Ethics in immigration practice by EQ7Al75w


									                   ETHICS IN IMMIGRATION PRACTICE

                        NEW PRACTITIONER’S GUIDE

eth·ics (compliments of

plural noun
   1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the
      ethics of a culture.

   2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of
      human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics;
      Buddhist ethics.

   3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a

   4. ( usually used with a singular verb ) that branch of philosophy dealing
      with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness
      and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of
      the motives and ends of such actions.

Legal ethics encompasses an ethical code governing the conduct of
persons engaged in the practice of law and persons more generally in the
legal sector.

As Immigration Practitioners, our ethical code is determined by our
governing body, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council

On June 30, 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada published
Operational Bulletin 317, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee
Protection Act which passed into law the Minister of Immigration’s authority
to make regulations designating or revoking a body responsible for the
regulation of immigration consultants under A95(1). It was this Bulletin that
gave ICCRC the authority of regulator of Canadian immigration consultants.

As most of us in practice know, the transitional period from the former
regulator to ICCRC will be finished on October 28, 2011. ALL immigration
consultants MUST be enrolled with ICCRC by that date in order to be
recognized as authorized to represent or advise clients for legal purposes
pertaining to immigration matters.
ICCRC has drafted our Code of Ethical Conduct which is pending approval by
the Board of directors. The draft can be found at:

It is our responsibility as consultants to be knowledgeable about and to
follow this Code of Ethical Conduct. Our Code provides definitions and
instructs immigration consultants about the following Rules:



















While this Code is in draft format, we expect it to be approved very shortly
by the Board of ICCRC although there may be revisions. However, for the
purposes of this presentation, we will accept the Code in its’ current format
while remembering that it is our responsibility as consultants to remain
apprised of any and all changes that may occur.

As new practitioners setting up your business or even for those with a few
years of experience but have not worked with more experienced mentors, it
can be overwhelming and even difficult to know exactly what is expected of
us from an ethical perspective. In this presentation, we will not discuss all
of the Rules contained in the Code, but rather, those that new practitioners
most often face when starting out.

I like to think that many of the Rules in the Code of Ethical Conduct are
based on the principals of common sense and what your parents taught you
when you were a child.


RULE #1 – DON’T TELL LIES – to anyone. Don’t lie to your client, don’t lie
to CIC, CBSA, IAD, IRB, ICCRC, ANYONE. Just don’t lie.

This rule from childhood is applicable and affects us in all of the Rules in our
Code of Conduct. We are required to act with honesty and integrity at all

When it comes to advertising our business, we must be honest and refrain
from embellishing our experience. There is always the dilemma of how to
get business when we don’t have experience. That doesn’t mean you have
to lie to attract business. It’s no excuse. The presentation regarding how to
market your business for immigration practitioners is coming at a later date
but I will say that you can focus on what you DO know and your training.
You can use your previous business and life experience to enhance your
marketing without having to resort to lies or embellishment.

Also, remember that the Act and the Regs take misrepresentation very
seriously and this includes lying by omission. This is when an important
fact, or in legal terms “material fact”, is knowingly and deliberately left out
and results in leaving another person with a misconception. So simply
speaking, tell the WHOLE truth.

should be self-explanatory and goes with Rule #1. The Rule entitled
Advising Clients gets into more specific detail. It states:

Avoid Corrupt Associations

An ICCRC member shall take all reasonable measures to avoid becoming the
tool or dupe of an unscrupulous Client, person or persons associated with
In plain language, this means that you are not allowed to partake in any
corrupt or illegal activity and cannot associate with people you suspect or
know are involved in this type of activity.

Cheating Prohibited

An ICCRC member must exercise due care and not knowingly assist in or

        any dishonesty, fraud, crime or illegal conduct,
        the provision of misleading information,
        the omission of any required relevant information,
        counselling of a Client on how to violate the law or
        counselling of a Client on how to avoid punishment, but this shall
         not preclude the provision of information as to mitigation of
         possible sentence for breach of IRPA

As an immigration consultant, your obligation is to represent and advocate
on behalf of your clients within the limits of the law. We all want our clients
to get what they want but we cannot counsel them to cheat in order to
obtain their goals.

RULE #3 – BE NICE AND RESPECTFUL – as immigration consultants we
must hold ourselves to a high standard of behavior. It is our duty to serve
our clients with honour and integrity. We are in a privileged role and play a
vital part in maintaining the integrity of Canada’s immigration system and
the administration of justice. Do not take this lightly.

We are required to be civil and courteous in all of our communications
(verbal and written) with all members of the public including but not limited
to clients, CIC officers, each other, even if these people are not nice to us!
This does not mean that you must suffer abuse silently. You CAN be
assertive and courteous at the same time. You CAN also hold others
accountable for bad behavior. If you believe you are being treated in a
disrespectful manner by another consultant, government employee or even
client, know what remedies are available to rectify the situation. Some
consultants may have a communication clause built into their retainer
agreement that may allow them to withdraw from acting on behalf of a client
because of abusive behavior. Take pride in your designation as a Regulated
Canadian Immigration Consultant and hold yourself accordingly. Expect
others to do the same.
As a self-regulating profession, WE are responsible for how the public, the
government and all of her agencies view us. Practicing high standards of
professionalism is our obligation as immigration consultants. New
practitioners must take this very seriously and remember that each and
every one of us is responsible for the reputation of the group as a whole. So
be professional!

RULE #4 – DON’T TELL TALES – this is one of the most important rules
we have when it comes to working with our clients. Maintaining client
confidentiality is vital to building a reputation as a trusted consultant. You
are required to keep confidential at all times all information concerning the
affairs of a client, both business and personal, unless you are authorized to
disclose it by the client or as required by law. Also know that confidentiality
survives the retainer. This means that even though your client’s file may be
finished or you are no longer their representative, your duty of
confidentiality never dies.

In practice, we often need advice or guidance regarding various situations.
An example of this could be where you have prepared and submitted your
100th work permit application but you have never had one processed
through a particular embassy. We may ask for advice from others and you
can maintain client confidentiality by properly framing your questions leaving
out identifying information about the client. However, if a client’s employer
calls you to ask about the status of the work permit, you must determine if
you have authorization from the client to disclose this information.
Authorization can be implied depending upon the circumstances but you
have to know. When in doubt, ask your client directly if you can disclose
information to particular individuals and pertaining to what. For example,
you may be able to disclose the status of the work permit application
however, if the employer asked you how old the applicant’s spouse is, this
has nothing to do with the work permit itself so you are not at liberty to tell
him or her. If you don’t know, err on the side of caution. It will keep you
and your client safe.

We, as practitioners, encounter situations that require us to make decisions
determined by the Rules of Professional Conduct each and every day. With
practice, the majority of these Rules will become automatically ingrained into
your thought and decision making process. However, all of us have had
questions about how to interpret the Rules when faced with circumstances
unique to us. If you require direction and assistance regarding any of the
Rules, contact ICCRC for clarification and guidance. One final piece of
advice, if you are ever faced with a situation where you have a choice
between ethics or money, choose ethics. ALWAYS.

New practitioners are often at a disadvantage when entering the
marketplace of immigration consulting. They often don’t have any actual
experience representing clients. How do you overcome this so you can gain
the practical experience you require while also upholding your duty of
competent service to the client?


When I first began practicing as an immigration consultant I used my
previous business and personal experience in order to build my immigration
practice. I knew how to do 3 things; work permit applications, labour
market opinions and overseas spousal sponsorships. As a recruiter, I had
assisted employers by recruiting qualified individuals to fill positions in
Canada. I worked with an immigration lawyer who provided representation
to those who wanted to hire a representative to prepare their work permit
and temporary resident visa applications. I was lucky that as the point of
contact between the lawyer and the worker, I was able to learn by osmosis
the laws and procedures pertaining to work permits. I had also assisted
many employers in the preparation of Labour Market Opinions applications
or prepared them myself. It was allowed in those days. As a recruiter, I
knew provincial and federal labour laws including those pertaining to the
recruitment of foreign nationals. I had also sponsored my own spouse to
come to Canada. So I had some practical knowledge and now the legal
training and authorization to act on behalf of clients. When starting out, I
chose to only work in areas of immigration where I had experience.

Many new consultants DO have some practical experience in certain areas of
immigration law. I know consultants whose previous work involved
international students and in their former jobs they had to learn the laws
associated with study permits. They have niched their immigration practice
around foreign students.

I strongly believe, at least when starting out, that a niche oriented business
plan is best. Immigration is a big area of law. If possible, do what you
know first. You will be more competent, you will know the practical
application of the law, and you will be better able to serve your client. This
allows you to build a reputation as a competent consultant. You should
know inside and out the sections of the Act, Regulations and Manuals that
have to do with your areas of practice. This does not mean that even in
those familiar areas you will never need advice or guidance. You will. Some
new and strange circumstance will appear and you will be unsure of what to
do. That’s when you seek guidance from more seasoned practitioners.


I believe that an excellent choice for new practitioners with no experience
that can be related to immigration law is to seek a support position with an
experienced individual or in a firm of immigration lawyers or consultants.
The work you will do will allow you to obtain the practical experience you
need to become a competent consultant.

Another choice is to ask to be of service. I am fortunate enough to have
some friends who are immigration lawyers. I also am not shy and I asked
them to let me help them on cases in areas where I was interested in
learning and expanding my practice. I called myself the grunt and did a lot
of free work. But I wanted to be able to expand my area of practice outside
of what I was doing so the experience and guidance I received by doing this
free work has paid off a thousand fold for me. It’s not easy doing work for
free but it was a choice I made and I don’t regret it. This also opened up
doors for me to be junior counsel with some seasoned representatives
because they knew the quality of my work and have now taken a vested
interest in my progression as a consultant.

Another idea may be if you have a client who has an issue that you have no
experience dealing with and feel it is beyond your ability to gain the
knowledge you need to become competent, then with the permission of your
client, approach a seasoned practitioner and discuss the opportunity for
them to work as your mentor while you both earn an agreed upon fee from
the work performed. This is almost the same scenario as above except you
are bringing the client and you get paid!


There may be times when you are approached by a potential client with a
situation that:

   a. Is completely over your head and you have no interest in learning; or

   b. Is completely over your head and you do not have the time to learn it.

These are situations where you should refer the client to a qualified
practitioner. If this occurs a lot, you may want to set up an agent
agreement with some consultants who practice in areas you don’t so that
you are paid a fee for the referral.

Where to Start

In just about all professional services, fees are set based on a number of

      Years of Professional Experience

      Complexity of Service

      Quantity of Work

      Fair Market Comparison for Same Service

      Target Market

Years of Professional Experience – For new practitioners, does this mean
that your fees should be lower than those charged by a seasoned consultant
doing the same work? In a word, YES. Never undervalue experience. One
day, you will be the experienced consultant and will definitely understand
how the years you’ve been in practice add value to your service. The upside
is obvious in that once you have gained experience and a reputation for
quality work, you can raise your fees.

Complexity of Service – The more legally complicated a case is will justify
higher fees being charged. They require more expertise, research and often
more time to complete.

Quantity of Work – Again, this is self-explanatory. Fees are often set by
estimating the amount of time it will take to complete a service.

Fair Market Comparison for Same Service – This is where you learn what
your competitors are charging to provide a similar service and your price
your services competitively.

Target Market – You can make some assumptions regarding ability to pay
based on your target market such as Investors. I often hear that people will
set their prices also based on the cultural market that intend to work in but I
am not a big fan of that. I don’t think your country of origin should impact
what your fees are. This would put you at risk of breaching the Rule of
Ethical Conduct regarding Discrimination. In my opinion, you are much safer
setting your fees based on the type of service you are providing rather than
a client’s ethnicity or cultural community.
Hourly vs. Flat Rate

There are typically two fee types you will encounter in immigration legal
practice. The first is the hourly rate.

Hourly Rate – First, you should have only one hourly rate. Period. It is not
a good idea to negotiate your hourly rate as it could cause problems with
clients who will be looking to continually try to get you to reduce your fees.
This is not good for your business or reputation. Word will get around that
your “rate” is NOT really your “rate” and you will find yourself doing more
work for less money. So set it and stick to it. Then you should be aware of
the overall amount of time it will take to complete a case and provide a total
fee estimate based on this with a clear stipulation in your retainer that any
extraordinary circumstances will result in more hours being billed. Discuss
this with your client at length. Ensure that they understand that new or
extraordinary work will require more time and increase their bill. If you’ve
estimated and agreed upon 10 hours of work only to have new
circumstances arise, you should immediately discuss this with your client
and provide a new estimate based on the additional work to be done. Get
your client to sign off on this. You must also keep meticulous time sheets to
ensure that you have proper accounting records in the event of a dispute
with your client regarding fees. You must have evidence to back up your
claim of number of hours spent on a file.

Flat Fee Rate – Many practitioners set flat fee rates for various types of
applications and services. This is what I do. My retainer is quite clear as to
what is encompassed in my service and that if there is an additional
application or service to be done, a new retainer is required. There is some
risk involved in flat fee rates in that there may be extra or unforeseen work
involved within an application but I cannot charge extra for the work.
However, overall I have found that there is balance with flat fees.
Sometimes one case will require extra work and another will go more
smoothly than anticipated.

Formula for Setting Fee Rates

Calculate your overhead costs. Overhead includes rent, telephone, office
supplies, staff salaries, association and membership fees, marketing, and
any other item that is a business expense. This will allow you to know the
cost of being in business and how much you need to earn BEFORE you make
enough money to be able to pay yourself. Then, work to create estimates of
the number of hours it takes to complete an application and/or service. You
also should estimate the number of hours you will work per month. By
having all of these numbers, you will be able to set both hourly and flat fee
rates that will allow you to pay our bills as well as pay yourself.


Standard LMO application

Fee: $1500 flat rate

Number of Hours:        10 hours

$1500/10 = $150 per hour

But how much of that is profit?

Monthly business overhead: $2500

Number of billable hours worked per month:      80

80 X $150 per hour = $12000 - $2500 = $9500 per month

Do NOT ever forget to account for INCOME TAXES. Figure out the amount of
taxable income you earn and tax rate for your earning bracket and set aside
money every month to pay your taxes.

If the above is taxed at a rate of 35%, this means you will have to set aside
$3325 per month for taxes. Your net earnings are $6175.

Understanding Supply And Demand

On the surface, the relationship between price and supply and demand is
simple. As demand increases relative to supply, there is an upward pressure
on prices. Just about anyone you ask will know this. The reason for this
phenomenon is elementary. Scarcity of supply makes consumers compete
for a particular product, increasing their willingness to pay. Abundance of
supply makes suppliers compete for consumers, increasing the suppliers'
willingness to reduce their price to hold their share of the market.

So, how does all this affect your practice? As in any market, an increase in
the number of suppliers increases the amount and intensity of competition.
This can lead to an increase in advertising and promotion on the part of
immigration practitioners. Such activity informs consumers that there is a
greater choice in the marketplace, causing consumers to shop. This puts
downward pressure on prices. Prospective clients become more fee
sensitive. Practitioners are forced to justify their fees and certain prospects
reject them on that basis. This tends to make practitioners very insecure
about their rates, especially when the volume of their business is down.

The simplistic solution would seem to be just to offer the lowest price in
town. You would then have all the business you could handle and get rich.
This assumes a couple of things, both of which are false. First, it assumes
that the only thing that all prospects care about is the price. Second, it
assumes that all prospects automatically will be aware that you have the
lowest rate in town.

The reality is that being the low price leader in the legal market is the very
worst thing you can do to your practice. It will cause your practice to
flounder and fail. The first reason is that it takes more production to cover
your expenses since every hour generates less revenue. This means that
you have to have a high volume practice. To get that kind of volume, you
have to get the word out that you are the low price leader, which means
advertising (and more expense). Also, to handle the extra volume of
unusable calls from the advertising (many of the calls you get from
advertising will be people who want free legal advice), you will have to add
more staff to answer the calls (more expense) or answer the calls yourself
(lost production). The result will be that you will work very hard for very
small amounts of money.

There is an adage that you get what you pay for. This isn’t always true in
our field as there are plenty people who charge too much for what they
provide. On the other hand, if someone is priced too cheaply, you have to
wonder about the quality of the work they do.

New practitioners should not price themselves so cheaply in an effort to beat
the competition as it can be difficult to raise their fees once they gain
experience. The best suggestion in setting your fees is to base it on the
combination of factors discussed earlier. As your expertise grows, you will
be able to justifiably increase your rates if you wish. Build your reputation
and the best method of getting new clients, referrals, will grow.

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