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Q. I have been illegally here for many years and now things have caught up with me. I have an immigration hearing next month and I don’t know what to do? Do I need a lawyer?
A. Depending on your circumstances, the outcome of your immigration hearing could mean remaining or leaving Canada. For people without status in Canada, immigration hearings are usually called Admissibility Hearings. Admissibility hearings are conducted by a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) who will make a determination as to whether you are a person who has violated the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or Regulations by falling out of status as a temporary resident.
In some cases, Immigration hearings can take the form of Appeals,usually for Permanent Residents who have committed a criminal offence and are subject to removal orders. In such a case, these hearings are held at the Immigration Adjudication Division (IAD). At the IAD, the appellant can present evidence in favor of overturning his or her removal order showing there are humanitarian and compassionate factors to be considered. Often at IAD hearings, witnesses are called who can testify on behalf of the appellant.
Technically the answer is “no”. However, invariably at immigration hearings, a government lawyer or agent will be present representing the immigration department. These representatives are usually very experienced and know the law. Unrepresented persons are therefore at an extreme disadvantage at immigration hearings despite efforts to ensure proceedings are conducted in a fair manner. Retaining an experienced immigration lawyer is usually your best defense at an immigration hearing. Of course there are no guarantees. However, outcomes are generally more favorable when immigration counsel is present at an immigration hearing.
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