must be members of the Law Society of Upper Canada;
If they are not members in good standing, you should not use their services.
Most law societies let you check online to see if a person is a member in good standing. For example in Ontario you can check the name of the lawyer/paralegal here to see if they are duly licensed and a member in good standing.