There is a piece of big news for you if you’re looking for the best college for an immigration consultant course. Before July 31, 2020, you could enroll for that at any of the ten colleges listed on the ICCRC website. Today, you are left with only two options: the Queen’s University and the Université de Montréal.
Queen’s University offers a Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law in English. If you plan to do your course in French, you can enroll for a D.E.S.S. en réglementation canadienne et québécoise de l’immigration at the Université de Montréal. So, if you don’t speak either English or French, it essentially boils down to zero choices.
Why do an immigration consultant course?
To become a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC), you need to qualify for the entry-to-practice exam (EPE). To be eligible to appear for the EPE, you need to be an ICCRC-accredited program graduate. ICCRC (Immigrant Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council) is the national regulatory body for RCICs. ICCRC governs EPE programs, administers the EPE, and licenses RCICs.
So, if you wish to become a licensed RCIC, you’ll need to graduate in an ICCRC-accredited program. This will enable and prepare you to sit for an EPE. Upon clearing the EPE with flying colors, you can apply for an RCIC license. Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for an RCIC license.
Okay, but what happened to other colleges?
Before July 31, 2020, you could still enroll in an Immigration Practitioner Program (IPP) at any of the ten colleges listed on the ICCRC website. An IPP was an ICCRC-accredited Diploma program in Immigration and Refugee law. It is usually comprised of seven to ten courses (about a year of full-time) offered either online or at a campus. These courses taught different aspects of immigration and refugee law in Canada. An IPP was thus designed to prepare you for the RCIC entry-to-practice exam. It was a go-to-education program for anyone who wanted to become a licensed RCIC.
Fast forward to today, these colleges are no longer accepting applications for their immigration consultant course. On May 1, 2019, ICCRC announced that it planned to phase out the IPP by December 31, 2022. The announcement also stated the deadline to enroll for an IPP by July 31, 2019. It clarified that students who enroll after July 31, 2020, were not eligible to appear for the EPE. The notice also warned colleges of strict actions against a college in case they continued to accept applications after the deadline.
Students who complete the program after December 31, 2022, would also be not eligible to sit for the EPE. That is, those who enrolled for an IPP before July 31, 2020, need to graduate latest by December 31, 2022. An IPP graduate can appear for the EPE for up to three years from the date of their graduation. As a result of this announcement, colleges can no longer enroll students in IPPs. IPPs would cease to be the entry-to-practice education program after December 31, 2022.
What is ICGDP?
On May 1, 2019, the ICCRC also announced a new diploma program to replace the older IPPs. The Immigration and Citizenship Graduate Diploma Program (ICGDP) is the new entry-to-practice program. As of writing this, Queen’s University is the only university to offer an ICGDP in the English language. Its Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law (GDipICL) commenced this January 2021. It is an ICCRC-accredited two-term program delivered online or in a blended model.
Like with the previous IPP, you’ll now need to graduate in an ICGDP to appear for the entry-to-practice exam. ICGDP is open to all Bachelor’s degree holders with a high level of proficiency in the English language (for English ICGDP). It should only be a matter of time before other colleges also revise their immigration consultant courses to meet the new standard. But as of February 2021, Queen’s University’s GDipICL is the only ICGDP available in the English language. If you wish to enroll for GDipICL at Queen’s University, the next batch starts in September 2021. The university will be open to receiving applications between February 16 to June 14, 2021.
Who should become an RCIC?
First of all, the EPE is open only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents. So, if you’re neither of them and do not wish or expect to receive permanent residency anytime soon, this is not for you. Two criteria are mandatory to sit for an EPE:
- Canadian citizenship or a permanent resident, and;
- A high English/French language test score.
If you meet the above criteria, you may enroll in an ICCRC-accredited program. Upon your completion of the program, you will need to qualify for the EPE. If you qualify for the exam, you may seek a license to practice your consultancy.
It also helps to know who makes for a good consultant. The ICCRC lists nine essential competencies for RCIC practice, we discuss them below.
Having a sound knowledge of the Canadian legal system and immigration law is a must. There are two aspects to this competency. Knowledge of Canada’s federal democracy and its judiciary compose the first aspect. This includes nuances like the concept of burden of proof and what takes for a bill to pass in Parliament. The second aspect concerns immigration and refugee laws and policies. Be thorough with Canada’s immigration and refugee policies over different periods in time. You should know the roles of various departments in matters of immigration. Finally, a good RCIC is able to use his knowledge to assist a client.
For most of your time during an immigrant consultant course, you will be developing this technical competency and studying related laws and policies.
Practicing law boils down to managing cases. It begins with a preliminary assessment of your client’s case. This helps determine the appropriate provisions of law and past cases. It thus helps you define the right approach to handle the case. Case management also includes dealing with the client and following professional ethics. Make sure that your client is aware of the situation and capable of making a decision. If your client and you do move forward, handle their case professionally. This includes using authentic documentation and following due procedures.
This is something you will learn with trial and error as a practicing RCIC.
Legal research and informatics
Luckily, this is easier today with digital technology. You can find most details, government orders, and copies of past cases and laws online. The competency we are looking at involves using government portals to find what you need. This was the technical aspect. You should first have the skills to determine relevant information and applicable law. Finally, how you use this information to support your client’s case is all that matters. Can you construct a sound legal argument? Can you support your argument with facts, figures, and relevant sections of law?
Luckily, an immigration consultant course can teach you this.
Business management and leadership
Being an RCIC takes leadership, you lead a client’s case. Secondly, it also takes a lot of business skills. This is true when you start your own practice. However, this is equally true while you work as an associate RCIC at a law firm. It is so because you will mostly be working independently with a client. Being equipped with business skills help you deal with a client in a professional manner.
So, what are the business skills we’re looking at? It involves managing and prioritizing workflow. At a time, you will be working with several clients. It can be exhausting if you cannot manage the workflow efficiently. Start with planning all the cases and scheduling your time among them. Skills such as conflict and financial management are equally cherished in this profession.
This is again something that cannot truly be taught at a college. Hope to hit the wall a few times before starting to get things right with experience.
IRB and Administrative Tribunals
IRB or the Immigration and Refugee Board is a tribunal that attends to immigration appeals and takes decisions in these cases. As an RCIC, your life will revolve around the IRB. You’ll be representing your clients in IRB proceedings. It is here that you’ll state your argument and present evidence. It is therefore important that you have a solid knowledge of average IRB proceedings. You’ll nevertheless learn on the job. Also, it’s a plus if you can quickly build rapport with clients. This makes working on a case a lot smoother and more efficient across different aspects.
Immigration consultancy is perhaps the most regulated profession in Canada. It is governed by a central council body, ICCRC. ICCRC administers the entry-to-practice program and exams. It also licenses RCICs. As such, it has the power to withdraw a license too. ICCRC has defined a set of six professional competencies.
First of all, you should maintain competence in your job. Secondly, ethics require you to demonstrate accountability in your practice. The third competence requires you to ethically handle conflicts of interest. The fourth ethic suggests maintaining confidentiality with data. The fifth one asks professionals to maintain a professional boundary in their practice. Finally, you should be open to collaborating with other professionals as it may suit the client. A college program on immigration consultancy does teach a lot about professionalism and practice ethics.
Canada is a diverse country and it acknowledges the contribution of various groups. As an RCIC, you will represent clients of different ethnic and national backgrounds. It is important that you respect their culture and can work in an inter-culture setting. It helps to copy verbatim the third point of competency from the ICCRC’s list. It asks RCICs to “demonstrate awareness of clients’ cultural needs and to take action to facilitate client engagement.”
Communication, counseling, and advocacy
The headline perhaps summed it up all. As an RCIC, you will be among people all the time – clients, at the tribunal, and among other professionals. You’ll also be communicating a lot in emails and writing your arguments down. Therefore, it is important that you are proficient with oral and written communications.
Secondly, as a consultant, you will be counseling and briefing clients on their cases. It helps to develop counseling skills. This includes preparing the meeting atmosphere, helping your client be at ease, being attentive when they speak, and seeking details and clarifications on important information. Empathy also goes a long way in this profession. But also remember to maintain a professional distance with your cases.
Finally, advocacy is about representing your client’s case before a tribunal or a court of law. When you are thorough with your communication, you’ll have the details and the skill to present the best argument to support your client’s case.
Critical thinking, problem-solving, and evidence-based practice
Finally, critical thinking and problem-solving are the two most important soft skills in any law profession. An RCIC needs to show sound judgment skills and adopt an evidence-based approach in their practice.
Immigration consultancy is an exciting and very regulated profession. It is governed by a central council body, ICCRC. ICCRC administers entry-to-practice education programs and exams. It also attends to concerns of professional breaches in practice and issues/withdraws licenses to RCICs.
We have discussed how an immigration consultant course can equip you to appear for the mandatory exam. We also discussed why there is no best college for the immigration consultant course anymore. In fact, as of February 2021, there is only one pathway to becoming a licensed RCIC.
- Go for the Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law at Queen’s University.
- Study rigorously while at the course and prepare for the EPE.
- After you graduate, appear for the EPE.
- If you qualify for the exam, you can seek a license to practice as an RCIC. As an RCIC, you will also join the regulatory council body.
While in practice, maintain professionalism and use your expertise to help clients.