The Canadian Governments plans to gain more control over immigration consultants’ activities, has led to the new Bill C-35, formerly called the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act coming into force on June 30, 2011.
In addition to this, there is a new regulatory body for the consultant community in the newly created Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). The Council is a non-profit organization created in response to a public selection process. Its objective is to regulate immigration consultants with accountability and transparency.
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney introduced Bill C-35 to combat the problems with immigration consultants stating that “The Government of Canada has promised to crack down on crooked immigration consultants and their shady practices, and with Bill C-35, we now have the tools,”
With the designation of the ICCRC as the new regulator of immigration consultants, consultants who were formally members in good standing of the former regulator, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) were able to register with the ICCRC.
Background to Changes
The main aim of the government was to take aim at several issues, including barriers to sharing information on problematic consultants, the lack of specific sanctions, and the regulatory loophole that has led to an increase in unlicensed consultants, nicknamed “ghost agents.” Most cases involving ghost consultants result in misleading or fraudulent advice, exorbitant fees and false promises given to the public.
The problem arises when a third party, an agent or one of the numerous immigration companies offering Canadian Immigration services in the media or online provides immigration advice or representation for a fee directly to a client. Many of these individuals are not authorized immigration representatives.
Bill C-35 and the Need for Consumer Protection
Bill C-35 is intended to strengthen the rules governing those who charge their clients for immigration advice or representation, making it an offence for anyone other than an accredited immigration representative to conduct business, for a fee or other consideration, at any stage of an application or proceeding. It also increases penalties and fines for unauthorized representation and allows for more government oversight in order to improve the way in which immigration consultants are regulated.
In particular, it includes the pre-application stage meaning that, in order to ensure the quality of their services, these third parties must now be accredited if they want to provide advice for a fee, represent the applicant during an immigration proceeding by speaking on their behalf and also providing guidance to a client on how to select the best immigration stream and complete the appropriate forms.
With the coming into force of Bill C-35, third parties who were not formerly required to be recognized to provide paid advice will now have to refer people to an authorized representative or become authorized themselves.
If an agent is recognized by the ICCRC, the agent should only be acting as referral agents for the authorized representative; they should not be giving any advice directly to a client, or conducting the actual business of the authorized representative. If this is the case ICCRC have stated they are in breach of their agent agreement and the consumer is not protected.
Who can assist the public with immigration work?
There are only two types of immigration representatives that a person should deal with (paid or unpaid representatives):
Paid immigration representatives
Only the following people may charge a fee, to represent or advise in connection with a Canadian immigration proceeding or application:
- 1. Immigration consultants who are members in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council
- 2. Notaries who are members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec, and
- 3. Lawyers and paralegals who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society
The Government of Canada will not deal with non-authorized immigration representatives who charge for their services.
Unpaid immigration third parties
Unpaid third parties, such as family members, friends, non-governmental or religious organizations will still be allowed to act on a person’s behalf.
An individual should always ensure they are getting immigration advice, signing a retainer and paying a fee directly to the authorized representative, not the third party to ensure consumer protection.
The duties an authorized immigration representative can carry out for a fee or other consideration through the implementation of Bill C-35 include:
- · Explain and provide advice on someone’s immigration options
- · Provide guidance to someone on how to select the best immigration stream and complete the appropriate forms
- · Communicate with Immigration governmental departments on someone’s behalf
- · Represent someone in an immigration application or proceeding
- · Represent someone in Arranged Employment Opinion or Labour Market Opinion applications
- · Advertise that they can provide immigration advice
To find out if an immigration consultant, lawyer, notary or paralegal is licensed to represent you or to provide you with immigration advice, you must first know which of these organizations they belong to:
- · the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council
- · the Chambre des notaires du Québec
- · a Canadian provincial or territorial law society
You can check if they are members in good standing on their regulators website.
For further information and to find an ICCRC Regulated Immigration Consultant based in the UK, please visit www.canadavisa.co.uk.
Article with thanks to Samantha Skerrett of www.migratenulife.com