Immigration Law’s Players (18:III)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 18, 2023.

A. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA )

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), under the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is generally responsible for processing permanent resident and temporary visa applications. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) under the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is generally responsible for enforcement, removals, and hearings.

The difference between the CBSA and IRCC is more complicated than what is outlined in this Chapter, and their roles change within Canada's immigration system can change.

B. Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)

The Immigration and Refugee Board is an independent tribunal with four distinct divisions. It is responsible for decisions on immigration and refugee matters, such as admissibility hearings, detention reviews, immigration appeals, and more. These are outlined in more detail below in Section VII: The Immigration and Refugee Board.

C. Immigration Representatives, Consultants, and “Shadow” or “Ghost” Consultants

Under section 91 of the IRPA, the only persons permitted to offer immigration advice or to appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board for consideration (i.e. pay) in relation to an application, are lawyers (and articled students) and members of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants ("CICC"). A person who is not paid may legally provide assistance and advice to an applicant.

Any party appearing as a representative to an applicant must complete an IMM5476E "Use of a Representative" form. This includes both unpaid and paid parties.

For any proceeding in Federal Court, such as judicial review of an IRB decision, only lawyers and the applicants themselves may appear.

“Shadow” or “ghost” consulting refers to the practice of offering immigration-consulting services without proper accreditation. While these consultants are not authorized players in the immigration process, their presence is nevertheless significant, and often harmful. Whether acting within Canada or outside Canada, ghost consultants will never appear in the official record of an application. Since many immigrants are unaware of the regulatory requirement for authorized representation, those immigrants are exposing themselves to censure and even findings of "misrepresentation" if they employ ghost consultants, and IRCC and CBSA will aggressively pursue such findings if given the opportunity. Advocates should be entirely sure of their suspicions of the use of a ghost consultant before revealing this fact to IRCC and prejudicing their client. There are methods for pursuing and censuring ghost consultants provided in the IRPA and IRP Regulations, and clients may also have civil remedies against them in certain situations. Refer to the “small claims” chapter for more information on filing complaints or small claims actions against consultants.

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