By: Kerry Molitor
Tips for Choosing an Immigration Consultant
When someone buys a suitcase to leave their homeland and come to Canada, they’re making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. They dream of a happier, more prosperous life in Canada, but if they don’t understand what they must do to become an immigrant, their decision may become a costly mistake with a return trip home. I hope this article will help people who want to immigrate to Canada to get the best advice available.
Immigration law is complicated with many rules and requirements that must be met. To guide you through the process, you need a fully-qualified Immigration Consultant—but, if you do not have a personal recommendation, how will you find one?
The most important part of choosing a Consultant is making sure that they’re regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). The ICCRC is accountable to immigration authorities and to consumers who need to know that the representative they hire is competent and ethical.
You can research ICCRC members easily at their website: http://secure.iccrc-crcic.ca/search-new/EN. If the Immigration Consultant you’re considering working with is listed as an active member, you’re off to a good start.
When you first contact an Immigration Consultant ask him or her about their consultation policy. Find out if they offer a free consultation or if they charge for advice. Many people think that a free consultation is better than a paid one, but often the opposite is true because a free consultation may be designed to get you in the door. The best consultation is often one where the Immigration Consultant charges for advice, but takes the cost of the consultation off your first bill if you hire them.
You’ll be asked a lot of questions during the consultation and it’s important to be honest and detailed so the Consultant can give you the correct advice. This is also your turn to ask questions. Find out about the Consultant’s experience in the industry. How long have they been practising? Where did they go to school? Do they own the business or are they an employee?
It’s also important to ask about the Consultant’s specializations. Do they practice business immigration or deal with reuniting families? Do they help international students or work with people who are being deported? Do they deal with people located inside or outside of Canada? Canadian immigration is complex and it’s hard for anyone to keep up-to-date on all of the available programs and restrictions.
Marleine Ghostine is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant with WillowTwig Legal and Immigration Services in Toronto. She says, “The key in our business is staying updated and looking for the best solutions we can present to clients in their current circumstances. Make sure that the person you hire has up-to-date knowledge in the areas you need help with.”
Once you think you’ve found the right Consultant, look for them online. What do other people have to say about them? Don’t let one or two bad reviews affect your decision, but if you notice a pattern of unhappy clients it’s time to move on. Likewise, if you search for a Consultant and nothing shows up, you might want to go with someone with more experience or who’s more involved in the industry.
Search for online testimonials from former clients, but don’t stop there. Ask the Consultant if you can speak with the person who wrote the testimonial. Verify that this person exists and ask them about their experiences with the Consultant you want to hire. Genuine clients will be happy to talk to you about the person who solved their immigration problems.
If you’re not fluent in English or French, you might want to search for a consultant who speaks your native language. Not only will this make you more comfortable, it will also reduce the chances of a misunderstanding from a language barrier. It can be equally useful to work with a Consultant who has a staff member or interpreter who speaks your language.
Although there are many benefits to using a Consultant who is from your culture, be aware that the bond between people with a common background develops quickly. Just because someone reminds you of home, doesn’t mean that you should automatically trust them. Most of the immigration fraud I’ve seen is between people of the same ethnicity, so do your research to protect yourself.
There are two other warning signs that should watch out for. If the Consultant suggests that you do something unethical or illegal, it’s time to walk out the door. Anyone who advises you to lie or to hide information doesn’t have your best interests in mind. There are legitimate strategies to overcome difficult situations and breaking immigration laws isn’t one of them. Misrepresentation can and will come back to haunt you.
The other warning sign is a Consultant who guarantees that your case will be successful. Immigration decisions are usually made by one government employee and these decisions aren’t always fair. While most strong applications will get accepted, even the best decision-makers may miss an important document, misunderstand the evidence, or just be having a bad day. Refusals like these are outside the Consultant’s control and any Consultant who guarantees that a decision-maker will find in your favour is deceiving you.
I’ve left price until the end because if you find someone ethical and experienced they should give you a fair price for the work involved. If the price is beyond your budget, ask if you can pay in installments. If the price seems unrealistically high, ask the Consultant to write down exactly what they’ll do for you for the fees they’re charging. Then shop around, asking their competition the same question. Beware of Consultants who quote significantly lower than their competition because you usually get what you pay for.
Many people spend more time researching the purchase of a new computer rather than the person they are entrusting with their family’s future. Protect yourself and your family by learning about the Consultant you need to hire so you can start your journey to Canada with the right advisor by your side.