You have made the tough decision to hire someone to help you with your immigration journey. Now you are presented with the difficult task of choosing who is going to help you. So now you must ask yourself, “Do I need an immigration lawyer or an immigration consultant?”
How are immigration consultants and immigration lawyers different?
Trying to make the distinction between the two can be very tricky because at first it seems like immigration lawyers and immigration consultants are the same thing with different names and can offer the same services.
Then there is also the fact that immigration lawyers and immigration consultants can evoke different opinions depending on who you ask. A lawyer will tell you one thing while a consultant will tell you another.
The general feeling gathered from the internet about both professions varies quite a bit and is surprising.
Broadly speaking, immigration lawyers seem to have better education, are more trustworthy, and are more expensive, while their counterparts, immigrations consultants, seem to offer better prices, offer faster services, and are less reliable. It is important to know that these are only broad generalizations and do not accurately portray either.
Immigration consultants and immigration lawyers are simply two different occupations that tend to offer very similar services in a very similar market. They typically serve the same client base and the use of one or the other comes down to personal preference of the client.
In most cases there is truly very little difference between what they can do for their clients. The only real differences are education and services offered.
Differences in Education
Let’s take a look at the educational differences first as this is a main point of contention between the two.
Both immigration lawyers and consultants are required to have a 4 year Undergraduate Bachelor's degree before they can study Canadian immigration. After that is where the major difference occurs.
Any practicing immigration consultants are also required to have a Immigration Practitioners Programs (IPP) diploma. The minimum amount of time required for this course was four months of full time study. This diploma only focuses on the Canadian immigration rules and requirements. No other generalized courses are included.
Upon completion of this course an additional Entry-to-Practice licensing exam by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) must be completed in order for a prospective immigration consultant to practice legally. Once this is completed an immigration consultant will be issued a unique number known as an RCIC number. An RCIC number is unique to Immigration consultants and is used to determine their status (ex. Active, Retired, Resigned, Disciplinary Action, etc.) in the industry.
As of August 31, 2020 the education requirements have changed and now all new immigration consultants are required to complete a graduate diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law from Queen’s University. This is a one year program of full time study. The Entry-to-Practice licensing exam is still required.
Any practicing immigration lawyers are required to complete law school which is a three year program. However, immigration lawyers do not study immigration for all three years.
They study many other generalized law subjects, and typically spend 6 to 12 months on Canadian immigration rules and regulations. After they have completed law school they must complete a Bar Admissions Course determined by one of the 14 Law Societies in Canada (each province/territory has its own).
Unlike Immigration consultants lawyers are not given a unique number when accepted into a law society. Therefore, it can be a little more difficult to ensure you are working with a properly licensed lawyer.
Differences in Services
Now let’s take a look at the difference between the services a consultant and a lawyer can offer.
Both of them have the ability to prepare and submit all Canadian immigration applications from work permits to business investing/purchasing. The big difference is that consultants have the ability to represent their clients at the appeal tribunal level, but not in federal court. A lawyer can represent their client at the tribunal level and in federal court.
In reality this typically is not a big issue as the amount of cases that go to federal court in comparison to the amount of applications processed in one year is very small. Most clients are likely to reapply for a different program or re-submit their immigration application rather than go to court.
If you compare the minimum educational requirements for both you will see that immigration lawyers are required to complete more education than immigration consultants. However, you will also notice that immigration consultants are only required to study Canadian immigration specific rules and regulations in their studies.
So if you compare the amount of immigration knowledge gathered from law school or an immigration practitioner program, it is likely similar.
How To Choose
What it comes down to is personal choice.
There are no standards regarding pricing so lawyers and consultants vary greatly from one to another. You may find an immigration lawyer can offer cheaper services than a consultant. You may also find a consultant who has more education than a lawyer.
Generally speaking, experience in the industry is likely far more valuable for clients in the long run. Someone with 2 years of experience is likely not as qualified as someone with 15 years.
The main point to remember is that you do not need to stick with one or the other. Check out both, call a few and see who you like. The best representative for you will be a person you feel you can trust and will be someone who is there to help you explore all your options rather than forcing you to choose one.
If you need help deciding if you should hire someone check out our blog post “Do I need an Immigration Consultant?”. Here you can check out the top 5 reasons you might want assistance.
You can check out our list of fully qualified and experienced immigration consultants at CanadaLMIA.ca and The Canadian Application Centre. Our consultants have a wide variety of immigration knowledge and can help you if you want to visit, work, live or invest in Canada. All of our immigration professionals are Registered Canadian Immigration Consultants in good standing with a minimum 5 years of experience. Our online platform makes it very easy to find immigration help and prepare applications.
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