Canada is experiencing an immigration boom. We are attracting hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year and expect the trend to continue well into the future.
This boom has generated very strong demand for skilled immigration professionals. These are the experts who help applicants secure visas to study, work, and settle in Canada.
The industry includes immigration lawyers, immigration consultants, and immigration assistants. Each has different professional responsibilities, legal obligations, training and licensing requirements.
Are you considering a career in immigration, but don’t want to attend law school? Training to become an Immigration Consultant or Immigration Assistant is an excellent alternative.
Which path should you choose?
Your first step is to understand the key differences between these roles. Immigration Consultants and Immigration Assistants often work closely together—but the professions are distinct in several important ways.
Immigration Consultant versus Immigration Assistant: here’s what every prospective student should know.
Job Description & Responsibilities
Immigration Consultant: A Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) provides expert immigration advice and services to clients.
They help eligible people understand and navigate Canada’s complex immigration laws. This includes selecting the right visa programs, preparing applications, and helping clients appeal denials of admission.
RCICs work with international students, skilled workers, refugees, families seeking to reunite, and other people hoping to settle permanently in Canada.
Most importantly, a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant is a licensed professional. They are held to high standard of professional conduct, and regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regularly Council (ICCRC).
Immigration Assistant: An Immigration Assistant supports the work of an immigration consultant or lawyer. They help manage the case load by performing administrative tasks, such as:
- Working with clients to complete immigration application forms
- Doing legal research
- Communicating with clients on the status of their file
- Preparing immigration applications for submission to the government
- Helping to write submission letters
- Collecting and organizing supporting documents
- Managing submission deadlines
Immigration Assistants specialize in immigration rules, procedures, and documents. The work they do helps lawyers and consultants focus more on strategy and serve clients better.
Immigration Consultant and instructor, Cassandra Fultz, points out the fundamental difference between consultants and assistants, and how the two work together:
“An Immigration Consultant focuses on determining a client’s eligibility to immigrate to Canada, developing an immigration strategy, and interpreting the law to instruct clients.
An Immigration Assistant is responsible for moving the file forward so that the application can be submitted, and the client can achieve their goal.”
Licensing & Liability
Immigration Consultant: In Canada, Immigration Consultants must earn a license to legally offer their services to clients.
Getting licensed starts with completing a training program that is approved by the ICCRC. Then, candidates must complete a challenging licensing exam. They must also become members the ICCRC, pay membership dues, and adhere to a code of conduct and ethics.
The only exceptions are members in good standing of a law society in Canada or the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
As licensed professionals, Immigration Consultants are legally liable for the services they deliver. If they break rules set out by the Law Society or the ICCRC, they will face disciplinary action.
Immigration Assistant: Immigration Assistants are not regulated in Canada. You do not need a license to become an Immigration Assistant.
However, if an Immigration Assistant breaks Law Society or ICCRC rules, their supervising Immigration Consultant is held responsible for those actions. So, it’s important for both team members to understand and adhere to industry regulations.
Immigration Consultant: Most Immigration Consultants choose to join or start a private practice. They set up shop as immigration experts, often focussing on a particular area of the industry.
For example, some consultants specialize in study permits, sponsorship refusals, denied entry, or detentions. Others are generalists who handle everything from work permits and family sponsorship, to applications for citizenship and permanent residency.
Immigration Assistant: Most Immigration Assistants work in the offices of immigration consultants and lawyers. They are employed by immigration law firms and consulting businesses across the country.
Other career options include working for:
- Settlement agencies
- Any company with a Global Mobility Specialist or in-house immigration counsel
Training Requirements & Costs
Immigration Consultant: Immigration Consultants must complete a graduate diploma program. The program is only offered at two universities in Canada:
- Queen’s University Faculty of Law (English program)
- Université de Sherbrooke (French program)
The program costs approximately $15,000 (not including books or other materials) and takes one year to complete.
Immigration Assistant: Immigration Assistants can complete their training at a private or public college. Herzing College is one of the few colleges in Ontario currently offering this program.
Herzing’s Immigration Assistant program is available at the Toronto campus and takes 9 months to complete. Training includes a 5-week internship at a law firm or immigration consultant business.
The diploma program costs approximately $9,400, including all student fees and books.
Which career path is right for you?
There are pros and cons to choosing either career path. For example, Immigration Consultants have to complete expensive training and licensing—but they have the power to start their own business and determine their own earning potential.
Immigration Assistants can complete their training much faster and at a lower cost—but they cannot get licensed and open their own consulting firms.
Cassandra Fultz (Managing Partner of Doherty Fultz Immigration) highlights a few other key points to consider when making your decision.
“By the time they graduate and get their license, Immigration Consultants have a lot of legal knowledge, but not many practical skills. It takes them time to attract clients, build a practice, and establish a good track record. It’s much harder than most people realize.”
On the other hand, Immigration Assistants graduate with a wealth of practical skills. They are totally prepared for work, right after training. This is why skilled Immigration Assistants are highly sought after. I’ve been working with my assistant for 10 years and would be totally lost without her!”
Which career path should you choose? It all depends on your priorities and professional goals.
A Herzing Admissions Advisor can help you make an informed decision. An Advisor will guide you through our diploma program, explain career options, financial aid, and application requirements.
Chat live with an Admissions Advisor now. Or click below to explore the Immigration Assistant training program in more detail. We’re here to help!