The Role of the Immigration Consultant in Canada
There are some professionals who are allowed to represent their clients before immigration departments such as Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration Refugee Board (IRB), as well as provide advice, consultation or guidance at any stage of the immigration application process, or in an immigration proceeding. Those representatives must have a permission from their clients to conduct business on their behalf. They may be uncompensated or compensated representatives.
Uncompensated representatives may be non-profit groups, family and friends who help applicants who feel the need for support and advice on immigration matters, without charge fees or receive any other compensation. On the other hand, compensated representatives charge a fee or receive some other form of consideration in exchange for the advice and representation that they provide. In this case, the representatives must be authorized by CIC; otherwise, they break the law.
Canadian immigration consultants who are members in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) fall into the category of compensated representatives, along with them are lawyers who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society and notaries who are members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
Parliament of Canada has constitutional authority to allow Canadian immigration consultants to give advice or represent people who are subject to a proceeding or application under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Consequently, these professionals are authorized to represent and advise applicants for consideration, if they are members in good standing of the body which has been designated by the Minister as the regulator of immigration consultants (ICCRC).
This category of professionals was last regulated in 2011, in order to control the performance of their members to guarantee that all applicants are represented in a professional, ethical and lawful manner, as well as to preserve the honour of Canada’s immigration program. They have a privileged role to play in maintaining the integrity of Canada’s immigration system and the administration of justice, by acting at all times honestly and in good faith towards immigration officials, without intent to deceive or undermine the integrity of the system, or assist others to do so.
Immigration consultants in Canada are permitted to perform a number of actions on behalf of their clients to reach a positive result for them on several matters listed in the IRPA. Among them, they are authorized to explain and provide advice on someone’s immigration options; to provide guidance to a client on how to select the best immigration stream and complete the appropriate forms; to communicate with CIC, CBSA and IRB on someone’s behalf; represent someone in an immigration application or proceeding; represent someone in an Arranged Employment Opinion or Labour Market Opinion application; as well as to advertise that they can provide Canadian immigration advice.
On the other hand, there are other actions that are not typically considered immigration advice, which do not belong to activities performed by an immigration consultant. For example, to direct someone to the CIC website to find information on immigration programs; to direct someone to the CIC website to access immigration application forms; to direct someone to an authorized immigration representative; to provide translation services; to provide health services; to make travel arrangements.
In addition, immigration consultants and lawyers perform the same role as far as immigration applications are concerned. Both are licensed to represent clients before CIC and CBSA, as well as before IRB at hearings and appeals. However, only lawyers are allowed to represent clients before the Federal Court of Canada at a Judicial Review. Furthermore, both professionals adhere to strict codes of ethics and professional conduct and are regulated by their respective regulatory bodies (ICCRC and Canadian provincial or territorial law society). While immigration consultants are specialized in immigration cases, lawyers may be specialized in several fields of law.
Immigration consultants need to be able to think clearly and act powerfully in order to be effective in their role of representing and advising clients. They will also assist clients to think more broadly and more clearly about a problem or opportunity, explaining them the best options available for different profiles.
It should be noted that natural justice may be denied to applicants when they are represented by an incompetent immigration consultant who fails to do his or her duty; for instance, failure to make any submissions with respect to a Pre Removal Risk Assessment application, among others. As can be seen, immigration consultants play an essential role representing and advising their clients on immigration matters. Their role and approach must be played with responsibility and in a professional manner, especially, by obeying the code of conduct of their professional category.
For that reason, ICCRC members must follow the Code of Professional Ethics. This Code establishes high standards of professional conduct for ICCRC members and provides guidance for their practice. Its purpose is to protect the public from unprofessional, unethical, incompetent practice by the ICCRC members and students. If this Code is breach by them, they will be subject to disciplinary proceedings. The content of this Code addresses several topics such as: intention of code; interpretation; ethical practice; professionalism; competence; quality of service; advising clients; confidentiality and conflicts of interest; preservation of client property; IICRC members as advocate; retainer and fees; joint retainers; withdrawal from representation; outside interest; advertising, solicitation and making services available; discrimination and harassment; errors and omissions; disciplinary authority; and responsibility to ICCRC and others. Therefore, the Code of Professional Ethics must be respect by ICCRC members to guarantee the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.
To conclude, for all these reasons, immigration consultants play a constructive role on Canada’s immigration program, working as a bridge between immigrants and the government. As a result, they must respect principles of nature justice and professional conduct, wisely and honestly, applying professionally their knowledge of the immigration field when representing and advising their clients.
Paula De Cassia Pimpão