Many clients ask me what is the difference between lawyers and immigration consultants. The answer is both complex and simple.
I understand that my clients want to know in order to determine who is better qualified to work on their immigration case, so your question is rather based on determining who has more knowledge. However, in addition to focusing on who has more knowledge, you should also consider the scrutiny and ethical standards to which one profession or the other are subject to.
The provincial bar associations in Canada are among the most rigorous bodies in terms of ethical standards for their members. Consumer protection is always the priority in order to base the credibility of the legal system in a first-world country like Canada. If those who practice in the legal system were to fail, then the Rule of Law would be uncertain. Thus, all lawyers in Canada are also public notaries, given the honorability of the profession and the ethical burden imposed on them. In Canada, all lawyers are notaries, but not all notaries are lawyers.
Unfortunately, there are countless stories of immigration fraud, and most are committed by people who have neither of the 2 designations and from the ones who have a license, the majority of unethical professionals are definitely not lawyers. Statistics show that only few licensed lawyers have been involved in stories of fraud. Becoming a lawyer in Canada is very difficult, it takes many years of studies and exams, hence, lawyers are very careful not to lose their license or put it in jeopardy. Becoming an immigration consultant only takes a few months.
This article will cover the following points:
- The main difference between lawyers and consultants
- Why is it better to hire a lawyer?
- How is a lawyer different from a consultant?
MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWYERS AND IMMIGRATION CONSULTANTS
The main difference is the academic background. Immigration consultants are certified after a course of a few months and no prior legal experience is required to practice.
All lawyers in Canada have two professional careers. Law is considered a field of specialization, therefore it is studied after a 3- or 4-year university degree (undergraduate program, which is usually a Bachelors Degree of 3-4 years). Then, after having fulfilled their first university degree, one enrolls in law school for another 3 years, at least. At the end of law school, one must complete a 9-month internship and an intensive preparation course for the Bar Association exam that lasts 3 months, all being a total of one additional year after law school. Thus, a lawyer in Canada has to study at least 7 or 8 years to be qualified and admitted to practice law.
Hence, lawyers can appear and litigate a judicial review in the Canadian Federal Court when errors of fact or law are made at the administrative level in immigration matters. Consultants can only participate in the initial stages of an immigration process.
WHY IS IT BETTER TO HIRE A LAWYER?
An immigration matter is more than simply filling out forms. Legal interpretation and application are important skills that can only be acquired through experience and the corresponding academic background. An immigration process is an administrative process that is resolved at the tribunal level.. The decisions of the officials are not always correct or reasonable and it is necessary to be able to apply the law from the beginning entirely to obtain the best possible result. Immigration law consists of various laws, regulations, and policies; in addition to being influenced by common law and case law.
During immigration processes, it is important to identify when there is a violation of the legal principles of procedural fairness, independence, and bias; your representative must know how and when to act to claim some type of legal remedy based on legal terms and prepare the claim petitions in accordance with the Rule of Law.
A lawyer has the resources for an immigration application supported by the above. Also, because the lawyer can practice in other areas than just Immigration Law, they can always support you in the future after you have achieved your dream of immigrating to Canada, let that be starting a new life by establishing companies, family law cases, wills, etc.
HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE A LAWYER FROM A CONSULTANT?
A lawyer is regulated by a provincial Bar Association (i.e. Law Society of British Columbia), whereas the consultant is regulated by the ICCRC and uses the designation of RCIC to make his certification recognized. A consultant is not an immigration lawyer and most of the time the consultant’s previous academic preparation has nothing to do with the law or legal area.
Having practiced as a consultant myself while re-studying my career in Canada to become a lawyer in the province of British Columbia, I can speak at length on the subject. I know both regulatory bodies first-hand and while I was part of the ICCRC, I applied each thing learned during my legal studies. That was a big difference in my consulting practices since I never separated from the legal field, even while being a consultant, which I have a background of since before immigrating to Canada. Today, I am a lawyer in Canada with a focus on Immigration Law, also providing services in the area of Corporate, Labour, Family Law, and notarial services.