If you are immigrating to Canada or planning to do so, then there’s a good chance that you are familiar with the terms ‘immigration lawyer’ and ‘immigration consultant’ and an even greater chance that you are confused about the difference between the two. People are often unclear about what the two professions entail and often end up using the terms interchangeably, since some of the services offered by both professionals sometimes overlap. However, by doing this people often unknowingly sideline the important differences between an immigration lawyer and an immigration consultant.
First, it’s important to know that both professionals have the legal authority to represent individuals who wish to immigrate to the country. While it is not a legal obligation to hire either of the two, it is highly recommended that you opt for an immigration professional instead of consulting and relying on your friends and family members, to ensure that you have a seamless and streamlined immigration process. An immigration process consists of more than just paperwork as it is equally important for the person to be well-versed with the various immigration options at your disposal and the program or option will help you build a strong and stable future in the country. Therefore you must yourself make an informed decision between choosing an immigration lawyer and consultant.
“What is the difference between immigration lawyer and immigration consultant?”
The major points of difference between immigration consultants and lawyers are with respect to their educational backgrounds, their authorization levels and the governing bodies they are answerable to. Whilst immigration consultants do a 12 month specialised certification course which deals with immigration specifically, they may have less overall experience and legal expertise than immigration lawyers; who must clear the bar exam. Furthermore, it is not a prerequisite for an aspiring immigration consultant to possess an undergraduate degree, whereas an immigration lawyer must have completed at least a Bachelor of Laws degree.
The ICCRC (Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council Canadian) is the body which is authorised to govern and supervise immigration consultants. All immigration consultants who have successfully passed the nationwide exams are allocated an ICCRC number; which is a 7-digit identification number which certifies that they are ICCRC-approved immigration consultants.
On the other hand, immigration lawyers are not governed by the ICCRC and thus do not have a ICCRC number. They are instead licensed and regulated by the provincial law associations and the bar. (Ronen Kurzfeld is a registered lawyer with the Ontario Bar Association and is a lawyer in good standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada.)
“What can immigration consultants do?”
An immigration consultant’s primary job is to aid and facilitate the immigration of individuals and their families from their country of origin to Canada and deal with the requisite legal paperwork and documentation procedures.
The process starts with them evaluating an individual’s chances of receiving a Canadian visa. They also ensure that an individual is prepared to deal with visa officials and interviews. Their job is also to optimise a person’s chances of successfully adapting to the Canadian way of life by assessing which form of immigration suits their profile best out of the more than 60 forms of immigration offered by the Canadian government.
So you might be left wondering that if an immigration consultant can offer you most of the quintessential services you may require during an immigration procedure, then what makes choosing a Canadian immigration lawyer the preferred choice?
“Is it better to hire an immigration lawyer?”
Choosing an immigration lawyer is often regarded as a smarter choice because immigration lawyers can offer you all the services an immigration consultant can and much more. Generally, immigration lawyers have a better understanding of the overall judicial framework within which immigration and other legal procedures operate due to their education, experience and exposure.
They are also qualified and legally authorised to represent you in federal and provincial courts whereas an immigration consultant is only legally authorised to represent you till the tribunal level. Bear in mind that only a small segment of applications need to be referred to federal courts, and this usually occurs only in the case of complicated applications. Nevertheless, a Canadian immigration lawyer’s ability to comprehend and apply the law can be key in such cases. On top of the aforementioned services, immigration lawyers also have the authority to accompany you for your immigration interviews.
It would be unfair however to send across the message that every Canadian immigration lawyer is categorically and irrefutably better than every immigration consultant in the country, as aspects such as their area of expertise, experience, connections and standing within the legal fraternity also play their part.
Beware of immigration fraud!
Recently immigration fraud has emerged as a notorious impediment in the industry’s otherwise smooth and efficient functioning as more and more cases of innocent temporary foreign workers and international students being defrauded of their money and their sensitive information as well as their personal and legal documentation getting compromised, are being reported.
A sureshot warning sign which you could encounter whilst searching for an immigration professional is coming across someone who promises or guarantees successful immigration to Canada. It is important to remember that no immigration professional will ever guarantee successful immigration, no matter how experienced or reputed they are. This is because the immigration process is a complex one and is subject to various variables which may be out of a particular individual’s control.
Additionally, if you ever encounter a person who ‘informs’ you that your immigration lawyer needs to have an ICCRC number, then you may consider it to to be a warning sign since you might be at risk of getting defrauded by that person. This is because immigration lawyers, as mentioned previously, are registered and regulated by the Bar and provincial legal societies and not the ICCRC; thus they do not possess ICCRC numbers.
The only way of maximising your chances of successfully immigrating to Canada, simultaneously also minimising your chances of getting defrauded, is by conducting proper research. Visit the websites of major Canadian immigration law firms, read their testimonials, verify their credentials from the relevant Bar association website (in the case of lawyers) or through the ICCRC website (in the case of consultants).
Trusting experienced names who enjoy a good standing within the legal community is your best bet. Ronen Kurzfield is a reputed Canadian immigration lawyer with decades of relevant experience and a proven track record of successfully handling complex immigration cases.
To know about our immigration services in detail, click here.