This series will help you discover how you can sponsor your spouse for Canadian Immigration. Part 5 will focus on "Hiring a lawyer vs DIY Spousal Sponsorship Applications ".
Canada’s spousal sponsorship program is available to a spouse, common-law partner, or a conjugal partner of a Canadian citizen, Canadian permanent resident or Indian under the Canadian Indian Act. The end goal is to obtain permanent residence for the spouse, common-law partner, or a conjugal partner.
Be sure to read all the way to the end for an exciting update on the DIY Spousal Sponsorship Course that the firm will be launching soon (best of both worlds)!!
In case you missed it, you will find the links to the other blog posts in this series below:
- Part 1: "Who is eligible to be sponsored and who may sponsor".
- Part 2: "Where to Start - Gathering Evidence and Documents Required".
- Part 3: "Translating Documents: who, what, and how".
- Part 4: "Planning Ahead - Strategy for Inland vs Outland Spousal Sponsorship Applications".
Do I need to hire a lawyer to help me with my spousal sponsorship or common-law sponsorship application?
This is a frequently asked question. The short answer is that, no, you do not need to hire a lawyer to help you with your application. A lawyer is not required by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This is similar to how you do not need a lawyer to represent you in court. However, many choose to hire a lawyer and you may be wondering if this is a worthwhile investment in your situation. This article will help you evaluate the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer.
Like most things in life, the answer to this question will very much depend on your individual circumstances. There is no "one-size fits all", and I would caution you against people who try to tell you that you definitely need to hire a lawyer or that you definitely do not need to hire a lawyer, simply because that was the right answer for the person giving you that advice.
What is the number one benefit of hiring a lawyer?
The number one benefit of hiring a lawyer to help you with your immigration application is peace of mind. This assumes that you have hired a lawyer that you like and that fits your style. If you hire a good lawyer, you will not be left wondering if there is anything you could have done to make your application better.
Most lawyers, will have systems and processes designed to allow you to submit your best possible application. This includes checks and balances that will minimize chances for errors. Errors or incomplete applications can cause your immigration process to be delayed significantly.
When you hire a lawyer, you have someone to walk alongside you and guide you through every step of the process. You do not have to guess what kind of evidence you need, or figure out how to obtain certain documents or if the translations are properly done.
A good lawyer will help you by reducing the inevitable stress that comes when waiting for your application to be processed.
A lawyer will help you create a big-picture strategy that takes into account your goals as a family and figure out what makes sense in terms of timing, type of application, and evidence submitted.
A lawyer will also be able to spot where your application may be weak and will help you figure out if something requires additional evidence, affidavits, and another explanation to minimize that chances that your application will be rejected. This is particularly important when you have a more complicated personal or immigration history. It helps when you don't know what you don't know.
Most importantly, if something with application goes sideways, for example, if you receive a request for evidence, your lawyer will be able to guide you through that. A good lawyer will be there for you if you encounter any difficulties.
Would you rather invest time or money?
If you have the time, you may wish to do the application on your own because you are able to invest the time needed to figure out the process and to submit a strong application.
If you are a very busy person and do not have the time to learn all the intricacies of the immigration process, it is better to hire a lawyer.
Are you able to afford to have a lawyer help you?
Legal services are not cheap. Not everyone can afford legal services. If you cannot afford legal services you may be able to get help from free resources such as legal forums or facebook groups. The problem with free advice is that you may get misleading, inapplicable or incorrect information. I always recommend double-checking with the official information provided by the government of Canada, when receiving free advice.
If you want some legal help but cannot afford legal representation, you can hire a lawyer to provide you with unbundled legal services. For example, where you pay for hourly sessions for help when you get stuck. A lawyer may help you get started with a strategic session to create a plan. When you complete your application, a lawyer may help you review it.
How much does it cost for a spousal sponsorship application?
It usually costs between $3,500-$5,000 for full legal representation.
If you want to learn more about the service provided by Sisu Legal, check out the service page for spousal or common-law sponsorship applications.
Do you have a complicated personal or immigration history that could make your case more complex?
Examples of things that could make your application more complex includes:
- previous inadmissibility to Canada
- being in Canada without status
- previous credibility issues
- previous denials in your immigration history
- child custody issues
- previous marriages or common-law relationships
- previous sponsorships
- a relationship that may appear as atypical to a third-party (for example, a large age gap, significant cultural differences, etc...)
If your case is more complex, you may wish to seek legal counsel.
Do you have a strong understanding of English or French?
The person completing the application should be a fluent English or French speaker. The instructions and forms are in Canada's official languages. If you are going to do it on your own, you want to make sure you have a solid understanding of what you need to do and the legal declarations you will be making.
An innocent misrepresentation may make your foreign partner inadmissible. Thus, if English or French is not your first language or if you are not entirely comfortable, you may wish to consider hiring a lawyer.
A lawyer may also be able to explain everything to you in your native language and may even have the forms and documents translated so it is easier for you to understand.
Can I do the sponsorship application on my own and then have a lawyer review it?
Yes, some lawyers are willing to review the application that you prepare on your own.
Some lawyers may be unwilling to do this because it can create additional liability if something goes wrong with your application.
In some cases, it may not be appropriate. For example, when it would be more expensive to consult than to be fully represented.
Can a lawyer speed-up the processing of my application?
No, your lawyer cannot control the rate at which your application is processed. The government agency that reviews and makes a decision on your application is in control of processing time.
However, your lawyer can help you make sure you submit a strong application that is free from errors to reduce the chances that processing will be delayed.
A lawyer can also advice and advocate on your behalf if processing is unreasonably delayed. For example, through contact with your Member of Parliament.
If you have already submitted an application that has been unreasonably delayed, a lawyer can help you find out why it has been delayed or why it was returned without being processed.
What if I am still not sure if I should hire a lawyer?
The best way to get an idea of what it would be like to do a sponsorship application on your own is to simply get started. The government provides guides for the application process and you will be able to get the forms online. Once you read through the guide and start completing the forms, you will get a sense of whether you feel comfortable doing it on your own or whether you would like some guidance.
If you try it yourself and find that it is confusing, or that you don't have the time, or that it is causing you too much stress, consider hiring a lawyer.
Most of my clients come to me after trying to do the application on their own and deciding it was not a great fit for their personal situation.
Is a lawyer the same as an immigration consultant?
No. Lawyers and consultants go to school for different periods, receive different training, and have different regulatory bodies.
Regulatory Bodies -
Lawyers are regulated by Law Societies all over the country. For example, in Ontario, The Law Society of Ontario regulates lawyers.
Consultants are regulated by Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). This regulatory body may change in the near future as the regulation of consultants was recently reviewed and revised by the Government of Canada.
Generally speaking, consultants are less regulated than lawyers.
Length of time required to be a consultant vs a lawyer -
Lawyers need to go to school for at least 7 years (4 years Bachelor plus 3 years of law school).
Consultants used to be able to go to college for 1 year to get a paralegal certificate and then write an exam to be licensed as a consultant. People that did not have paralegal training could complete a certificate program that lasted 4-12 months.
Starting in 2021, most consultants will need to have a Bachelor's degree (4 years) and then will need a diploma (1 year) to become licensed by ICCRC. However, the first cohort of consultants under this new training system will not come into effect until 2022 (once the first class graduates).
After law school, lawyers practice under supervision of a senior lawyer (an "articling principal") for 10-12 months and need to pass the bar exam before being fully admitted to practice.
ICCRC requires consultants to write an entry to practice examination but requires no other hands-on training. Their training may be completed fully online.
Are consultants cheaper than lawyers?
Not always. It depends on each firm or consultant office. Sometimes, consultants are more expensive, other times, lawyers are more.
I usually recommend choosing the person you feel most comfortable with. Choosing a legal representative based solely on price is not recommended. Choose a person who you feel you can trust to represent you and who you are confident will represent you in the best way possible.
Summary - lawyers vs consultants
There are good consultants and good lawyers. There are also bad consultants and bad lawyers. It is important that people know that there are differences when hiring a lawyer vs a consultant.
Before you hire someone to help you with your application, check to make sure they have a clean disciplinary record. You can do so by ensuring that they are actually a member of a regulatory body and reviewing to see if there are any disciplinary notes on their file.
For lawyers in Ontario: 1. Find their profile on the law society website and review regulatory history.
For consultants: 1. Check to make sure that they are a member of their regulatory body. 2. Check their disciplinary history.
You can also check their past reviews to see what past-clients and colleagues have to say. Check out Sisu Legal's Reviews.
To hire or not to hire a lawyer for help?
It really depends on your individual circumstances and abilities. Some people are able to do the application on their own and find it relatively easy. There are some that will warn you about all the things that went wrong when they did it on their own. Other people will tell you that they had a horrible experience with a lawyer. The most important part is to be well-informed and to weigh the pros and cons of each circumstance.
Consider what works for you personally.
If you decide to hire someone, hire someone that fits your style. It is an important application. Your family's living circumstances depend on the outcome. Whatever you choose, it has to be what you feel most comfortable with.
COMING SOON: DIY SPOUSAL SPONSORSHIP COURSE (THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS).
Part of the mission of Sisu Legal is to make law more accessible. It is not realistic for everyone to hire a lawyer. The firm is always looking for ways to help more people than it has capacity to with one-on-one services.
To make sure that this program is as good as it can possibly be, the launch will be limited to 25-50 beta testers, at a significant discount.
If you are considering doing the application on your own but would like extra support, send me an email or sign up for the mailing list to be the first to get updates!