With a strong economy and diverse and welcoming society, Canada is a popular immigration destination for individuals and families worldwide. However, navigating the intricate immigration process can be difficult, and mistakes can be made, even when working with an immigration professional. If an immigration consultant makes a mistake on your application or an immigration lawyer fails to provide services to you, it can lead to costly delays or a refusal of your application and ultimately may make you ineligible to immigrate to Canada.
This can be particularly detrimental if you are seeking to immigrate to be reunited with your family or attend higher education. Therefore, if you believe you have received incorrect advice from an immigration professional, which has negatively impacted your immigration process, it is important to speak with a trusted litigation lawyer to help you determine whether you have a basis for a claim. Furthermore, it is important for immigration consultants and immigration lawyers in British Columbia to understand the legal liabilities that come with providing incorrect advice to clients.
In Canada, immigration consultants are regulated by the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (also referred to as the “CICC”). The CICC is a national regulatory body established by the federal government to regulate immigration consultants and protect the public interest.
Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (also referred to as the “IRPA”), immigration consultants must be registered with the CICC to provide immigration services in Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also sets out the rules and regulations governing the conduct of immigration consultants, including the requirement to maintain professional standards and ethical conduct. Under this legislation, immigration consultants are also required to provide clients with accurate and transparent information.
Immigration consultants in British Columbia must also comply with the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, which sets out consumer protection rules and regulations for businesses operating in the province. The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act also includes provisions related to the rules surrounding advertising, pricing, and disclosure of information to clients.
It is essential for immigration lawyers practicing in British Columbia to understand the potential legal liability that they may be exposed to if they provide incorrect advice to clients. While the Law Society of British Columbia regulates the practice of law, it is ultimately up to the individual lawyers to ensure that they provide accurate and reliable information to their clients.
Immigration consultants, on the other hand, must provide a certain standard of care to each client. This standard is based on the care that a reasonably competent immigration consultant would provide to their client in the same circumstances. Immigration consultants also owe a fiduciary duty to their clients, meaning that they must act in their client’s best interests. Immigration consultants can face numerous legal liabilities for failing to meet the standard of care or breaching their fiduciary duty.
An immigration consultant or immigration lawyer who provides incorrect advice to a client may find themselves involved in a negligence claim by a former client. To prove that negligence has occurred, the client must show that:
- the immigration professional owed them a duty of care;
- that duty of care was breached; and
- the advice provided by the immigration professional was not in line with the professional standards expected of a competent immigration consultant or lawyer.
If the client can prove these three elements, they may be entitled to compensation for financial losses or damages incurred due to the negligence. For example, a client who relied on the lawyer’s advice and ended up having their visa or application for permanent residency rejected may have a basis to commence a negligence claim.
Another potential legal liability immigration professionals may face is a claim for misrepresentation. Misrepresentation occurs when a professional makes false or misleading statements to their client, either intentionally or unintentionally. For example, an immigration consultant may not provide their client with the correct information about the requirements for a specific visa, or they may provide a false sense of likely success in relation to a particular immigration application. If the client can establish that they relied on this misrepresentation and, as a result, they suffered a direct loss, they may be able to seek compensation for damages from the immigration professional.
In addition to negligence and misrepresentation, immigration professionals may also face legal liability for breach of contract. A breach of contract may occur when the immigration professional fails to provide the services promised in accordance with the agreement between themselves and their client. For example, if the consultant promised to complete an application within a certain time frame and failed to do so, the client may be able to seek damages for any losses incurred as a result of the delay.
Immigration consultants and immigration lawyers should be aware of their responsibilities when providing professional services to clients who may be in a vulnerable position due to language barriers or lack of understanding of the immigration system. Therefore, most professionals take steps to provide services in accordance with the standards required of them and minimize their exposure to liability by staying up-to-date on current immigration policies and regulations, maintaining professional indemnity insurance, and carefully reviewing all documents and information provided to clients to ensure accuracy.
However, immigration consultants or lawyers may also be liable for professional misconduct. Providing incorrect advice to clients, failing to maintain confidentiality, or engaging in unethical conduct may constitute professional misconduct, placing the professional at risk. Both the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants and the Law Society of British Columbia have the power to investigate and discipline professionals who engage in professional misconduct, which may result in fines or revocation of a license.
The experienced litigation lawyers at Meridian Law Group understand the far-reaching impacts of reliance on incorrect immigration advice. With ever-changing rules and regulations, it is common for individuals to seek assistance from an immigration professional when embarking on their immigration journey. However, these services only sometimes meet the necessary standards. Whether you received incorrect advice from a negligent immigration consultant or have paid for immigration services which were not received, our lawyers can help.
With offices located in downtown Vancouver, Meridian Law Group represents clients throughout British Columbia and internationally. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, please contact us by phone at (604) 687-2277 or reach out to us online.