Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) has moved one step closer to the regulation of immigration consultants. The Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) has now been created and is working hard to make regulation a reality.

At the time of writing, there are still some uncertainties in terms of the mechanisms and procedures of CSIC, but CSIC plan to have these resolved before the proposed implementation date of April 2004. The CSIC Board has been given a short time line to establish the regulatory body, so it is normal that they will have some teething problems. CSIC’s mandate is to protect the consumers of immigration consulting services and ensure the competent and professional conduct of its members. To achieve this, CSIC’s Board of Directors is currently developing membership standards, discipline mechanisms and a formal code of professional conduct and competency. They will also be establishing a consumer complaints process as well as a compensation fund for victims as a result of any criminal actions of a member.

To be a member of CSIC, the consultant must be a Canadian citizen, Canadian permanent resident or a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. If the consultant is none of these, they will not be eligible to become a member of CSIC. The reasons for this are so that any unreputable consultants can be prosecuted criminally under Canadian Law and also under the conditions of the Immigration Act. Currently, CSIC is taking applications for transitional membership. This will be in place for a two year period. In April 2006, immigration consultants can apply for full membership.

For transitional membership, consultants need to register their intent and write an ethics and knowledge examination that will test them on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) as well as the Rules of Professional Conduct, as stipulated by CSIC. They must also provide police certificates and pass a language test.

CSIC testing centres are being set up in the major cities across Canada and the first sitting of the exams will be on February 22, 2004. Examinations will take place at regular intervals and plans are in place to arrange testing centres overseas, but details have not yet been finalized.

An applicant must also meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • ┬áhave one year of full-time work experience within the last five years representing clients before CIC and/or the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), or
  • have filed ten cases before CIC and/or the IRB since June 28, 2002, or
  • graduated, post 2002, from the Immigration Practitioner Certificate program offered by Seneca College/University of British Columbia. If the applicant graduated before 2002, he or she must have completed the IRPA update course offered by Seneca College/University of British Columbia.

CIC will make an amendment to the Immigration Regulations (Section 91) which will confirm that only CSIC members, members of a provincial/territorial bar association, or the Chambre des notaires du Quebec will be able to represent a client at CIC after it is implemented.

What this means to the client is that any new applications submitted to CIC after the implementation date will be returned if the authorized representative is not a member of either CSIC, a provincial/territorial bar association, or the Chambre des notaires du Quebec.

Furthermore, employees of an immigration consultant may not represent, advise or consult with a client. An employee may merely facilitate the immigration consultant in their practice.

Any applications that have been received by CIC before the implementation date can continue to be represented by a non CSIC member; however there will be a grace period of between two-four years. This has yet to be finalized.

All Transitional Members of CSIC will be required to carry a minimum of CDN$1,000,000 Professional Errors and Omissions Liability Insurance.

CSIC is also researching ongoing education, training and development programs to maintain professional expertise. This is to ensure that members are kept up to date with any changes and continue to represent clients in an ethical and professional manner.

The establishment of CSIC is being welcomed by the immigration community as it will establish a strong reputation for accredited immigration consultants and weed out the less reputable ones.

As the establishment of CSIC is moving at a fast pace, there will have been more developments from the time of writing to the time you read this. For up-to-date information, please visit the CSIC website at www.csic-scci.ca and come at see me at Emigrate 2004 on Stand 251.

Dennis Brazolot is a Member in Good Standing with the Association of Immigration Counsel of CANADA (AICC) and can be contacted on +1 450 458 2186 or dennis@brazolotimmigration.com He travels regularly to the UK to meet with clients. www.BrazolotImmigration.com