Immigration lawyers and Immigration consultants: what’s the difference?

There are many people across Canada and the United States available to help people with their immigration paperwork, applications, work permits and other facets of the immigration system. There are two groups of professionals who offer these services: immigration lawyers and immigration consultants.

Canadian Government seems to lack confidence in immigration consultants and their regulatory bodies

As of 2004, immigration consultants must be members of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CISC) which oversees immigration consultants in Canada. However, Canada’s Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney’s office has said that there is a lack of confidence in the organization currently because the society is too small to properly enforce its own rules or follow up on complaints against its members.

We’ve also blogged about the many cases popping up in the news within just this past few months where immigration consultants have simply just taken people’s money here and or unscrupulous posers of immigration consultants here or even caused them to face deportation here

The Canadian government was looking for “interested entities” at the end of last year who would like the job of immigration consultant regulatory body. In the near future, there may be a more qualified regulatory body available to oversee immigration consultants, but that does not treally  exist yet. The government of Canada will also not conduct business with immigration consultants who are not in good standing, prompting some to act as if they’ve submitted your application, take your money and then lie about your application being denied.

This is not to suggest that there are not good, qualified immigration consultants out there. I have worked with many of them over the years. The real problem is lack of regulation and screening to weed out the bad from the good.

So why choose an immigration lawyer?

Immigration lawyers offer advice and assistance in immigration legal matters, which is the basis of practicing law. More than that, when you hire a lawyer you get some guarantees: An educational guarantee (university and accredited law school graduate) and  ethical and professional conduct guarantees backed by a regularly body (in Ontario it’s the Law Society of Upper Canada).

Now, again this is not to suggest that all lawyers are good at what they do–far from it. However, at least when hiring a lawyer, you know you are getting certain automatic educational and licensing standards to back you up.

What about the legal fees for hiring Immigration lawyers or consultants?

Legal fees, like pricing for any service are subject to market conditions but vary amoung practitioners. Ironically, I have witnessed legal fees charged at hirer rates by immigration consultants vs lawyers. When pricing immigration services, ask around, compare costs among lawyers and consultants and get a feel for what you should be paying.

One important point is that in choosing the right lawyer or consultant can save you thousands of dollars in that if mistakes are made, fixing them can result in soaring legal bills beyond your initial expectations. It’s best to pay a larger fee for a reputable immigration practitioner to avoid such costs in the long run.

So whether you choose to hire an immigration lawyer or consultant, always do your homework first in checking out references, reviews and ask lots of questions!

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Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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