Hiring an immigration lawyer is a critical part of the immigration process. For those moving to Canada, and hoping to settle in Ontario, finding the right immigration lawyer can be the difference between an approved immigration application and a rejected one.
To help you find the right immigration lawyer, we’ve put together this list of questions to ask so you can avoid fraudulent actors and ensure your application process runs as smoothly as possible.
How Long Have They Been Practicing Immigration Law?
Lawyers all over Canada are well educated and trained in Canadian Law. But in this instance, you will want someone who is well versed in immigration law. The more years of experience the lawyer has, the more likely they will be able to handle any twists and turns that can arise from your case.
This does not mean that lawyers with only a few years of experience are not good enough. You can’t hit 20 years of experience without first hitting 2. Some of the other questions on this list will give you a better picture.
What Are Their Credentials?
Ask your potential lawyer where they attended law school. From there, you can do a little research on the school to ensure that it is a credible and respected law school.
It is also a good idea to ensure that the immigration lawyer is in good standing with the provincial bar association. You can search for the lawyer in the database for the Ontario Law Society. This will help you understand a little more about the lawyer’s abilities and work history.
How Much Are Their Immigration Lawyer Fees?
A good immigration lawyer in Ontario will be able to lay out their fees for you clearly in a contract. They should be able to describe exactly what their fees are and what you receive in return for that cost.
If your lawyer is being vague about fees and is not upfront about the cost to you, you may want to consider going elsewhere.
It is important to note that not all of your required costs will be included in this breakdown.
There may be, for example, processing fees, courier fees, and government fees on top of the immigration lawyer fees. While some of these fees are subject to change and out of the lawyer’s control, they should be able to give you a rough estimate of what these costs will be, if any.
How Are Fees Billed?
In the contract that breaks down your fees, you should also see a payment structure. This will tell you how much you are expected to pay and when.
There are some questions about how your fees will be billed. If it is not clear, find out:
- Do the fees include taxes?
- Is there a guarantee of work to be completed between payments?
- When and how will you submit payments?
Make sure that everything you discuss regarding payments is put in writing and signed by both parties. As wonderful and trustworthy as your lawyer may be, relying on verbal agreements is not safe. A contract or a retainer agreement will provide protection. It will establish mutual obligations.
Does Their Retainer/Contract Cover the Entire Immigration Process or Just a Part?
Immigration processes can take a long time and it is important to understand the duration of your legal support so you can properly weigh your options.
Some immigration processes have incredibly long processing times. A spousal application, for example, can take 12 months or more from the time the application is submitted. If your retainer or contract is for a shorter period of time, then you may find yourself in trouble down the line.
It is best to find an immigration lawyer that will work with you for the entire process.
What Is the Process if You Decide to Hire Them?
The truth is, hiring a Canadian immigration lawyer is not the end of your involvement in the process.
Many of the details of your application can only be provided by you. In other words, your active participation is required.
Once you identify a lawyer you are comfortable with and have worked through the fee structure and gone through your list of questions to ask a Canadian immigration lawyer, the process can begin.
When you ask this question, the lawyer should be able to walk you through the actual process for your application type. They should be able to tell you what information and documents they will need from you and when they will need them. They should also be able to give you a rough timeline of your process.
An exact timeline is impossible to provide as there are many factors that can slow down the application process. But generally speaking, if you have everything ready and can supply it to the lawyer when requested, the process should run smoothly.
How Often Will They Contact/Update You?
Because immigration applications can take months or years to complete, it is not necessarily reasonable to expect weekly contact from your immigration lawyer. The paperwork can be held up in administration and it is unlikely that your lawyer will have anything to report.
However, you should have a reasonable expectation that your immigration lawyer is available to take your call or respond to email messages. They should contact you with updates when they are available.
Which Immigration Program Is Best for My Situation?
There are several different paths for immigration in Canada. But some may be a better fit for your situation than others.
Your immigration lawyer should be able to assess your situation, determine the best immigration program, and tell you why this is the best option.
There is not a one size fits all immigration program and your lawyer should not act as if there is. Look for a lawyer that clearly understands your circumstances and factors this into their decision-making.
Have They Handled Similar Cases to Yours?
No two immigration cases are the same as the circumstances are unique to the individuals involved. However, some applications are more complicated than others and if you are concerned, this is a valid question.
If you have a criminal record, for example, and are worried about the impact this may have on your case, it is important to know whether or not your immigration lawyer has experience with this.
It is important to keep in mind, however, previous success in a case like yours does not necessarily mean that your case will have the same result. The approval of immigration applications comes down to the visa officer reviewing your case. So, while a lawyer that has handled cases similar to yours is an asset, it is not a guarantee that your application will be successful.
What Are My Chances of Success?
As mentioned above, there are no guarantees when it comes to immigration applications and no reputable lawyer will offer one.
However, a lawyer should be able to ascertain your chances and give you some idea before you sign a contract.
This is especially important if you are applying through Express Entry. This program is extremely competitive and simply meeting the minimum criteria may not be enough. Your lawyer should be able to tell you whether or not you are in a competitive position by approximating your score in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). From here, you may be able to discuss ways to potentially increase your score if you currently fall outside of the competitive range.
Trust RBHF with Your Immigration Application
Knowing and understanding what to ask an immigration lawyer is key to finding the right representative for you.
Above is a list of questions to ask a Canadian immigration lawyer that should serve as your foundation. Do not be afraid to ask follow-up questions or questions that pertain to your situation that are not found on this list.
Your immigration is important and you should feel comfortable with your immigration consultant.
At RBHF Professional Corporation, we understand that every case is different and will work with you to determine the best path forward before beginning the application process.
Our years of experience in immigration law mean that we can easily answer your questions and will tailor our services to suit each case that crosses our desks.
Applying for immigration into Canada can be a stressful time but with RBHF, you can trust that your application is being handled with both care and expertise.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your immigration application.