Q. My family intends to apply for Permanent Residence and we are deciding whether or not we should hire an immigration lawyer to represent us. What are the pros and cons?
A. The question as to whether to retain the services of an immigration lawyer to help you with your immigration or visa application is of course a personal one. However, having being involved with thousands of immigration and visa applications over the years, I can tell you that all to many applications are refused, delayed and mishandled by just about everyone involved in the process from the government authorities to the applicants themselves.
The role of an immigration lawyer as I see it is to facilitate the immigration application process to its conclusion, making the procedure as “painless” as possible. Further where an immigration or visa application is refused, the lawyer should vigorously fight for his or her client’s rights where there is a chance to overturn the decision on appeal.
Moving to or working in another country is a major and sometimes life changing decision. Getting it right is obviously important. In a perfect world, it would be nice to just fill out a form, submit it and wait for your Visa. The immigration system is, unfortunately, far from perfect–despite what you may be lead to believe.
Even Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) itself sadly contributes to the “myth” of easy access. The first page of their website discusses the need to hire legal counsel for the immigration process. Their message is beware of fraud and that special treatment will not be given to you just because you hired a lawyer.
While it is true that applicants should be careful about who they hire to represent them and to always check their representative’s credentials, hiring a competent immigration lawyer certainly helps more than hurts! I think CIC is doing a disservice to applicants and their families by skewing the message here. In fairness, CIC should also publish their immigration refusal rates on their home page which would reveal the real picture. Many of our cases deal with immigration application refusals from people who decided to go it alone thinking that the government is on their side; that all they have to do is follow the instructions on the website or application kit and pay a filing fee. Again we do not live in a perfect world. Application decisions are made by real people not computers.
The message here is hiring an immigration lawyer is up to you. But all told, the pros in doing so certainly outweigh the cons.