To be eligible to appear for the entry-to-practice exam, you need to be a graduate of a certified immigration consultant course. Entry-to-practice exam or EPE is a mandatory test that you need to qualify for in order to obtain an RCIC license. You need this license to practice as a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).
Graduating from a certified immigration consultant course is mandatory to sit for EPE. The eligibility for EPE is also subject to other criteria.
What is a certified immigration consultant course?
A certified immigration consultant course is a graduate diploma program that prepares you for the mandatory EPE. These courses are required as part of the eligibility criteria to obtain an RCIC license. Only ICCRC-accredited courses qualify for the eligibility criteria. ICCRC is the national regulatory body that licenses RCICs and administers entry-to-practice exams. ICCRC stands for Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.
Not so long ago, you could enroll in a certified immigration consultant course at any of the ten colleges on this list. These colleges offered an Immigration Practitioner Program (IPP). IPPs were recognized by ICCRC as the entry-to-practice education program. Only a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who was a graduate of IPP was eligible to sit for an EPE.
That, however, changed with a notification dated May 1, 2019. The ICCRC released a notice on this date stating its plan to phase out IPPs by December 31, 2022. The notification also introduced a new program to replace IPPs. The new program is called Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program (ICGDP). The curricula ICGDP is in line with the ICCRC’s essential competencies for RCIC.
As per the notification, IPP programs stopped accepting applications after July 31, 2020. Students enrolled before this date may complete their program before December 31, 2022. Such students, if they meet other criteria, will be eligible to sit for EPE for up to three years after graduation.
So, as of February 2021, there is only one ICGDP in English (offered at Queen’s University) and one in French (offered at Université de Montréal). Queen’s University Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law (GDipICL) flaunts this too.
“Canada’s only English-language pathway to becoming a licensed immigration consultant”.
So, for the rest of this article, we will discuss its program only.
Features of Queen’s program
Queen’s diploma program is delivered online with on-demand optional onsite learning elements. The program consists of nine core courses. On full-time, these courses may be completed within two terms. On a part-time basis, students get up to four terms to complete the course. The first batch of the program commenced on January 1, 2021. Applications for the September 2021 batch begin on February 16.
The program is designed to equip students with the nine competencies listed as essential for an RCIC by the ICCRC. These range from foundational knowledge of related policy to business management and leadership. We discuss these competencies and how Queen’s program may help you with them below.
Foundational Knowledge; IRB and Administrative Tribunals
An RCIC is expected to be thorough with foundational knowledge. An RCIC is expected to have a sound knowledge of the Canadian legal system. An RCIC must be aware of appeal procedures, the burden of proof, etc.
Secondly, an RCIC should have a thorough command of immigration and citizenship laws and policies.
ICL 810 Foundation of Canadian Immigration Law builds on the basics of related laws. Students are introduced to key legislation in the history of Canadian immigration. It helps them acknowledge the development of Canada’s immigration policy. Students also get to examine past and present policies from different angles.
ICL 810 also introduces students to key institutions such as the Immigration and Refugee Board. It also gives an overview of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 2002. Students are also introduced to various features of IRPA 2002. This includes categories of immigrants, objectives, enforcement of the law, etc.
ICL 810 also helps students build a legal vocabulary and legal reasoning.
After a thorough overview of the system, ICL 830, ICL 840, ICl 850, ICL 860, ICL 870, and ICL 880 all touch on different aspects of immigration. ICL 830 deals with provisions of temporary entry whether as a visitor, worker, or student. ICL 840 talks about the economic aspects of immigration policy. It discusses express entry, federal skilled workers program, comprehensive rankings, etc.
ICL 850 and 860 respectively deal with the family class and refugee class of immigrants. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 2002, (i) family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents and (ii) refugees compose two distinct classes of immigrants different from the regular class. The needs of these classes are different and so are the policies. Refugees are admitted on humanitarian grounds. Canada also has an international obligation to attend to refugees. Family class is also not reviewed on economic criteria as regular immigrants.
Finally, ICL 870 and 880 respectively deal with the enforcement of the law. Cases of inadmissibility, detention, and removal, and citizenship (ICL 880). Both topics are extremely important and frequently referred to in practice.
7 out of 9 courses are exhausted in helping students acquire theoretical expertise. Students also develop critical thinking and legal reasoning along the way.
Legal Research and Informatics
GDipICL includes a mini-course designed to introduce students to legal research in Canada. Students learn how laws related to immigration are created, published, indexed, and stored. Students also learn to access them electronically. They develop a variety of searching and retrieving methods. It also introduces students to legal writing.
Students later practice this while engaging with the rest of the program.
Professionalism; Cultural competence
A legal career is full of ethical dilemmas and times when we are faced with a difficult situations. Having a sound knowledge of legal ethics equips a practitioner to deal with the situation in a professional manner.
ICL 820 introduces students to the concepts of legal ethics and professionalism in practice early in the program. This enables students to bring ethical considerations to classroom discussions on other courses. ICL 820 also considers specific challenges one faces in practice. These challenges may concern confidentiality. Sometimes, they are related to cultural competence and representing refugees. At other times, a practitioner may need to withdraw from a case or advise a client on their lack of lawful status.
Case Management; Business Management and Leadership; Communication, Counselling, and Advocacy
Technical knowledge with no soft skills is of little use. RCIC’s essential competencies list focuses equally on applying the knowledge in real practice. ICL 890 takes a comprehensive overview of the soft skills one needs when practicing RCIC. The course is designed to equip students with practical skills important for practice.
The course comprises theory and interactive exercises. Students learn bookkeeping and accounting. They also get to try their hands on a practice management tool. The course further deals with client assessment and writing a retain agreement. In the real world, we collaborate with third parties all the time. The course introduces students to collaborating with third parties in professional conduct. The course is a curation of knowledge and experience of global legal firms.
A mini-course integrated with ICL 890 requires students to use their research and writing skills for a capstone. The capstone concerns a simulated client service exercise. This way, students get a first-hand experience of dealing with a simulated practice. This helps them gain the confidence to succeed in practice.
Critical thinking, problem-solving, and evidence-based practice
Students acquire these skills throughout the program duration. They do so while engaging in classroom discussions, homework, and capstones.
How will an immigration consultant course help you become an RCIC?
Queen’s Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law is an ICCRC-accredited program. This means that it is accepted as the eligibility criteria to appear for the mandatory EPE. The program is designed to help prospective consultants prepare for the exam and in their careers as RCICs. It covers various aspects of immigration and refugee laws, ethics, and business.
Please note that in addition to an ICCRC-accredited program, candidates appearing for EPE also need to have a high score on the language test. ICCRC accepts scores of standardized language tests such as IELTS and TOEFL. There are also exemptions for the English language test if:
English is your native language; or
You studied for at least two academic terms at an institution where English is the official language of instruction.
In addition to the above criteria, you also must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. If you qualify for this criteria as well, you may appear for the EPE. Once you qualify for the exam, you may obtain an RCIC license. Then, you can start your practice or join a firm.
Graduating from a certified immigration consultant course is not only desirable but mandatory. It is part of the eligibility criteria to appear for EPE. Besides, such courses help prepare you for EPE and for life in practice.
Queen’s program went beyond theoretical concepts and introduced students to real-life practice. The program teaches students to apply their learning in practice. The simulated clients’ service capstone was an interesting feature of the program. Students develop legal knowledge and legal reasoning during the program. This helps them excel as an RCIC later.
As of February 2021, Queen’s program is the only certified immigration consultant course in English. If you’d like to enroll in this program or learn more, hit over their website here. They will be open to applications for the September 2021 batch between February 16 to June 14, 2021.