No, you are not required to hire an immigration lawyer to apply to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for immigration to Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to make a refugee claim or file an immigration appeal, or apply to the Federal Court to seek judicial review of a refusal. However, even though it is not a requirement, I strongly recommend that you get legal advice from a lawyer that is personalized to your situation before making any immigration application or refugee claim.
There are many different routes to become authorized to visit, work, study, or permanently reside in Canada. An immigration lawyer will have the expertise and knowledge to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about what application type may be best for you and your family. A lawyer will also be aware of any deadlines that you have to meet, and if you retain them, they should ensure that your application or claim is submitted on-time to avoid any delays or refusals because of a missed deadline.
Your eligibility to apply for some immigration programs in the future can depend on what applications you have submitted in the past, and a lawyer can tell you how your future applications for immigration to Canada may be affected by the applications you submit now, or have submitted in the past. For example, most refugee claimants who have a pending claim, or who have had their claim or appeal rejected within the last 12 months, are not eligible to apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. A conversation with an immigration and refugee lawyer about what your immigration needs are, and what applications you are eligible to apply for, will give you the information you need to turn your immigration goals into your reality.
Importantly, lawyers are governed and regulated by provincial law societies. Lawyers are accountable to provide you accurate advice and information. Lawyers are also held to strict requirements that protect you against the misuse of funds paid to them, which helps protect your investment in legal representation and advice.
In addition, I always strongly recommend that you hire a lawyer to represent you if your matter is highly technical, legally complex, or if the application being refused will put someone’s life or safety at risk. For example, those who are claiming refugee protection in Canada should have a lawyer advise and represent them on any refugee claim or refugee appeal. While you are allowed to represent yourself before the Immigration Refugee Board in most cases, it is recommended to hire a lawyer who can help defend your rights to a fair hearing and ensure that your case is presented as persuasively as possible. For example, a lawyer can object on your behalf if the Board Member (the person who decides your refugee claim or appeal) is asking any unfair questions of you. A lawyer can also help you address any concerns that you may have during the hearing and can advise you on the best way to raise such concerns to protect your right to a fair hearing. Your lawyer should also help you draft your narrative, advise you on what evidence to provide in support of your claim, and can make legal submissions on your behalf to argue why your claim or appeal should be accepted.
For any refugee or immigration matter, a lawyer will also be able to advise you on what evidence you can provide that will help support your claim or application, and what evidence may not be necessary to provide. Immigration and refugee lawyers have expertise on what types of evidence are permitted for each immigration or refugee process, and what types of evidence are most persuasive. Lawyers can also help you draft affidavits or statutory declarations in support of your application, which are sworn statements that allow you to explain your situation to a decision maker. They can also help you by explaining what types of evidence about the conditions in your home country can be provided in support of your application, and can advise you on what sources and evidence are best to provide in support of your claim or application.
Immigration and refugee lawyers have the education and experience to ensure that you apply for the immigration program that is most likely to meet your needs, and can also assist you in preparing the most persuasive application possible. While it is not a requirement to hire a lawyer, consulting and retaining a lawyer to advise or assist you with your application is often a strong first step towards reaching your immigration goals.
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