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You’re planning to apply to immigrate to Canada and you want help. You’re joining many thousands of individuals who turn to regulated Canadian immigration consultants and lawyers each year for help with Canadian immigration.

Though it is not a requirement, working with an immigration consultant or lawyer is a great option if you want expert guidance on your application, or if you simply want to take the pressure off and have someone else do the heavy lifting for you. But, be careful! There is a huge amount of fraud in the Canadian immigration industry.

One of the best ways to avoid being scammed, is to work with a consultant who has been recommended by someone you trust. That’s why we’ve built this list of our recommended consultants; Canadian immigration experts who have years of experience and positive feedback from our community.

However, you can take other steps to avoid being scammed. One approach we strongly recommend, is to ask the following questions to any Canadian immigration consultant and lawyer who you’re considering working with. A few questions up front could help you avoid being scammed for thousands of dollars, not to mention your time and energy as well.

Pro-tip: It’s always best to get these questions answered in writing, so that you have something to refer back to if you need it at a later date.

1. What is your RCIC registration number or provincial bar association listing?

All paid Canadian immigration representatives must have the proper license to work as either an immigration consultant or an immigration lawyer. If your representative cannot prove that they have the necessary credentials, then you should not work with them.

For regulated Canadian immigration consultants (RCIC): Consultants must have a valid RCIC number showing they are in good standing with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC). Get your consultant’s RCIC number and verify their standing on this page.

For Canadian immigration lawyers: Lawyers are regulated by their provincial or territorial bar association. Get your lawyer to provide you with a link to their listing before you sign a contract or make any payment. You can access a full list of Canada’s various bar associations here.

Please note that in Ontario, paralegals can also represent you on your application, but must be in good standing with the Ontario Bar Association. As well, in Quebec, notaries can represent you, but must be in good standing with the Chambre des notaires du Québec. Finally, unpaid representatives can also represent you, but only as long as they do not request any payment or compensation for their help.

Immigration consultants and immigration lawyers provide comparable services as per giving guidance, preparing documents, and submitting applications. Lawyers are legally authorized to represent clients in a court of law, but only a tiny fraction of immigration applicants end up in court, usually due to a foreseeable issue. In the end, lawyers are not necessarily “better” than consultants, nor vice versa. You are best off considering the merits of each individual consultant or lawyer you approach, and assess based on their track record and reviews.

2. What is the total cost of your services, and what is the payment structure?

Make sure that you calculate the total cost in your own currency and ensure that it is affordable for you. Remember: it is not mandatory to hire a representative, so if the financial impact will be too much, you can work hard to complete some or all of the application process yourself, especially if you use some of the resources on this website.

You can get peace of mind by comparing the cost of several consultants and lawyers to understand what is reasonable and what is too expensive.

Most importantly, understand the payment structure. When will you be expected to make payments? Is there any guarantee of work being completed between installments? Are taxes included?

Finally, ensure that you have a retainer agreement or contract that outlines all fees and is signed by both parties. Do not rely on verbal agreements for any dealings with Canadian immigration representatives.

3. How long is our retainer/contract good for? Does it cover the entire immigration process or just a part?

Before signing your retainer agreement or contract, make sure you know how long it will last compared to the stated or anticipated processing time of your intended immigration program.

For example, if you are applying through the spousal sponsorship stream of family class immigration, your application processing will likely take 12 months or more from the date your application is submitted. If your legal retainer only lasts for six months, that should tell you something is wrong.

Express Entry Pro-tip: Some lawyers and consultants will charge you one fee for the creation of your Express Entry profile and an entirely new fee for the application after your ITA. Make sure that your contract covers everything… And consider completing your Express Entry profile by yourself, it’s manageable on your own!

4. Do you offer one-time consultations?

Most reputable consultants and lawyers who offer personal immigration services will offer one-time consultations. A one-time consultation allows you to book a meeting with the consultant or lawyer and review your personal details and your immigration needs in Canada. The consultant or lawyer will determine your best options and review them with you. At this point, if you want assistance with the application process, you can sign a retainer agreement to have the consultant or lawyer manage your application. Many lawyers and consultants are kind enough to deduct the cost of the initial consultation from the typical fee they charge, should you wish to sign a retainer with them.

Sometimes this type of consultation is not necessary. For example, if you already know you’re eligible for a program and you know that you want assistance. But, beware if a lawyer or consultant refuses to offer a one-time consultation to review your options — this could be a red flag!

women sitting and writing

5. Which immigration program may be right for me and why?

Before signing a contract to work with a consultant or lawyer, the representative should be able to tell you which program is best for you and why. Be careful of consultants or lawyers who try to prescribe a single program or who cannot explain to your satisfaction why the particular program is best for you.

6. What are my chances of success through this program?

Take note: no reputable consultant or lawyer can guarantee your success in an immigration program. If someone guarantees with 100 percent confidence that they will get you a visa, be careful! This is a big red flag.

However, a consultant or lawyer should be able to give you some idea of your chances before you sign a contract. This is most relevant to you if you’re applying through Express Entry. Express Entry is extremely competitive, so, while you might meet the eligibility requirements for a program, this does not necessarily mean you’ll ultimately be successful in obtaining a visa or work or study permit, as the case may be.

If you want to apply through Express Entry, ensure that your consultant or lawyer can tell you your approximate CRS score and whether or not you’re in the competitive range to receive an invitation to apply. If you’re not currently in a competitive range, you should receive reassurance that there are ways to potentially increase your points total, or perhaps pursue other immigration options as well.

7. Are my family members eligible to apply? If I include them will your fees increase?

Many immigration programs allow you to include your family members on the application. However, you should not assume that this is the case for the program that may be best for you. Check with your consultant or lawyer if you can include your family members on the application.

If the answer is ‘yes’, then make sure you check how this will impact the cost of services. While adding family members can create additional work for your representative, any increase in cost should be somewhat proportional to the increase in their workload.

If you’re still unsure about working with a lawyer or a consultant, check out our article on the red flags to watch out for from fraudulent consultants and lawyers.

About the author

Hugo O'Doherty profile picture

Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
Read more about Hugo O'Doherty
Citation "Seven questions to ask before hiring a Canadian immigration consultant or lawyer." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation