I get that one all the time.
When meeting with people interested in my immigration services, I am asked such questions many times. Almost every time, clients are surprised to hear my answer: “Why yes!” I reply. “Sure you can do it yourself” , I continue. “I encourage independence. I want people to take control of their own immigration situations.”
I do not blame people for asking me whether they can handle their own immigration applications by themselves. After all, especially in Canada, the government does what it can to encourage applicants to do it themselves. On their websites and in their written material, these sites go out of their way to explicitly tell people that they can do it themselves. After all, there is an abundance of information on immigration practice and procedure available to the general public for all to view.
The problem is what they don’t tell you. Appeal courts and tribunals have never been busier with cases that have been refused by the very government that is encouraging people to go it alone without legal representation. Sadly, in my practice I see too many refused cases brought to me by well-meaning applicants who took the government’s message to heart. Thinking that all they had to do was follow the instructions on a website or to order an application kit and fill out forms, people are devastated to discover their good-faith efforts ended up with a rejection of their applications.
Then why then would I as an immigration lawyer dedicated to helping people with their immigration problems answer in the affirmative when asked “But can’t we do it ourselves?” Well in part is because it that is the only honest answer I can give. People can apply for immigration benefits by themselves, if they really want to. Nothing is preventing people from doing this.
However, I do not just leave it at that. After telling people that the power is within them to go it alone, I then ask them a question–a question that I think is a much more important one: Should they handle their immigration cases on their own? When phrased this way, the light bulb usually is turned on. Next to tax law, immigration legislation is considered the most complicated area of law by many. What the general public sees on various government websites or off-line publications on immigration topics amounts to a gross over-simplification of procedures and rules involved in virtually all immigrant and non-immigrant categories. This causes a sense of “false hope” for people at best and at worst, a total misrepresentation the facts about what is involved and necessary to make a successful application. From the most basic sponsorship application to the most intricate corporate immigration plan for foreign workers, there are always important legal issues that only a trained lawyer can and should handle.
The consequences of not seeking legal help for one’s immigration case are too serious to ignore. The last thing people want are refusals caused by some technicality not mentioned on any website. And when there is a refusal, the remedy is often an appeal which is very stressful, time consuming and costly.
So when I am asked about whether people can go it alone, I tell them “Can do…but should not”.
Have a great weekend,
Immigration Lawyer Michael Niren
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