In Canada, only licensed consultants, lawyers, paralegals, and Quebec notaries (in Quebec) can provide paid immigration advice or represent you in your immigration matter. Lawyers or consultants in other countries who are not licensed in Canada are not authorized to represent you. If IRCC finds out your application forms or written submissions were prepared or submitted by an unauthorized representative they will not accept any excuse and will refuse the application. Moreover, if someone helped you with the application, but did not submit a use of representative form, you could be banned from Canada for a minimum of 5 years due to misrepresentation. In case, the application was approved and granted you a status, and then the IRCC found out you had misrepresented or provided false information in the application, they could take away your status, even charge you with a crime and remove you from Canada.
Having worked in the immigration industry, I have seen frauds in the following areas:
- documents fraud (passport/travel documents, visas, diplomas, birth certificates, death certificates and police certificates were fabricated).
- Applicants have fabricated facts or created stories to make their profiles more convincing.
- Had paid for immigration services and then not disclosed it to IRCC.
- Applicants have hidden inadmissible family members from IRCC or added other people in their applications who are not part of their family.
- Used the services of unauthorized representatives in their home countries because they were cheaper compared to authorized representatives in Canada.
In most cases you do not need the services of a representative, however, when you use the services of a representative, please disclose the representative’s details to IRCC. Do not try to outsmart the immigration officers, they can easily detect wrongs when they see it.
Following is a list of registrars of immigration consultants, students advisers, and immigration lawyers in Canada. If a person’s name is not available on any of these lists, they are not authorized to practice immigration law in Canada.
- Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs): They are authorized to give you immigration advice and represent you in front of the immigration.
- Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs): They are only authorized to provide immigration advice to international students and their dependents. They should be employed by an educational institution to provide such services.
- Verification: https://www.college-ic.ca/ICCRC/Assets/Documents/RISIA-List_EN.pdf
- Lawyers in Alberta: https://lsa.memberpro.net/main/body.cfm
- Lawyers in BC: https://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/lsbc/apps/lkup/mbr-search.cfm
- Lawyers in Saskatchewan: https://lss.alinityapp.com/WebClient/registrantdirectory.aspx
- Lawyers in Manitoba: http://www.lawsociety.mb.ca/for-the-public/lawyer-lookup/
- Lawyers in Ontario: https://lso.ca/public-resources/finding-a-lawyer-or-paralegal/lawyer-and-paralegal-directory
- Lawyers in New Brunswick: https://secure.lawsociety-barreau.nb.ca/memberdirectory/Search.aspx
- Lawyers in Nova Scotia: https://members.nsbs.org/LawyerSearch
- Lawyers in Prince Edward Island: http://lawsocietypei.ca/find-a-lawyer
- Lawyers in Newfoundland and Labrador: http://lsnl.memberpro.net/main/body.cfm
- Lawyers in Yukon: https://lawsocietyyukon.com/find-a-lawyer/
- Lawyers in Northwest Territories: http://www.lawsociety.nt.ca/member-directory
- Lawyers in Nunavut: https://www.lawsociety.nu.ca/en/for-the-public/membership-directory
Lawyers/paralegals/notaries in Quebec: they are authorized to practice a wide range of law including immigration in the province of Quebec: https://www.barreau.qc.ca/en/directory-lawyers/#!/search
Please note that your friends, family members, NGOs etc. who are not charging money for their services and provide unpaid representation are allowed to do so. They can submit applications on your behalf and follow up with the government while submitting unpaid “use of a representative form”, however, the issue arises when they keep doing it as a profession/side hustle and charge money or gifts for such services.
Red flags, Warning Signs!
The followings are some of the signs that show you may be working with a scammer/unauthorized practitioner:
- If you see that someone is promising 100% guaranteed results; probably they will photoshop the visa or documents for you, because there is no 100% guarantee working with the government.
- If your representative doesn’t give you a written contract, retainer, or any copy to you.
- Your representative doesn’t give you a copy of the submissions, or the completed application forms,
- The representative doesn’t have direct communication with IRCC and only communicates through a third party.
- If your representative is commissioning someone else to do the job, without your express approval.
- If your representative advertises their services as free and then later asks you to give them a certain amount of money for expenses, application fees, arrangements with an immigration officer, courier etc.
- If your representative tells you to lie on your application otherwise your application is weak and will be rejected.
- If your representative tells you they will create a compelling case for you regardless of your actual situation.
- If you see an ad or business card which doesn’t include the name of the authorized representative.
If you see any of the above-mentioned signs working with an immigration lawyer, or a consultant, stop and try to protect yourself from immigration fraud. I will suggest you a few protection strategies in the next topic.
How to protect yourself from immigration scams/frauds?
- Start searching the official directories where you can find registered lawyers and consultants. Their regulators’ list is provided earlier.
- Get a written retainer agreement/contract and read it to make sure none of the red flags exist in the contract.
- Make sure the consultant or lawyer involves you in the application, gets you the information and asks you for your signature.
- Get a copy of the entire application including the submissions and review them to make sure all information is correct.
Please remember, Fraud prevention is more intuition than science, if you think you are working with a scammer, investigate, and if you are not fully satisfied change to a more trusted consultant/lawyer. IRCC does not mind you changing your representative, and it will not affect your case negatively.
What kinds of complaints you can make against your immigration lawyer or consultant?
If you have been wronged, and have complaints against your lawyer or consultant, you have the right to register your formal complaint with their regulators.
There are several types of complaints that the regulators may entertain, however, not all complaints can be addressed to the regulator. For Example, let us consider the case of an Alberta-based lawyer who mishandled your case. Let us see what kind of complaints the Alberta law Society will entertain and what they cannot entertain.
Generally speaking, regulatory bodies usually entertain the following types of complaints:
- All kinds of harassment allegations,
- Misuse of your trust fund/fee.
- Lawyer’s criminal conduct,
- Poor communication such as not responding on time or not giving you the required information,
- If a lawyer is not following your case-related instructions,
- Unreasonable delays in submitting your application or in managing your legal matter,
- Hidden charges or unknown charges,
- Conflict of interest,
- If the lawyer is not returning your file at the end of the contract,
- If a lawyer is not respecting your privacy or leaking confidential information to unrelated parties.
Addresses of the complain page of each regulator:
- Report Fraud from an unauthorized scammer: https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/report-signalez-eng.htm
- Report lawyer to their individual law society association:
- Northwest Territories: https://lsnt.ca.thentiacloud.net/webs/lsnt/register/#/complaint-form
- Newfoundland and Labrador: https://lsnl.ca/public/lawyer-conduct/
- Report RCIC/RISIA to the college: https://college-ic.ca/protecting-the-public/complaints-process/make-a-complaint
You need to go to the complain page of each regulator’s website and see what kind of complaints each regular entertains. For example, the following complaints will not be entertained by the law society of Alberta, which may be applicable in other provinces as well.
- Fee charges or other financial concerns, such issues will be dealt with by the lawyer’s indemnity association or small claims court,
- If you are not satisfied with the court decision,
- Court processes and procedures,
- Financial loss due to lawyers’ negligence, such cases could be submitted to Alberta’s Lawyers Indemnity Association.
How to complain?
The first step would be to discuss your concerns with your lawyer or consultant directly and make sure you inform him/her about your concerns. If your lawyer/consultant failed to respond or was not cooperating, only then it is advisable to complain. Here is the process:
- Fill out the complaint form of the law society where your lawyer is registered, and submit it via a special communication line designated for complaints.
- You will receive an acknowledgment and a reference number for your case,
- This is not a confidential process; your complaint and information will be shared with the lawyer so he/she can respond. Your complaint and documents will not be used in other matters or court proceedings, so your privacy will be protected.
There are three possible outcomes to your complaints:
- First, there could be a resolution; meaning your lawyer must comply with your requests,
- Second, your complaint may be dismissed if it had no basis,
- Third, a lawyer may face disciplinary actions if violated any of the laws/regulations.
You cannot receive financial reward/compensation from any law society, for that purpose you have to follow up with the lawyer’s indemnity association, insurance funds, or courts depending on where your lawyer is located.