Who are the immigration authorities?

Someone contacted our office recently and asked for a list of Federal Court cases I had represented. Of course, the answer was none. I am an immigration consultant. Only lawyers may represent people to the Federal Court. However, the answer was confusing for that person because the follow-up question was, “how come you say Al represents clients to the immigration authorities?” The question made me think about writing this piece and explaining the actors in the field of immigration to Canada.

The elephant in the room: the immigration authorities!

I’d probably be better off answering the question at hand first. Generally speaking, the following organizations deal with visa and immigration cases directly. Therefore, they are the immigration authorities.

  • The policy-maker and decision-maker IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada): This organization affects immigration in various ways. First and foremost, they are the policy-makers. IRCC drafts the policies that affect the immigration process. However, they do so by following the Immigration Law (IRPA). IRCC officers are the delegates of the Minister. Therefore, they review applications and decide whether to approve or refuse them. For example, they determine the fate of the following applications: TRV, immigration, work permit, study permit, visitor record extension, TRP, ARC, PRRA, etc.
  • The enforcerCBSA (Canada Border Services Agency): The officers of this organization enforce IRPA. Therefore, they handle matters such as removing people from Canada and detention. However, they sometimes deal with the decision-making aspect of immigration. For example, they process work permit and study permit applications for eligible applicants at a port of entry. Flagpoling is one practice that turns a CBSA officer into a decision-maker.
    CBSA is under the supervision of the Minister of Public Safety. The Minister posts the list of terrorist entities which helps CBSA and IRCC process inadmissibility under security grounds.
  • The judgeIRB (The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada): IRB members act as judges in a quasi-judicial environment. They hold hearings or ADR conferences. Eventually, they decide on sponsorship appeals, detention under IRPA, refugee claims, etc.

These entities take other roles as well. However, I only focused on their visa and immigration process role.

What about provincial authorities?

Provinces could also make immigration decisions. We could then consider the provincial officers, and immigration authorities. However, their decisions are partial and limited to their province. Partial means they cannot issue visas, permits, or permanent residence. Moreover, they may not go beyond their own province. The final say is always by the authorities I mentioned in the previous section. Therefore, I dub the provincial authorities the mouthful title of quasi-immigration-authority.

Who may represent you to the immigration authorities for consideration?

The term “for consideration” usually refers to receiving money. However, it could also refer to any bartering or quid pro quo situation:

  • Bartering: Compensating the service provider with something other than money (e.g., a carpet or a free air ticket)
  • Quid pro quo: Offering the service provider an advantage or a favour (e.g., allowing them to become a member of an elite club)

Assuming your arrangements are legally accepted, the following groups may represent you to the immigration authorities for consideration (section 91 of the IRPA).

  • Lawyers who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial law society
  • Paralegals in Ontario only
  • Notary publics in Quebec only
  • RCICs or rather members in good standing of CICC

Please consider the following:

  • If the paid representative is not authorized, they could face up to five years in prison and $200,000 fines.
  • Starting from July 1, 2022, only those RCICs that hold the designation of RCIC-IRB may represent you to the IRB. However, CICC is currently running training sessions for RCICs and issues the designations for those who successfully complete the training.
  • The Law Society of Ontario has limited the practice of paralegals to the IRB hearings only. Moreover, paralegals from other provinces may not offer immigration advice or representation.
  • Notary publics in Quebec usually deal with immigration to Quebec only. Also, both Quebec and Saskatchewan have licensing procedures in place for RCICs. Therefore, only some of the RCICs may represent clients to the authorities of these provinces.

Paralel organizations

The following organizations are not immigration authorities but get involved with the relevant matters.

  • The Federal Court of Canada: Judicial review (JR) is an administrative hearing process to decide if a government decision-maker has done their job reasonably. Many immigration applicants file for JR at Federal Court. However, the Federal Court (FC) judges generally do not approve or refuse immigration applications. Nonetheless, they may allow the JR application and force IRCC, CBSA, or IRB to reopen a case.
  • Federal appeal courts: The Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) and the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) may hear appeals to the decisions by the FC and FCA, respectively. The findings of these courts could affect the world of immigration immensely. Regardless, we do not call them immigration authorities.
  • RCMP and CSIS: These organizations assist the immigration authorities with the security screening of the applicants. Moreover, RCMP could assist CBSA in specific enforcement aspects of immigration, such as irregular border crossings.

Of course, other entities could also assist the immigration authorities. Consequently, the list of parallel organizations is beyond this list.

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.