Information about Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants
What is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC)?
A RCIC is an individual who is a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). RCICs who are in good standing with ICCRC are recognized as authorized representatives and are permitted under Canadian law (the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Citizenship Act) to provide Canadian immigration and/or citizenship advice and/or representation for a fee or other consideration.
As an authorized representative, a RCIC can support and assist clients who are seeking to study, work or live in Canada. They can also provide additional services for clients in Canada such as assist with citizenship applications, extending visitor visas, etc.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will not deal with representatives who charge a fee but are not authorized to do so under Canadian law. If you use an unauthorized representative, in Canada or abroad, IRCC may return your application or refuse it.
To verify that an individual is a RCIC in good standing with ICCRC, type his/her name into ICCRC’s on-line Registry.
RCICs are trained professionals who have met ICCRC’s entry-to-practice standards, who possess detailed knowledge of Canada’s immigration policies and procedures, and who are required to meet ICCRC’s ongoing professional development standards. An individual providing immigration and/or citizenship advice and/or representation for a fee or other consideration, who is not an authorised representative is violating Canadian law and is not someone you should work with.
RCICs are bound to uphold the professional standards outlined in ICCRC’s Code of Professional Ethics and associated regulations. If you have questions about these standards, speak with your RCIC and/or contact ICCRC by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
RCICs are also required to have Errors and Omissions Insurance for enhanced consumer protection.
RCICs may have one or more agents working on their behalf. An agent is an individual or company who:
- has been appointed by a RCIC;
- represents a RCIC in furtherance of his/her practice;
- solicits or facilitates business in connection with the RCIC’s practice; and
- is registered with ICCRC as an agent of the RCIC.
Some of the ways an agent may assist an RCIC are:
- introduce you to the RCIC;
- outline the RCIC’s services; and
- facilitate the working relationship between you and the RCIC (e.g., schedule meetings between you and the RCIC, forward documents from the RCIC to you, forward documents from you to the RCIC, etc.), etc.
An agent is not an authorized representative and must not provide immigration and/or citizenship advice and/or representation for a fee or other consideration. Any assessment of your eligibility, advice regarding potential or ongoing immigration and/or citizenship applications and services provided in support of the same must be provided by the RCIC. Additionally, the RCIC is responsible for:
- entering into the retainer agreement with you;
- handling and accounting for your money; and
- creating/maintaining the client file.
The agent is paid by the RCIC for services provided to him/her according to the terms of the Agent Agreement between the two parties. Please see the Agents Regulation for more information on the nature of the working relationship between an RCIC and his/her agent.
Prior to working with an agent, we suggest that you verify that the person/company is a registered agent of the RCIC by following the steps below:
- Navigate to ICCRC’s Registry;
- Type the agent’s last name in the field titled: “Agent’s last name”; and
- Click “Search”.
What can a RCIC do for you?
A RCIC is qualified, licensed and authorized to give you advice on your immigration and/or citizenship application. A RCIC may also represent you before certain government authorities, such as IRCC, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), etc.
Some of the things a RCIC can and cannot do for you are summarized in the chart below:
|A RCIC can…||A RCIC cannot…|
|explain which immigration option(s) is(are) available to you and recommend a suitable option||influence any government agency or official to make a positive decision|
|assist you with preparing documents for your immigration and/or citizenship application||guarantee the success of your application|
|assist you with submitting a well-prepared application, complete with all required documents||guarantee faster processing of your application|
|contact IRCC, CBSA or the IRB in order to ask questions about your application on your behalf||assist you with applying for a visa if you do not meet the visa requirements|
|represent you in an immigration and/or citizenship application or hearing||provide you with a refund in the event your application is not successful and/or collect part or all of the professional fee only if the application is successful|
What can you expect from a RCIC?
Service (Advice and Representation)
RCICs have detailed knowledge of Canada’s immigration policies and procedures as they have passed ICCRC’s entrance to practice standards, including completing an Immigration Practitioner Program at an education institution accredited by ICCRC and passing ICCRC’s full skills examination. As such, RCICs can provide you with an assessment of your situation and outline your options.
Prior to commencing representation, the RCIC must sign a retainer agreement with you, whether there is a professional fee involved or not. You must authorise the RCIC to act as your representative before IRCC, CBSA or the IRB by completing the IMM 5476 form. As your representative, the RCIC can assist you with submitting an immigration and/or citizenship application and communicate with the relevant authorities on your behalf.
Initial Consultation Agreement
If you are paying the RCIC to provide you with preliminary advice and/or to assess whether you may be eligible to apply to immigrate to Canada or become a citizen of Canada, then the RCIC must provide you with a contract, known as an initial consultation agreement. An initial consultation agreement provides a written record of the purpose, fee, and date of said advice and is to be signed by both parties. Please see the Retainer Agreement Regulation for more information on the initial consultation agreement.
If you have decided that you would like to retain the consulting services of the RCIC and/or if you have agreed to have the RCIC act as your authorized representative, regardless of whether or not this is a fee-paying arrangement, then the RCIC will provide you with a contract, known as a retainer agreement. A retainer agreement sets out the terms of the business arrangement between you and the RCIC.
The retainer agreement will describe – among other things – the services to be performed by the RCIC, and the associated professional fee and disbursements (e.g., government filing fees, courier fees, etc.) for which payment must be made.
The RCIC’s professional fee will be based either on:
- a flat fee (i.e., one set amount) for services being performed, as determined by either milestones (i.e., specific tasks accomplished or services performed on your behalf) being reached or predetermined dates (i.e., a point in time at which services will have been performed on your behalf); or
- an hourly rate, whereby the RCIC records how much time he/she spends on your file and bills based on the number of hours worked and the hourly rate.
The retainer agreement will also tell you when fees need to be paid, according to the schedule of payments.
The retainer agreement will list the immigration or citizenship category under which you are applying (e.g., Spousal Sponsorship, Express Entry, etc.).
RCICs are required to provide clients with a retainer agreement which includes, at a minimum, all of the mandatory components listed in ICCRC’s Retainer Agreement Regulation.
It is recommended that you confirm, as part of the retainer agreement, how and when the RCIC will communicate with you and update you on the status of your application.
Your retainer agreement can be stopped (or terminated) by you or the RCIC or by both you and the RCIC at any time during the professional relationship. If this should happen, the retainer agreement’s refund policy would take effect and you would be refunded all fees for services which the RCIC did not provide. Similarly, you would be responsible for paying any outstanding fees owed for services the RCIC had already provided. The RCIC must promptly return to you, and no later than thirty (30) calendar days, any property that belongs to you.
You should also ensure you understand your obligations when entering into a retainer agreement with a RCIC. Carefully review the section of the retainer agreement that outlines your obligations and discuss any questions you may have with the RCIC.
ICCRC does not prescribe what professional fees RCICs may charge; however, RCICs are encouraged to consider the following when setting their professional fee:
- the type of immigration/citizenship application;
- the amount of time it will take to prepare the application (NOTE: Certain immigration/ citizenship applications take longer to prepare than others);
- the complexity of the case (e.g., if there are dependents to be added to the application, etc.);
- the experience and expertise of the RCIC;
- the market value of comparable services; and
- overhead costs (e.g., salaries, rent, utilities, etc.).
If you are concerned about the fee, as quoted to you by the RCIC, you may wish to discuss this with the RCIC prior to signing the retainer agreement. Consider talking to a few immigration/citizenship consultants about their services and fees before you choose one and sign a written contract with him/her.
- No Contingency Billing
RCICs are to be paid for the advice and/or services that they provide to you. They are not permitted to engage in contingency billing (according to section 9.ii of the Retainer Agreement Regulation). This means that RCICs may not make their fee, or even a portion of their fee, dependent upon the success of your immigration/citizenship application. Similarly, RCICs are not permitted to issue you a refund due to an application refusal. A RCIC cannot guarantee a particular outcome to the application as the outcome is in the hands of the relevant government authority.
- Payment in advance or on completion of services
Some RCICs ask their clients to provide part or the entire fee (professional fee and disbursements) in advance of service. This is a permissible practice, so long as that money is deposited into the RCIC’s trust account or client account. Other RCICs bill the fee upon completion of the service. You may wish to discuss this with the RCIC in advance of signing the retainer agreement so that you are clear as to the expectations of payment.
The RCIC should provide you with a receipt acknowledging the amount of money you have paid him/her and an invoice that details the services or amount of work performed on your behalf and the associated fees.
- Trust account or client account
If the RCIC collects fees before services are provided, he/she must deposit that money into a trust account, or a bank account called a “client account”, which is separate from his/her business bank account.
When the RCIC receives money from you before providing services, he/she is holding on to it on your behalf. He/she must deposit this money into the trust account or client account. He/she may not withdraw it unless, for example, he/she is paying for a disbursement on your behalf or he/she has invoiced you for the professional fee and is withdrawing the money for payment of provided services. It is important to note that the RCIC may only withdraw money from the trust account or client account to pay for his/her professional fees once he/she has completed the service that has been outlined in the retainer agreement.
Any property provided by you to the RCIC, as well as any documents the RCIC has been retained to prepare for your benefit, belongs to you and is part of the client file. A RCIC should return your property to you, upon request, within thirty (30) days or once your retainer agreement is terminated. Please note that if your original documents (e.g., passport, etc.) were submitted to IRCC as part of the application process, then they will be returned to you at IRCC’s discretion.
RCICs are bound by ICCRC’s Code of Professional Ethics to hold in strict confidence, at all times, all information concerning the personal and business affairs of a client. RCICs must take all reasonable steps to ensure privacy and safekeeping of the client’s confidential information. Carefully review the confidentiality section of the retainer agreement and discuss any questions you may have with the RCIC.
What if you have a dispute with or a complaint about a RCIC?
If you have a dispute with a RCIC with whom you have signed a retainer agreement, consult the dispute process section of the retainer agreement for direction as to how to bring this issue to the attention of the RCIC. If you are unable to resolve the issue with the RCIC and/or have a complaint against a RCIC, you can file a complaint with ICCRC by completing, signing and submitting the Complaint form against an RCIC.
Each year, ICCRC develops a variety of tools to help you learn more about how to retain and work with a RCIC. We provide videos, posters and additional information to help you understand the use of authorized representatives, such as RCICs, and the dangers of using someone who is not regulated by ICCRC, a Canadian provincial or territorial law society, or the Chambre des notaires du Québec. These videos are subtitled in a variety of languages, including English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, and Hindi.