In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions, only three types of professionals are legally allowed to represent clients for a fee with regard to their federal or provincial immigration matters outside Quebec:
- Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants
- Lawyers licensed by a Canadian Law Society
- (for hearings only) Paralegals licensed by a Canadian Law Society
What’s the difference between these types of representatives?
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs)
RCICs are only allowed to represent clients for legal matters pertaining to immigration law in Canada. We are not allowed to dabble in other representative matters such as traffic court or contract law.
RCICs have studied only Canadian immigration and specialize in this field. Most immigration consultants specialize further as Canadian immigration is very broad, and the knowledge required to properly advocate for a client takes years to acquire in different areas of the law. The immigration consultant who does your Express Entry profile is not usually the same consultant who would represent at a refugee hearing.
Immigration consultants can assist you with all types of Canadian immigration matters including paper applications like sponsorships, online applications like PR through Express Entry, and hearings like appeals. We are licensed by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, and you can confirm if a consultant is in good standing or in disciplinary proceedings on their website.
Any type of lawyer in Canada can be a representative on an immigration application; they are not required to have any specialized knowledge of Canadian immigration law or processes.
The job that is done by an immigration lawyer and an immigration consultant is nearly identical. The application process is the same. The documents are the same. The only difference is that there are very few certified specialists in Canadian immigration law, who are highly respected in the profession, and there are many dabblers who take any type of file that comes into the office whether it is real estate, wills and estates, criminal law, or immigration.
If you need to file for leave for Judicial Review with the federal court, only a lawyer can represent you. We recommend that for such a complex process you hire a certified specialist in Canadian immigration and citizenship law – a certification given by the Law Society only to lawyers who truly do specialize in application of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act.
In Ontario, paralegals are allowed to represent clients for a fee in front of tribunals such as employment regulation, traffic, and immigration hearings. They are licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Paralegals are not allowed to represent clients on any type of immigration application including sponsorship, Express Entry, work permits, study permits, or criminal inadmissibility. They are only allowed to represent at a tribunal hearing such as an appeal or detention hearing.