The Difference Between Immigration Law Firms and Immigration Consultants

By Andy Semotiuk | February 11, 2011

With the recent suspension of consular services in Egypt, those seeking answers to immigration questions should make sure that they are receiving good advice from reputable sources. Indeed, as Marwa pointed out last week, there are some unethical people that will take advantage of turmoil and uncertainty for their own gain.

In the past year, a number of cases of immigration fraud have come to light in Canada. In Windsor, Ontario, an immigration consultant was charged with 11 counts of fraud, with the RCMP stating that the consultant fleeced a number of people for between $2000 and $100,000. In July, 2010, another immigration consultant who advertised in community papers in Toronto was charged with six counts of fraud. In British Columbia, an immigration consultant was charged with fraud and forgery for allegedly providing people with fake school documents.

Does this mean all immigration consultants are dishonest? No. But it should lead people to be wary of whom they are dealing with when making decisions on something as life-changing as immigration.

For this reason, I thought it would be prudent to discuss the difference between immigration law firms and immigration advisers or consultants.

Unlike immigration consultants, law firms are governed by law societies, bar associations, and a code of ethics that enforce ethical behaviour. Law firms in Canada must carry insurance, which protects clients against losses. In the United States, most jurisdictions require insurance, or at least require lawyers to disclose whether or not they are insured. This provides a level of comfort to clients that is not available when dealing with immigration advisers/consultants.

Law firms are required to maintain privacy and to protect client privilege. Thus, they cannot share their client’s information with anybody. Those employed by law firms have also been trained in the law and are well versed in the procedures required to comply with all federal regulations. They are bound by their code of conduct to make truthful representations to the government and to avoid misrepresentations that can ultimately destroy a case if it is uncovered.

Finally, only lawyers are accredited to file immigration appeals in cases where applications have been rejected, so immigrants can correct legal errors. Sometimes, this can include humanitarian submissions to prevail in the Federal Courts or other immigration appeal tribunals.

These are all matters that distinguish law firms from those carrying titles like consultants, advisers, notary publics, or notarios.

Not all firms are perfect, of course, but the foregoing reasons suggest it makes good sense to use an immigration law firm for your case. In short, be wary of paying big money and large upfront fees, or believing in “quick and easy solutions.” Never deal with just anybody you see in the papers for your immigration matters. Beware of rumours about how someone else succeeded so fast, and of people who know how to do immigration because “they learned it themselves.” More often than not, any of these situations will lead to an unhappy conclusion.