Canadian Immigration Consultants and Immigration Lawyers | What is the difference?

Canadian Immigration Consultants and Immigration Lawyers | What is the difference?

Immigration is a large part of Canada’s history and culture. According to the 2016 census, over 21.9% of the Canadian population was foreign-born. Canada continues to be a welcoming country for immigrants looking for new opportunities, reuniting with family, and for refugees looking for security from oppression.

To protect the public from immigration fraud, the government strictly regulates who can and cannot offer immigration services. Below, we’ll go over authorized representatives who can legally advise you on your immigration application.

Types of Authorized Representatives

In regards to your immigration and citizenship application, there are two types of authorized representatives.

  • Unpaid
  • Paid

Who are Unpaid Authorized (Immigration) Representatives?

Unpaid representatives can offer the same services as paid representatives but as the name suggests, there must be zero compensation for those services. Due to the zero compensation rule, most representatives in this category are family and friends.

Who are Authorized Paid (Immigration) Representatives?

Paid representatives must be authorized to represent you and offer immigration advice. Authorized paid representatives are:

  • Lawyers who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society.
  • Paralegals who are members in good standing of the Law Society of Ontario. Currently, Ontario is the only province in Canada that has regulated the paralegal profession.
  • Notaries who are members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec
  • Registered Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) who are in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC)

The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) does not work with unauthorized representatives. If an unauthorized representative submits your application, the IRCC may return your application.

Check to see if your representative is authorized

CIC was renamed to IRCC

What is the difference between Registered Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC), Lawyers, and Paralegals?

Aside from a few rotten apples, there are plenty of great lawyers, RCICs, paralegals, and notaries who can help you with your immigration application. However, it is sometimes difficult to understand the differences in these professions and ultimately, what it means for you.

Here are the top 3 things that differentiates these professions:

  • Education
  • Services and,
  • Regulatory Body

Registered Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC)

Education: To become an RCIC, a person must take a highly specialized immigration program at an accredited college. After obtaining a diploma, they are eligible to complete a certification exam conducted by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). Only after passing this exam, will the person become an RCIC. This entire process usually takes 1 year.

Services: RCICs can advise you on navigating the complex immigration programs that you are eligible for. They help write immigration applications, citizenship applications, sponsorship applications, work permits, study permits, refugee cases, asylum cases, appeals, and more. Furthermore, RCICs can represent you at your tribunal for your hearing.

Regulatory Body: RCICs are regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). Every RCIC will have a seven-digit code that identifies them as an RCIC. RCICs must be in good standing with the ICCRC to practice immigration.

Canadian Lawyers


Gavel Representing Lawyers

Education: Canadian lawyers, or attorneys, must attend law school and obtain a three-year law degree. They are also required to pass the bar exam and go through months of articling where they obtain hands-on experience under the supervision of a lawyer.

Services: Lawyers are authorized to do all the things an RCIC does. Although rare, they are also able to apply for Judicial Review and represent you in Federal Court. Additionally, they can offer you legal advice or draft legal documents.

Regulatory Body: Canadian lawyers are regulated by Canadian provincial or territorial law societies. All lawyers must be registered at their respective provincial or territorial law society and be in good standing. Here is the full list of law societies in Canda:

Paralegals (Ontario only)

Education: To become a paralegal in Ontario, a person must complete an education program from an accredited college. There are three options in this category:

  • Paralegal Certificate: This can usually be completed in one year.
  • Paralegal Diploma: This can usually be completed in two years.
  • Paralegal Degree: This can usually be completed in four years.

After finishing the education program, all paralegal candidates must complete a seven-hour Paralegal Licensing Exam.

Services: Paralegals who are licensed by the Law Society of Ontario can appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to represent a client or clients in an IRB hearing. They can also provide legal services to clients for matters relating to an IRB hearing. Drafting of documents or other legal services that are not related to an IRB hearing remains outside of a Paralegal’s scope of practice.

Regulatory Body: Ontario is the only province in Canada that has regulated the paralegal profession. Paralegals in Ontario are regulated by the Law Society of Ontario. All paralegals must be registered and be in good standing.

Who Is Better? RCICs vs Immigration Lawyers

When considering the information above, you can see that while RCICs get specialized education regarding immigration, lawyers study law for a longer period and may ultimately offer a wider range of services. This includes the application for judicial review and representation at federal court. Representation at federal court can be a very important factor when there is a high likelihood that your application might end up there. However, in most situations, very minimal cases go to federal court. Many applicants choose to re-apply at a later date instead of going through the hardship and uncertainty of long and costly court procedures.

A lot of material that is available on the internet about RCICs and Lawyers can be biased. At ImmiSearch, we work directly with both RCICs and lawyers and can confidently say that one profession is not better than the other. We like to say that it is not about the profession but more about the individual. We frequently find that being a lawyer or RCIC isn’t directly tied to a better service. Factors that create a high-quality service are individual levels of experience, professionalism, and business ethics.

Another important factor in choosing an authorized representative is cost. It is generally true that on average, RCICs tend to charge less than lawyers. However, this is not always the case and we recommend doing your due diligence to do research and get an understanding of what the market rate is.

Choices Image

How Can I Find a Canadian Immigration Lawyer or RCIC?

It is becoming increasingly important to learn how to distinguish RCICs and lawyers from unauthorized representatives. Each year, thousands of those who wish to come to Canada are being scammed of their life savings. Here, we will go through the best practices for finding your representative.

As we discussed above, when comparing RCICs and immigration lawyers, you cannot say one is better over the other. The question should be directed around the individual professional. There are over a hundred immigration programs in Canada and it’s near impossible for a professional to be an expert in all. Lawyers and RCICs tend to specialize in certain programs and this must be taken into account when choosing the right representative for yourself. When you’re looking for potential representatives, be sure to ask about their experience, research their website, and read their reviews to get an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Immigration lawyers and RCICs must be in good standing at their respective regulatory bodies. Many people searching for authorized representatives don’t know this and end up being scammed by fake consultants and lawyers all around the world. Before choosing a representative, always make sure to do your due diligence by checking their status with the regulatory bodies.

RCICs are regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). You can easily search their RCIC directory to see if someone is truly an RCIC. At ImmiSearch, we always recommend checking their business name, email, and phone number because some fake consultants will lie and try to steal an RCIC’s identity.

Lawyers and paralegals on the other hand are regulated by Canadian provincial or territorial law societies. You can visit your provincial or territorial law society website to search their directory.

If you’re having a hard time finding the right authorized representative or checking the identity of a potential representative, there are businesses like ImmiSearch that help connect you to RCICs and lawyers. We make sure our partners are pre-vetted and legally authorized to be your representative. You can easily search for experienced representatives by specializations and spoken languages to cater to your needs.

It is very important to note that no one can guarantee success on your immigration application. If a representative or business makes a statement of this nature, it is in your best interest to find an alternative professional to represent you.

Have you ever hired an immigration lawyer or RCIC to represent you? What was your experience? Leave your comments below!

Canadian Immigration Consultants and Immigration Lawyers | What is the difference?
Kevin Lee
CEO & Co-founder of ImmiSearch
February 21, 2019