Frequently Asked Questions
Why choose an immigration lawyer when I can do it myself?
Before making the decision to choose an immigration representative, you may wonder whether or not you even need one. After all you may know people who have successfully obtained their visas without hiring an immigration lawyer or consultant. You may have heard stories of people simply filling out the forms, paying the government fees and bingo they have been issued their visa.
However, you may have also heard of cases where the adventurous have gone it alone only to find that, for some strange reason, their visa application was refused. These stories are just that: stories.
Our position on applying for a visa without the benefit of legal representation is a risk that is not worth taking-especially if you and your family are serious about successfully immigrating. While it is true that it is possible for you to represent yourself in some simple immigration matters, the reality is that in doing so you are taking a gamble.
Immigration laws are constantly changing and are very complex. You may have some basic understanding about what is involved in applying for a visa, but unless you are a full time immigration professional, you will not be aware of all the issues which may impact on your case. Moreover, even if you apply on your own and get your visa, you may have created some problems that could impact on your status long after your visa has been issued. So what seemed like a successful visa application, may turn out to be just the opposite.
Does this mean that we think you should leave it all up to those who specialize in immigration? No way. We believe that it is important that applicants educate themselves about the visa process and work with a professional as a team. Both applicants and immigration professionals working together can maximize the applicant’s chances of success. Applicants know more about their personal circumstances than the professional, whereas the professional knows more about immigration law. Successful immigration cases result from bringing applicants and immigration professionals together to work as a team.
How does the immigration process work?
Step 1: Assessing Your Case
Before making a decision to immigrate, you should have your case professionally assessed to determine whether you are eligible to immigrate
Step 2: Signing the Retainer Agreement with your Lawyer
You should always sign a retainer agreement with your lawyer before proceeding with your case. The retainer agreement sets out the legal fees and the lawyer’s responsibilities in representing you.
Step 3: Gathering your Documents
It is important that you gather all documentation which is relevant to your case. Your lawyer should provide you with a list of documents you will need.
Step 4: Completing Application Forms
Your lawyer should be able to assist you in completing your application forms. Most lawyers have software whereby application forms can be completed on the computer.
Step 5: Preparing Application Package/Legal Submissions
After gathering your documents and completing the forms, your lawyer will prepare the documents in an organized presentable fashion. Your lawyer will also prepare legal submissions to the visa officer on your behalf
Step 6: Submitting the Application to the Visa Office
Your lawyer should be able to advise you as to which visa office to submit your application. You will have to pay your immigration processing fees at this time.
Step 7: Monitoring Application as it is Processed at Visa Office:
It is important to make sure that your application is being processed according to the visa office’s published service standards.
Step 8: Interview Waiver/Notification of Interview or Application Refused
If your case is very strong, this visa office may waive your interview. In most cases, interviews are required If an interview is required, the visa office will notify you of the date and time of the interview. If, based on your application and documentation submitted, the visa officer determines that you do not qualify even if an interview is conducted your application will be refused.
Step 9: Interview Preparation or Appeal Decision to Federal Court of Canada or Reapply
You should know what to expect at your interview and be prepared to answer questions about your case.
Step 10: Attending at the Interview
Your interview will be at the visa office where your application was submitted. You will be given advance notice of the date and time of the interview.
Step 11: Interview Successful or Interview Unsuccessful
Step 12: Letter of Acceptance or Refusal Letter
You will be notified in writing that you have been accepted for immigration. You will be notified in writing of the refusal of your application for a visa
Step 13: Issuance of Visa or Appeal to Federal Court of Canada or Reapply
Which professional should I choose? Lawyer or Consultant?
Applicants should also know something about the visa process to protect themselves from individuals representing themselves as immigration professionals when they are really not. There is a great deal of corruption in the immigration business. By having a basic understanding about immigration, applicants can arm themselves against being victims of fraud.
There are essentially two types of immigration representatives offering their services to clients: Lawyers and Consultants
Consultants are immigration representatives who are not lawyers. They are often referred to as paralegals and law officers. Some consultants are former immigration officers who have left the government to work in the private sector. Immigration consultants are now regulated by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants Society (CSIC).The Society is responsible for regulating the activities of immigration consultants who are members and who provide immigration advice for a fee.
The Society grants memberships to only those individuals who have demonstrated their knowledge and ability to advise, consult and represent people who wish to seek Canadian immigration, have passed the Society’s Knowledge and Ethics Test and have demonstrated their good character.
Lawyers often act as representatives for applicants with immigration matters. Unlike consultants, lawyers in Canada are required to have a university education and to complete law school. Lawyers are regulated by the Law Society in the province in which they practice. For instance, lawyers practicing in the province of Ontario are regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada. The fact that lawyers are regulated provides their clients with protection against unethical and incompetent practitioners
Immigration lawyers are lawyers who practice primarily or exclusively in immigration law. They generally have a greater level of expertise than a general practitioner who may merely dabble in the field. Clients interested in hiring a lawyer with experience in immigration law should always ask the lawyer what percentage of their practice is dedicated to immigration law to determine if they practice immigration law on a regular basis.
Is your representative a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident? Does it Matter?
Yes it matters. Before hiring a representative, you should always ask whether he or she is a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident. This is important because Citizenship and Immigration Canada has made it a policy to deal only with representatives who are Canadians or Permanent Residents. As it is becoming more frequent for Canadian Consulates and High Commissions to ask a representative to provide proof of their status in Canada before dealing with them. You should therefore always ask to see your representative’s Canadian passport, Certificate of Citizenship or landing document before hiring him or her. If your representative is not a Canadian or Permanent Resident, he or she may not be able to effectively protect your rights.
Are You Well Documented?
Many people mistakenly believe that all that is involved in applying for immigration is completing some forms and paying a fee. Nothing can be further from the truth. Completing your immigration forms accurately and honestly is essential of course but what really may make the difference between a successful application and one that is refused,, are the documents that you include in your application that are in support of your case.
Not only do your documents serve to substantiate the information that you have filled in on your application, but they also tell the visa officer reviewing the case, your story. The documents show the visa officer that not only do you qualify for a visa but that there is a real live person behind the application who really needs a visa.
Consider the case of an applicant who applies for Canadian permanent residence under the Independent/skilled worker category. The Independent/Skilled Worker Category is for people applying for immigration based on their own personal credentials such as their education, employment experience etc. Applicant’s applying for immigration under this category are required to complete a particular application form (Form IMM0008). This form asks the applicant to provide some personal information including the applicants employment history and educational background. These questions are very important and must be completed properly.
Now it is clear that the applicant’s own documents in such a case would go a long way to substantiate the applicant’s claims made on the application form. For instance, employment references from previous and current employers would help prove that the applicant really performed the duties of his or her occupation and has worked in that occupation for the length of time that the applicant claims. Not only this but such documents also often reveal personal aspects of the applicant that the official immigration forms simply cannot show. In the case of employment references, the letters often say something nice about the applicant in terms of his or her performance at work. These “personal touches” go a long way to make the applicant real in the minds of a visa officer. Of course, what is most important is to provide credible and trustworthy documents that are authentic and are relevant to your case. However, documents are by nature personal items that do more than just prove who you say you are; they tell the officer that you are a unique person and not just a file with a number.
Proper presentation of your documents is also important. The more organized your documents, the less risk there is of frustrating the visa officer by making it difficult for him or her to find the relevant information. Your goal as an applicant (or your lawyer’s goal) should be to make the visa officer’s job as easy as possible. Nothing is worse than presenting a disorganized application that annoys a visa officer.
What documents are you required to include with your application? The answer depends on the nature of application that you are submitting. For example, the documents that are required in support of a Study Permit application are much different than those required for an independent/skilled worker application. In most cases, the applications contain instructions on which documents are required for a particular application. Generally, you are asked to include documents proving your identity such as birth certificates or national identity cards. If you are married, you should also include your marriage certificate.
Do you have to submit original documentation? In most cases, photocopies of documents are acceptable but be prepared to submit original employment references and police clearance certificates. Each application has specific requirements for documents. It is important to carefully check what is required.
Documents tell your story. Make sure to include all relevant documents in support of your immigration case.
What should I expect from you as my immigration lawyer?
Our goal is to resolve your legal problem in an efficient, cost effective manner. Whether
you are applying for a Visa or entry to Canada or the United States, our lawyers are trained to assess your specific legal issues, outline solutions that work and take the necessary steps to get you, your family or employees the necessary paperwork for Canadian or US legal status.
What are your legal fees?
Legal fees are always quoted to you in advance. Immigration cases are charged on a flat-fee basis not on an hourly rate so there is no “running tab”. This way you know exactly how much your case will cost with no surprises! We will also outline any additional office disbursement charges as well as applicable government application fees. Our fees are very competitive. Since we restrict our practice only to immigration law, our office handles a wide range of cases which allows us to keep our fees reasonable without sacrificing service.
How do you know if you can really help me with my immigration problem?
Before taking you on as a client, we always conduct a comprehensive assessment of your specific situation. This involves listening to you, understanding your background, history and objectives. Only after getting a clear idea of your unique issues, can we provide you with solutions that will work. And we will tell you whether we can help, what steps must be taken, how long and at what cost.
If I hire you what are the next steps?
After conducting your immigration assessment, all our clients are asked to sign a “Retainer Agreement” that clearly outlines the nature of the case, the legal fees and other costs as well as our role as your lawyers and what we expect from you as our client.
We will then send you a detailed list of documentation by email guiding you on what is needed for your file. We will also begin gathering the necessary information in order to complete any application forms, legal submissions or other paperwork necessary. After your file is complete and ready, we send it to you for review and signature. We will then send your application to the immigration authorities on your behalf, ensuring that your file gets into the correct hands and is processed in a timely manner.
Of course, during the application process, we will keep you informed on what’s going on and you can always contact us any time with your questions and concerns. Once your Visa or permit is ready to be issued, we will make sure it’s delivered to you so things go smoothly when you are ready to make the move.
How can you help me if your head office is in Toronto, Canada?
Immigration law is Federal. Our law office has attorneys licensed to practice in both US and Canada immigration law. This means we can represent you no matter where you presently live. We do not practice any law that requires a specific State or Provincial license.
While, all Immigration legal work is conducted at our office in Toronto, Canada, we are totally accessible by phone, email, fax and video conference.The nature of immigration practice does not require the inconvenience of your physical attendance at our offices.
We represent clients throughout the United States, Canada and even overseas. Our office is equipped to handle all immigration and visa cases for you regardless of your current location.
However, should the need arise, we can always make arrangements for one of our local licensed lawyers to meet with you in person.
Who is VisaPlace and what is its relationship with the law firm?
VisaPlace is a separate company registered as VisaPlace LLC (VP LLC). VisaPlace works with our law firm to help with intake, marketing and legal technology services. VisaPlace is NOT a law firm and does not engage in any legal services. Only our law firm represents you.
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