• Tetiana Karbovanets, RCIC

How not to get scammed when choosing an immigration consultant or a lawyer?

Immigration is a huge step. Deciding to move to another county should not be taken lightly. While there is plenty of information online, it is easy to get lost in its abundance. Where do I start? What should I pay attention to? Can I apply myself or should I use someone to represent me?

First of all, it is important to rely on official sources. When it comes to immigration to Canada, you can find all of the relevant immigration programs and detailed instructions on how to apply on the official governmental site: www. Although the Canadian government is constantly improving its website to make it as user friendly as possible, it might take a lot of time to make sense of all of the information there. Especially if your case is far from being straightforward. Besides, not everyone feels comfortable communicating with authorities and working on official paperwork. In this case, you might want to hire a professional to represent you through your immigration process.

But how not to get scammed and find a person who will provide you with competent advice and help you with the application process. To begin with, immigration consulting is a regulated field and only people with special authorization can provide immigration services in Canada. At the moment, the following types of professionals are allowed to assist with immigration matters:

- Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants who are members of IRCC (the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council);

- Lawyers and notaries, members of Canadian provincial or territorial law society or Chambre des notaires du Québec;

- Paralegals (Ontario only) who are members of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

To find out if the person offering you help with immigration is authorized to do so, it is a good idea to ask them about membership in the organizations mentioned above. Websites of those organizations have open lists where you can check the status of this person by their name, address or registration number. It is worth mentioning that even consultants working overseas have to be authorized.

The other question is how to choose a professional that is right for you?

First of all, a lot of consultants and lawyers specialize in certain immigration categories. Therefore, it might be smart to hire a narrow specialist as they are likely to have more experience with the particular immigration program. Secondly, the price is not always an indicator of quality. If their fees are too high or too low it can be a red flag for you. Lastly, you might want to check the companies reviews, ask around, talk to someone you know who already went through immigration. And most importantly, if you are promised a guaranteed result it is a clear sign that you are dealing with scammers. The Canadian government does not collaborate with any immigration companies. Moreover, immigration specialists are not allowed to provide guarantees or to charge you based on the outcome. The job of the immigration consultant is to provide you with competent advice and help with the application process but does not involve influencing the decision-makers.

Another question we often get is what the difference between an immigration consultant and a lawyer is. An immigration consultant is a legal professional who received specialized education and passed a professional exam to get authorized. Immigration consultants provide immigration services only and act within regulations and bylaws of their authorizing organization. While, lawyers are more broad professionals, who can choose their specialization. The scope of functions of both lawyers and consultants mostly coincides. The only difference is that consultants are not authorized to represent their clients in federal court. Thus, in most cases, you can be represented by the immigration consultant. Among the advantages, immigration consultants can offer, they usually charge you fixed fees, unlike lawyers who work on hourly wages. Also, it is worth mentioning that consultants are more specialized, their knowledge is more concentrated as the immigration field is the only field they deal with.

To sum up, it is worth mentioning that no matter who you decide to hire as your representative, it is important to check their credentials and make sure that it is comfortable for you to work with that person. Common sense and intuition should not be neglected when choosing immigration professionals. Be vigilant and enjoy your immigration journey.

You can check if the immigration consultant is a member in good standing of IRCC here: Paid Representatives

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