Starting April 13, all immigration consultants must be licensed

Opinion & Analysis Apr 16, 2004 at 4:42 pm

Canadian Immigration Views
By Berto Volpentesta

Today, Judy Sgro, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Anne McLellan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced new regulations that will, on April 13, 2004, stipulate that the Government of Canada will only recognize an immigration
representative who is a member of a self-regulating association.

This is a follow up to the December 19, 2003 announcement of proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that would define which representatives may or may not represent, advise or consult with a person in a proceeding before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) or in applying with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

On April 13, 2003 the changes take effect and it means that anyone doing any immigration counseling for a fee must be a member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) (www.csic.ca) (the self-regulating body for immigration consultants) or a member of a provincial bar association (the self-regulating body for lawyers). This means that clients who hire a representative who is not licensed (a member of a self-regulating association) would have their applications returned by CIC and similarly, clients appearing before the IRB would be treated as not represented.

It is often a good idea to retain a consultant for immigration matters and for many years immigrants have been hiring consultants to help with some very important matter. Unfortunately, too often, the so-called consultants were less than competent, not accountable, and in many cases, just plain crooks. With no barriers to working as an immigration consultant, no requirement for professionalism and no regulation, the immigration consulting industry had become fraught with serious problems such as lack of accountability, lack of competency, profiteering, misrepresentations and out and out cheating.
No doubt these elements have brought a bad name to immigration consultants in general.

With the regulations immigration consultants will be required to maintain professional standards that include a code of conduct, competency, language proficiency, ongoing professional development, accountability to clients and to the Society, submission to disciplinary measures and insurance for errors and omissions. Clients will be able to determine if the consultant they want to use is licensed or not by referring to the Society’s website at www.csic.ca.

If the consultant is not listed there, the consultant is not allowed to represent clients and they should be reported to the authorities if they continue to try to practice without a license.

An immigration consultant that is choosing not to become a member of CSIC may be indicating that they are not going to continue practicing immigration and will begin closing their operations. If they choose to continue practicing (either beyond their current cases or by accepting new cases) without becoming members they would be doing so in contravention of the regulations. Clients would be wise steer clear of these operators (whether in Canada or abroad) as they clearly can not be trusted with such important matters and clients will have no recourse when their case winds up terribly wrong.
CSIC has been accepting intentions to register from immigrations consultants since January 2004. Starting April 13, 2004 these intentions become application for Transitional Membership to the Society. Individuals who are Transitional Members will be issued numbers and their names will appear on the CSIC website.

Many consultants have been fearful of this process for many reasons. Some have legitimate concerns, but others simply fear being identified as incompetent and being forced to stop taking advantage of people. Some consultants have been fighting hard to put a stop to these regulations and CSIC. In my view, a consultant who has not yet registered should be viewed with a careful eye. After all, why would you not become a licensed professional?

Over the next two years Transitional Members of CSIC will be expected to complete other requirements to become Members of CSIC. This will include a professional standards exam.

This is in an effort to ensure competent and qualified professionals who are accountable are representing clients. The next months will be a very telling story. It will be interesting to see the refinement of the professionals in this industry and finally bring a certain level of comfort for clients.
I have been an immigration consultant for more than thirteen years