Use of representatives: Handling complaints

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

The complaints and investigation processes will be discussed individually; however, these two processes may intertwine as some complaints from clients (public) could lead officers to conduct an investigation. When officers have concerns that a representative’s conduct is affecting the program’s integrity, they should commence the investigation process.

The purpose of the complaints processes is to identify how complaints from clients about authorized or unauthorized representatives should be reported and to whom.

Types of complaints

Officers could receive a variety of complaints. Some examples of complaints include the following:

  • misleading advertising
  • inappropriate behaviour by a representative
  • citizenship or immigration offences that involve criminality
  • professional and ethical misconduct by an authorized representative
  • misrepresentation
  • impersonation/identity theft
  • dissatisfaction with the Regulations concerning representatives
  • dissatisfaction with the operational implementation of the Regulations concerning representatives
  • dissatisfaction with the IMM 5476 or IMM 5561 instructions.

Handling client complaints

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) need to remain at arm’s length from Canadian law societies, the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC). Therefore, these Departments cannot mediate in disputes between clients and authorized representatives, nor should they communicate complaints directly to a regulatory body on the client’s behalf.

The organizations mentioned above are independent, self-governing bodies whose mandates include consumer protection and ensuring the professionalism of their respective members. These bodies have their own complaints and discipline mechanisms and investigation procedures for members who breach their codes of professional conduct.

If the client has a complaint about a representative who is a member in good standing with a provincial or territorial law society, the Chambre des notaires du Québec or the CICC, the officer should encourage the client to contact the respective regulatory body.

Handling complaints about unauthorized representatives

Officers may also receive complaints from clients or the public about the actions of unauthorized individuals who receive compensation but do not belong to any of the governing bodies. These individuals include: concealed representatives or “ghost” consultants, representatives who claim to be doing pro bono work yet are receiving compensation, and representatives whose memberships have been suspended or revoked.

Officers can provide the following options to the client:

  • the client can inform the appropriate regulator: the law society, the Chambre des notaires du Québec or the CICC
  • the client can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau
  • they may also pursue the unauthorized representative through the legal system (law enforcement or small claims court).

Also, for tracking purposes, officers are advised to forward the client complaint to the Program Integrity Branch.

Office concerns that may lead to further investigation

Some concerns that originate from clients may require further action by an office, even though the client has been advised to contact the appropriate governing body. This is essential when the complainant’s allegations reveal that program integrity may be compromised. If officers have sufficient evidence, through a complaint or through their own discovery, of potential Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) or Citizenship Act criminal offences or professional misconduct in a case or a series of cases, they should report the matter to their senior officer as per existing office procedures.

Refusal to deal with a representative (case in process)

If it is discovered through a complaint and/or investigation that the applicant is providing compensation for the services of an unauthorized representative while the application is being processed, IRCC will no longer conduct business with the unauthorized representative unless they become authorized and a new IMM 5476 is submitted.

Similarly, if it is discovered that an applicant’s authorized representative is suspended from practicing by their governing body while the application or procedure is in process, IRCC must cease conducting business with the representative while the suspension is in effect.

IRCC must send the applicant a letter informing them that their representative is not authorized and that IRCC will deal only with the applicant directly. If the application contains a home mailing address for the applicant, this address should be used. If the officer has no other way of contacting the applicant, the letter should be sent to the mailing address on file.

If officers obtain proof of the use of a concealed representative during processing, they may consider using their authority under A40 of IRPA or section 22(1)(e.1) and (e.2) of the Citizenship Act to refuse the applicant for misrepresentation.

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