Can you tell me if I am eligible to come and stay in Canada? I don’t know where to start.
Good question! The immigration system in Canada is complex and there are a number of options. As a first step, the Government of Canada’s eligibility questionnaire and Citizenship and Immigration Help Centre are great places to start.
In broad terms, there are three ways to become a permanent resident in Canada: economic programs, family class and refugees. Each of these is quite different and there are often changes to the program criteria so the Government’s web sites are the best source for up to date information. We are able to meet with you discuss your options and walk you though all of the required information.
How much does it cost?
We appreciate that immigration can be an expensive undertaking and legal fees are a significant cost for most families. We often work with clients within a budget and are able to develop plan together.
Before we can provide an estimate of the cost for your particular matter, we will meet for a consultation. Our standard consultation fee is $150 which is for a 30 to 45 minute in person meeting to review any documents you have and receive advice on your situation. In addition to legal fees, there are expenses such as couriers, translation and other experts as well as government processing fees.
We are serious about ensuring all people have access to justice and regularly take legal aid files. Legal Aid Alberta is able to refer immigration cases to our office that meet their eligibility criteria. Free advice is also available on certain immigration and refugee matters through Edmonton Community Legal Centre, where members of our team have volunteered in the past.
How long will it take for me to get my application processed?
Unfortunately, immigration is a significant undertaking and there are a number of time consuming steps involved. The Government of Canada publishes average processing times and we can often use these as a guideline. We are experienced in preparing application packages and are often able to meet tight timelines however it will depend on the complexity of the case involved. During the processing period, we can act as your representative and ensure that a prompt reply is given to any information requests that come up.
Why should I choose an immigration lawyer? Can’t I just complete an application myself?
Certainly there are many people who complete immigration applications on their own or with the help of a family member. Many of the government forms are straight forward and the Government of Canada has made significant efforts to improve their website and online application portal. For many people with a relatively straight forward situation this is an excellant option.
An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to quickly assess your situation and provide you with advice on the best approach to proceed. This includes deciding on what type of application is mostly likely to be successful. During an immigration consultation, it could be that the best way forward is for a client to complete their own application with some additional support documents, such as a statutory declaration.
If your decision is to have a representative complete and file your application you can have the peace of mind that you have an experienced and professional partner in the immigration process. During the processing period there are often requests for additional information or documentation and having a representative will ensure that those requests are answered promptly and correctly.
What is the difference between an immigration lawyer and an immigration consultant?
Due to issues of exploitation of vulnerable people in the immigration system, anyone who provides Canadian immigration or citizenship advice for a fee must be a lawyer or a registered as a consultant through the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). The Government of Canada has produced a short video to help identify and avoid fraudulent consultants. Be especially cautious of anyone who guarantees a successful application or who claims they have a ‘special’ way to achieve status quickly.
Registered immigration consultants will manage the preparation of a range of application packages and are often a lower cost choice depending on the complexity of the file. Registered consultants have undergone police background checks, completed an accredited immigration practitioner’s program and passed a skills exam. Consultants are also able to represent individuals before boards and in certain types of appeal hearings.
Lawyers are experts in Canada’s immigration laws and are better able to handle more complex cases. As they are governed by Provincial law societies, they can offer you a fully confidential, accountable, and professional service. In the case of appeals to the Federal Court, a lawyer is the only authorized representative. You can verify that an individual is a practicing lawyer in Alberta and member in good standing through the Law Society of Alberta website. A lawyer who regularly handles immigration matters will have the knowledge and experience to help you develop a strategy for success.