The Complete 2022 Guide to Choosing the Best Immigration Lawyer in Canada

The Complete 2022 Guide to Choosing the Best Immigration Lawyer in Canada

August 05, 2022

What characteristics make a lawyer the best immigration lawyer in Canada? What should that immigration lawyer do in 2022 when dealing with you and handling your immigration case? Here’s an honest guide created by a Canadian business immigration lawyer. I promise to be as frank as possible so that you have all the necessary knowledge to find the right lawyer for your immigration journey to Canada.

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Why Should You Choose the Best Immigration Lawyer in Canada For Your Immigration Application?

People move from country to country more often than before, and seeking top immigration lawyers has never been more important. There are multiple reasons for such relocation. People seek the most welcoming country that will accept them and allow them to stay in the country permanently and easily. A foreigner who wants to relocate to such a country doesn’t know the complexities of immigration processes. For most, it is probably their first time migrating to another country, and they are generally confused on many levels. Foreign business owners and companies are no exception. They face the same challenges.

Canada is one of those countries that attract many foreign businesses and individuals, and its immigration system can be complex, confusing, bureaucratic, unpredictable and challenging. Not everyone can and will pass through the highly-selective Canadian immigration system successfully. However, receiving transparent, honest and meaningful guidance from knowledgeable professionals is critical.

In your Canadian immigration journey, the role of an immigration lawyer is both important and demanding.

  • It is important because immigration is one of the most significant events in your or your company’s life; perhaps only the second to such events as birth, marriage, and death. Such a significant event is not something that you want to experiment with. It demands important considerations.
  • The role of an immigration lawyer is demanding because every client expects that an immigration lawyer ensures successful immigration to Canada. The client desires only positive results in an immigration case. The expectations are very high, and the pressure on the lawyer’s performance and service delivery is immense and, sometimes, unrealistic. In this situation, the lawyer must be an experienced navigator who opens the best possible pathway to Canada.

So what should you pay attention to when choosing the best Canadian immigration lawyer for your case in 2022 and beyond? What characteristics should your chosen immigration lawyer have that can give you enough confidence?

While any immigration case is a cooperative process in which the lawyer and the client have one goal – to get the desired outcome from the immigration application, what should your realistic expectations be in such a process?

Below is a list of primary considerations that encourage you to conduct necessary due diligence before engaging a lawyer. The list below is by no means exhaustive, and not all items in it may apply to you. So, be more generous in analyzing each element as you research. Each component of the list can add more confidence and bring you closer to the right immigration lawyer.

Let’s start with the basics.

How to Choose The Best Immigration Lawyer in Canada - Decision Chart

Step 1: What is the Identity of Your Immigration Lawyer?

Is your lawyer a Canadian?

It is not a discriminating question that focuses only on the lawyer’s citizenship. Let me explain.

Canada’s popularity as an immigration destination is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because millions of people dream of being in Canada, and thousands of people offer all sorts of services to realize that dream. That situation makes the dreamers more vulnerable.

Many individual agents, visa agencies and service providers outside of Canada offer visa, immigration, citizenship, global mobility, and relocation services. Not all of those service providers are Canadian. Most of them are not Canadian licensed lawyers or Canadian licensed immigration consultants. Most of them have never been to Canada in the first place! Many go out of their way to be perceived as a “Canadian” company. You can see the Canadian symbols (red & white flag, beaver, maple leaf, moose, bear, mountains, etc.) in their logos, websites and offices. They do many other things to sound, be felt and perceived as Canadian entities and some as top immigration firms in Canada.

“Isn’t it strange that someone who has never been to Canada will offer you services to become a Canadian permanent resident?”

So, to be on the safe side, you first need to make sure that you are dealing with a genuine Canadian lawyer or Canadian law firm. Doing so can help you in the following ways:

  • It enables you to choose a service provider that has seen, been to, and exists in Canada. Do not entrust your Canadian future to someone who has never experienced Canada;
  • It gives you more confidence as that person or a firm is subject to Canadian laws and regulations. Would you prefer someone whose service is monitored under the Canadian standards or some other country’s standards? Do not forget that it’s challenging to subject a non-Canadian service provider to Canadian laws, regulations and standards. Legally speaking, those non-Canadian entities are not bound to adhere to Canadian standards.
  • The immigration service industry is strictly regulated in Canada but not outside Canada. In many foreign countries, a person with basic English language skills, a simple computer and the Internet can establish a “visa consulting firm” or “visa service” business without obtaining any Canadian license to practice immigration law. So, when you are dealing with a lawyer licensed in Canada, you can be sure that that lawyer went through many steps to get his/her license and is subject to law society oversight in Canada and stringent rules of professional conduct.

When searching for a Canadian lawyer or the best immigration lawyer in Canada, please be reasonable and do not ask for the lawyer’s Canadian passport or permanent resident card. To become a lawyer in Canada, a person is not required to be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

You can find out if you are dealing with a genuine Canadian lawyer or a law firm:

  • By searching the lawyer or the firm on Google and see if there is a Canadian address or Canadian telephone number to reach the lawyer or the law firm. But note that simply having an address or phone number does not mean much without actual business operations in Canada. So, don’t stop your research there, but continue with other inquiries below.
  • Once you find in which province the lawyer’s office is located, you must search the lawyers’ directory maintained by that province’s law society. Please note that Canadian lawyers must be members in good standing with a law society in Canada.
  • You can ask the lawyer to tell you where s/he got a license to practice law. The lawyers will be glad to share that information with you.
  • You can search the lawyer’s name on LinkedIn – a social network for professionals, and learn more about the lawyer’s previous experiences or the law firm offering its services to you.

What to ask your immigration lawyer at this stage?

  • What is the lawyer’s full legal name?
  • What’s the full name of the relevant law firm?
  • Is the lawyer visible on the law firm’s website?
  • What are the lawyer’s postal address and telephone number?
  • Are the address and telephone number Canadian?
  • Does the lawyer have a full name and contact details in the law society’s directory?
  • What is the current status of that lawyer in the relevant law society directory?

Step 2: What are the Qualifications of the Lawyer?

Start with a simple question: “Does the lawyer have a law degree?”

Unlike the main hero of the TV series “The Suits” Mike Ross, who pretends to be someone with a Harvard law degree, all lawyers in Canada have a law degree from a Canadian law school. Some Canadian lawyers have law degrees from a non-Canadian law school plus a completed accreditation process called the NCA process – National Committee on Accreditation. Read the information about the lawyer’s academic qualifications very carefully to understand what is what. To learn more about the NCA qualification, please see this FAQ page.

Canadian lawyers with a “JD” (Juris Doctor) or an “LL.B.” (Bachelor of Laws) from a Canadian law school after their full names have completed a rigorous 3-year full-time JD or LL.B. program and successfully obtained a law degree from a Canadian law school. Canadian lawyers who have an abbreviation of “NCA” or “NCA Qualified” after their names have completed a law degree outside of Canada have been through the NCA process and obtained a lawyer’s license in Canada to practice law. Both the JD/LL.B. lawyers and the NCA lawyers must have passed bar exams successfully to get their lawyer licenses.

You can quickly check this information in several ways:

  • See the lawyer’s or a law firm’s website and read the lawyer’s qualifications carefully.
  • Find the lawyer’s profile on LinkedIn and read the profile carefully.

What to ask your immigration lawyer at this stage?

  • What kind of academic degree(s) does the lawyer have?
  • Is the lawyer currently licensed to practice law in Canada?
  • To be more exact, does the lawyer practice immigration law in Canada? Don’t forget that lawyers in Canada can practice any area of law right after obtaining their licenses. But it is better to choose a lawyer that has been practicing immigration law.
  • What is the lawyer’s status in the lawyers’ directory of the relevant law society? Is s/he a practicing lawyer or a non-practicing lawyer? Don’t forget that a non-practising lawyer is still a licensed lawyer, but s/he decided not to practice law for some reason. So, choose a practicing lawyer who can fully represent you before the Canadian immigration authorities.
  • How long has the lawyer been practicing immigration law in Canada? Here, the more experienced the lawyer is, the more comfortable you may feel hiring that lawyer for your immigration case. You want to have an experienced professional on your side.

Step 3: Presence – Physical and Online Visibility

One of the biggest problems of the immigration services industry is ghost consultants. So, try to ensure you don’t deal with such consultants.

Today, there is no excuse for a lawyer who provides paid immigration legal services not to have decent online visibility. A simple website with complete contact information and a short bio mentioning his/her qualifications is a must. Yes, we are in 2022. A lawyer should be visible if s/he wants to deal with clients in foreign countries who have never seen the lawyer in person.

It is better if your lawyer or his/her law firm has a profile on LinkedIn. That way, you will see if other people know the lawyer or the firm.

“Does your lawyer have a business email?” is another crucial question. Does s/he use a custom domain name or free email services, such as gmail.com, yahoo.com, msn.com, hotmail.com or aol.com?

When you learn the immigration lawyer’s or the law firm’s full name, just Google the exact name. You should find a lot of information online. Read that information and analyze it carefully. The primary purpose of such research is to ensure that you are dealing with an existing professional or law firm, not a ghost.

What to ask your immigration lawyer at this stage?

  • Does the lawyer or law firm have a website?
  • What is the content of that website? Is it sufficient to make you comfortable dealing with that lawyer/law firm?
  • Does the lawyer have a business email?
  • Is the lawyer using free email service providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, or Hotmail?
  • Do others on the LinkedIn platform know about this lawyer or law firm?

Step 4: Is Your Immigration Lawyer Transparent?

Transparency of Legal Fees

It is no secret that immigration lawyers and law firms are engaged in a commercial, profit-oriented, profit-making activity. Immigration legal services, in general, are not offered for free. Moving from a foreign country to Canada involves spending significant amounts of money, especially if you are working with the best immigration lawyer in Canada.

In 2022, I believe that a person looking for an experienced immigration lawyer should have an estimate of the legal costs involved. It should not be kept a secret. Knowing how much you may be spending on legal fees and other related expenses helps you make an informed decision. It also allows the lawyer and the client to establish a sincere, open, honest, and transparent relationship from the start.

In such a relationship, there’s no place for hidden fees, unexpected costs, and bumping up the legal fees without a clear explanation why the increase is necessary. Neither the lawyer nor the client wants to spend mental energy on monetary issues during the immigration process.

Therefore, having a well-written retainer agreement is essential. More importantly, one must read the retainer agreement carefully and understand what you are getting for your money.

As a client, you should:

  • Find out if the lawyer works on a flat fixed fee payment structure or an hourly rate structure.
    • Most, if not all, immigration lawyers offer a fixed fee structure to their clients who have cases with no complex issues, such as criminality, medical inadmissibility, family or children-related matters, previous visa refusals or misrepresentation.
  • Note that government fees related to your immigration applications must be paid by you. Your lawyer may give a list of fees for which you can transfer the amounts to your lawyer. The lawyer could pay the government fees on your behalf, which is an easier way to pay such fees and ask you to reimburse the fees.
  • Also, lawyers may use outside professionals and experts when working on your immigration file.
    • For example, they could hire professionals to prepare a business plan that supports your business immigration application. The immigration lawyer may hire accountants or commercial real estate lawyers on your behalf to evaluate and facilitate a purchase of a business or property in Canada as part of your immigration application. You will be responsible for their costs too.
    • It’s important to discuss this issue with your lawyer and find out if outside experts will be involved in your immigration case or if all activities will be done in-house.
  • All costs that are not lawyers’ legal fees are called “disbursements.” You should understand the disbursements involved in your case.
    • In the retainer agreement, the lawyers may list disbursements applicable for your case.

What to ask your immigration lawyer at this stage?

  • What are the lawyer’s payment terms?
  • What are the legal fees and disbursements?
  • Will outside experts be involved in my immigration case?
  • Is there a way for me to estimate my legal costs online without the help of a lawyer?
  • Is a lawyer open and transparent about the costs involved in my case?
  • How much would I pay for additional work that is out of the scope of the retainer agreement?
  • What services am I getting for my money?

Step 5: What Content (printed and online) is Produced by the Lawyer?

Nowadays, immigration lawyers produce a lot of content, online and offline. The lawyer/law firm may hire freelancers, digital marketing specialists, and content writers. Some lawyers write the content themselves.

The quality of the content is an important consideration. It is not that hard to distinguish the content written just for SEO purposes or Google rankings and the one that aims to give the reader valuable, holistic and meaningful insights.

In 2022, information is not hard to find. It is free and is not as valuable as we expect. What you can do with that information and how to use it for your benefit are more important!

Information about immigration to Canada is abundant on the Internet. Many content creators provide all sorts of information to get more clicks, likes and views. Therefore, many potential immigrants are confused and disoriented by the flood of expertise online.

Consumers of legal services are smart and conduct thorough research before hiring a lawyer. Savvy consumers can easily differentiate between meaningful content and content that tries to play with Google algorithms.

As a potential client, you should do the following:

  • Find out if the lawyer/law firm is producing helpful content regularly.
  • Who is creating the content?
    • Read the content carefully and analyze it to see if it gives you any value or just pushes you down to a sales pipeline of the lawyer/law firm;
  • Please don’t be too harsh on those lawyers who invite you to subscribe to their newsletters, social media channels or webinars. In our present age, these are the means to deliver useful and valuable content to you so that you can do your research properly.

What to ask your immigration lawyer at this stage?

  • Is the lawyer producing content that is beneficial for the readers and viewers?
  • Is the lawyer giving insights about an immigration program or retelling the information from the Immigration Canada website?
  • Is the lawyer keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in Canadian immigration and expressing his/her views on the latest immigration issues?
  • Is a content producer a licensed lawyer in Canada? Or is s/he an individual relaying his/her personal experiences in Canada?

Step 6: What Are the Ethical Standards of the Lawyer?

Perhaps the most ubiquitous aspect throughout your research about the lawyer is his/her legal ethics. You see, legal ethics is something that a lawyer adheres to on a very personal level. So, watch for ethical issues when you deal with your lawyer. Analyze how the lawyer handles ethical issues when dealing with Canadian immigration authorities. You would want to deal with a lawyer who has high ethical standards and zealously pursues your interests within the framework of the law. Do not forget that hiring an immigration lawyer means that you entrust your immigration dossier to that lawyer. That dossier will be kept, when submitted, by the Canadian authorities for many years to come. Any attempt to misguide the immigration authorities or misrepresent your facts must be avoided.

What to ask your immigration lawyer at this stage?

  • Have you found any ethical problems with the lawyer during your research?
  • Does a lawyer imply or say something during his/her interaction with you that feels not right?
    • Is the lawyer willingly closing his/her eyes to certain information about you?
  • Does a lawyer suggest including a piece of information that is not true and correct about you in your immigration application?
    • Any such suggestion should be treated as a big red flag.
  • Does a lawyer promise or guarantee that your immigration application will be successful?

As in many other industries, the legal services industry has its own bad apples. This should not mean that you will always be dealing with crooked and unethical lawyers. In fact, the vast majority of immigration lawyers never engage in unethical activities.

I hope this guide will help you choose the right and the best immigration lawyer for your case. Usually, whom you choose as your advisor on immigration will determine the outcome of your immigration and the whole immigration experience. I hope you choose wisely and start your Canadian life in the near future!