Immigration Consultants Are Now Regulated

April 13, 2006 marks a significant date for non-lawyer immigration representatives in Canada. By Thursday, all “immigration consultants”, as they have come to be known, must have at least attempted to meet the standards that have been set by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) for full membership in order to continue to practice.

In late 2003, the then-Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Denis Coderre, announced a plan to regulate immigration consultants. Until then, anyone who wanted to could call themselves an immigration consultant and represent, for a fee, clients applying for immigration. Immigration lawyers, public interest groups and many consultants themselves had found this to be unacceptable.

Prior to CSIC, clients of unscrupulous consultants who had been ripped off or given incompetent representation had few options available to them. Given that prospective immigrants are often in a vulnerable position with respect to the Canadian legal system because of a lack of language ability and the fact that they are usually overseas and unable to access Canadian courts, a workable regulatory system was needed to ensure consumer protection.


After considerable efforts on the part of voluntary organizations representing consultants and the issuance of several reports over the years by various government and parliamentary committees calling for regulation, it finally became a reality.

From April 2004 until now, all members of CSIC, an independent, non-profit organization, have been what are called “transitional members”. As the transition period is ending on Thursday, members who have met the requirements for full membership, which include English or French language testing and a comprehensive test of competency, will become full members. Thereafter, full members will be allowed to identify themselves according to the designation Certified Canadian Immigration Consultant (CCIC). (Those who have attempted these tests but not yet met the required standard have until October 31, 2006 to re-write and pass the exams.)

(Full disclosure: Over the course of the last five months, I have done some communications work for CSIC. However, this column was neither commissioned nor paid for by CSIC. As well, I am a member of CSIC myself.)

For those seeking the assistance of someone in the field of immigration, this is all fairly good news. In the very near future, consumers can be assured that all certified immigration consultants will have a professional level of knowledge, competence and language ability.

If you are considering hiring someone to act on your behalf (or on behalf of your family member) you should check to ensure this person is either a Canadian lawyer (i.e., a member of one of Canada’s provincial law societies) or a member of CSIC. These are the only individuals now legally authorized to represent applicants applying for immigration to Canada. Each CSIC member is issued a membership number that they can provide you as proof of membership.

The main goal of regulating immigration consultants is to protect the public, specifically those in need of immigration services of some kind. As noted, many of these individuals are overseas and may have difficulty accessing information as to who can or cannot act on their behalf. CSIC has set up an informative website,, which lists all of their members as well as how to lodge a complaint if you are dissatisfied with the services that have been provided by a CSIC member.

For regulation to be a success, the Canadian public, as well as those interested in becoming Canadians, need to be properly informed. If unregulated consultants continue to be hired by individuals seeking immigration services, whether out of ignorance or deception, the regulatory system will not have its desired effect. Consumers ultimately need to be responsible for the choices they make. At this time, CSIC is primarily focused on regulating its members; therefore, if a consumer hires a non-CSIC member consultant they are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position with respect to consumer protection.

Regulation of consultants was long overdue when it finally was enacted two years ago. I believe it is in everyone’s interest that it is a success and that those seeking immigration services have proper assurance that they will get competent representation when they hire a certified consultant to act on their behalf. The immigration consulting industry will be healthier because of regulation and consumers will be better served by it.