Benefits of Using an Authorized Immigration Practitioner
What are the different steps to immigrating to Canada?
An annual study of 80 countries conducted by U.S. news outlets, in partnership with Y&R’s BAV and Wharton, recently identified 65 attributes that could best determine a modern country’s success. Canada ranked as the second-best country in the world and the best in terms of quality of life. In other words, Canada is as attractive as ever! Canada stands for a healthy democracy, political stability, excellent education and health systems, and the successful integration of myriad cultures into Canadian society with the help of its distinctive tolerance.
These traits are reflected by the millions of people who want to immigrate to Canada. According to the Government of Canada’s 3-year immigration plan, the goal for 2018 is 310,000 permanent residents, while 330,000 and an almost record high of 340,000 permanent residents are the targets for 2019 and 2020 respectively. These total annual numbers are split into four main categories: 1) Economic Programs; 2) Family Class; 3) Refugees and Protected Persons; and 4) Humanitarian & Others. To give you an idea of the distribution, the following number of visas is planned for 2018: 177,500 for Economic Class; 86,000 for Family Class; 43,000 for Refugees/Protected Persons; and 3,500 for Humanitarian & Others. These main categories are divided into many sub-categories (especially the economic programs), which are in turn divided into numerous immigration programs.
So the question then becomes: what are the different steps to immigrating to Canada? The first step is to determine which main category to apply under (e.g. refugee, Family Class, Economic Class, etc.), and the second is which immigration program sub-category you qualify for and which offers the highest chance of success. The third step involves matching the specific immigration process to the immigration program you choose. What must be prepared and in what way? What are the potential pitfalls that could lead to delays or even refusal? It is also at this stage that you must determine whether you want to apply independently or whether you need the assistance of an authorized immigration practitioner. Let us have a closer look at the defined steps and their attendant challenges.
Refugee, Family, Economic, or Humanitarian?
This is probably the easiest decision to make as it is straightforward in most cases, although sometimes there might be multiple choices. For instance, a successful businessman might have a close romantic relationship with a Canadian or permanent resident, and both Economic Class or Family Class might apply. This type of situation is typically resolved, however, in subsequent steps, when reviewing the program obligations, processing times, necessary preparations, and personal preferences.
Which Immigration Program, s'il vous plaît?
Now that the main category has been determined, the next step involves the selection of the immigration program. In the Economic Class alone there is a plethora of available immigration programs, each one with its own requirements, which give rise to a specific set of new questions:
- Skilled worker, skilled trade, or business?
- Federal, Quebec, or Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)?
- If PNP, which province, and which of the provincial programs?
- Are there any pilot programs?
- Do I meet the program requirements and can I prove this with appropriate documentation? What is the appropriate documentation?
- Are there differences in the processing time and the process? (For example, provincial applications still require that a federal application for a medical and security check be filed after provincial acceptance)
- Is the Express Entry category involved? (It is now standard for skilled worker and business applications)
- If yes, would there be a realistic chance of being invited to apply after the Express Entry registration?
- How can I improve my chances of being invited to apply?
- In addition, are there any past problems with the Canadian immigration authorities or old immigration applications?
- What are the chances of medical or criminal inadmissibility?
And so on.
As for the other main categories, the focus should be on meeting the specific immigration program requirements and increasing the likelihood of success. For example, you might ask: what can I do to anticipate all the requirements of an application?
The Application Process
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been trying for at least 20-plus years to make the application process simpler, but it has not really worked. With each problem successfully solved, a new one crops up. It would seem that creating a perfect and simple application process is simply out of reach.
Presently the transition to online applications is almost complete, but inherited flaws such as checklists that fail to reflect an applicant’s personal situation remain. Nonetheless, the preparation of appropriate documentation is essential to avoid delays or apply successfully. For example, a work reference letter in a skilled worker application can be the difference between acceptance and refusal. Likewise, a business plan in entrepreneur applications must abide by well-established standards and the concept must meet provincial needs. Potential problems with medical or criminal inadmissibility should be addressed with supporting documents according to existing immigration legislation and case law.
Authorized Immigration Practitioner (AP)
The steps outlined above illustrate that the application process is complex. So, how can an authorized immigration practitioner help you?
The time to consider AP assistance is at the very beginning, when you are considering immigrating to Canada. A consultation with a successful, experienced AP can literally save you thousands of dollars, along with time, stress, and the disappointment of refusal. An AP can help create an immigration strategy based on an applicant’s personal situation that will provide direction, and a roadmap with details is worth any consultation fee. Unfortunately, consultations regularly occur only after an applicant has been following the wrong steps for many years, at which stage negative blemishes are irreversible. In my experience there have been post-graduate students who threw away their ticket to Canada by failing to fulfil the requirements, or business applicants who were stuck in a provincial Express Entry registration with little chance of being invited to apply for immigration.
With these examples I am merely trying to give a sense of the potential challenges an applicant may face in going it alone. In my opinion, hiring an AP is akin to hiring a tax consultant to file your annual taxes; some people feel they can do it themselves, while others feel more comfortable with an expert at their side. After a consultation, an applicant can decide whether to apply independently or with the representation of an authorized immigration practitioner.
But even the most comfortable of independent applicants can encounter unanticipated problems. For example, a DWI (driving while intoxicated) is not a criminal offense in Germany, but it certainly is in Canada. One case from 15 years ago involved a sudden letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to an applicant threatening to close the file on criminal inadmissibility grounds, because a past DWI had been overlooked by the applicant and not considered serious. In another, an officer concludes that an applicant should be refused because a prior medical examination showed health problems that might cause excessive demand on health and social services. In another still, a federal or provincial skilled worker’s reference letter reflects an incomplete or invalid National Occupation Classification. An officer might even consider misrepresentation on the grounds that the information provided in the application differs from information provided in a separate application for a U.S. visitor visa from five years ago. In such cases it is highly advisable to obtain the counsel of an experienced immigration practitioner.
You may have noticed that I repeatedly use the term “authorized practitioner,” which implies its opposite. Indeed, some applicants, especially outside Canada, fall victim to unscrupulous, unauthorized individuals posing as immigration consultants or immigration lawyers. It is easy to avoid this most unpleasant and costly experience by simply checking an AP’s credentials beforehand. Any authorized practitioner must be registered in good standing with either the immigration consultant regulatory body – the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) – or a provincial law society. You can find this information, along with the membership register, on their respective websites.