1. Introduction

1.1. Purpose of evaluation

This report presents the results of the evaluation of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), the body designated under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to govern the immigration consultant industry. The evaluation was conducted in fulfillment of the requirements under the Financial Administration Act and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) Policy on Evaluation (2009), as well as a commitment to report on the activities of the organization by December 2013. The data collection for this evaluation was undertaken by the Research and Evaluation Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), between January and April, 2013, with an updated assessment on the financial data completed in February 2014.

This evaluation report is organized in four main sections:

  • Section 1 presents background information on how the provision of immigration advice is regulated;
  • Section 2 presents the methodology for the evaluation, and discusses limitations;
  • Section 3 presents the findings, organized by evaluation issue; and
  • Section 4 presents the conclusions and recommendations.

1.2. Background

1.2.1. Changes to regulations regarding the provision of immigration advice

Applying for immigration can be a challenging experience. While many people applying to immigrate to Canada choose to manage their applications themselves, some choose to solicit support from third-party representatives to help them through the process. These third parties from whom they seek advice can be compensated or uncompensated. However, both compensated and uncompensated representatives are required to be declared by the applicant on their application. Section 91 of IRPA states that only certain parties may be engaged to provide advice for consideration in these matters:

  • Members of law societies, including paralegals;
  • Members of the Chambre des notaires du Québec; or
  • Members of a body designated eligible to provide advice through regulation. Footnote 2

A member in good standing of any of these three regulatory bodies is considered to be an authorized representative.

Sections 13.1 and 13.2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) provide additional authorities, delineating information to be provided by this regulatory body and authorizing the disclosure of information in cases of suspected misconduct by its members. Footnote 3

Bill C-35, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (formerly called the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act) received Royal Assent on March 23, 2011 and came into force on June 30, 2011. The Bill made the changes to Sections 13.1 and 13.2 of the IRPR cited above, as well as provided authorization under IRPA for the Minister to designate a body to be responsible for governing immigration consultants. The Bill makes it an offense for anyone other than an authorized representative to provide immigration advice (including prior to the submission of an application) or represent clients on immigration matters and receive direct or indirect compensation for it. The Bill also requires that body to provide sufficient information to allow the Minister to evaluate whether the designated body governs its members in a manner that is in the public interest, so that they provide professional and ethical representation and advice. Footnote 4

1.2.2. History / objectives of the ICCRC

Following the passage of Bill C-35, CIC requested submissions from candidates interested in becoming the regulator of immigration consultants. The request called for candidate entries to demonstrate that they would be able to effectively regulate immigration consulting activities in the public interest, thereby enhancing public confidence in the immigration process and preserving the integrity of the immigration system. Footnote 5

As a result of this competitive process, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) was selected, replacing the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) as the body responsible for the regulation of Canadian immigration consultants. To support the creation of this arms-length governing body, CIC established a Contribution in Support of the Regulation of Immigration Consultants. CIC and the ICCRC signed a $1M contribution agreement. The purpose of this Agreement was for CIC to provide funding, in the form of a repayable contribution, for the start-up and operating costs of the governing body, and through evaluation and monitoring, to ensure financial accountability and performance of the organization as per its obligations of the Agreement. The full amount of the contribution will be repaid by the ICCRC to the Government of Canada with its revenues. Under the original terms of the contribution agreement, the ICCRC was expected to enter into negotiations regarding the repayment terms for the contribution when it reached 2,200 members, or three years after signing of the contribution agreement, whichever came first. As the former occurred first (August 2012), CIC successfully negotiated the repayment terms in December 2012. The ICCRC issued its first repayment towards the contribution in August 2013 and is expected to repay the full contribution amount to CIC by August 2017.

The contribution agreement committed the ICCRC to establishing a number of elements as part of the creation of the organization. This included activities related to building the capacity of the organization (capacity building), developing communication products for members and the public (communications), putting in place processes to accredit members and ensure professional development opportunities (competencies), and establishing a complaints and discipline process (compliance).

At the outset, the Integration Program Management Branch (IPMB), CIC, was responsible for managing the contribution agreement, including receiving progress reports, verifying expenditures, and authorizing payments. Now that all payments have been dispersed, IPMB is responsible for monitoring the repayment of the contribution to CIC. The Operational Management and Coordination Branch (OMC), CIC, was responsible for providing support during the establishment of the organization, including providing advice and input on the activities, processes, and procedures being put in place.

The ICCRC’s objective, as outlined on the organization’s website, is to effectively and fairly regulate immigration consultants with accountability and transparency. Footnote 6

1.2.3. Profile of the ICCRC

The ICCRC began operations as of June 30, 2011. A transitional period of four months was established (ending October 28, 2011) to enable former CSIC members to transfer their membership to the new body if desired. Footnote 7 As of December 31, 2012, the ICCRC had 2,450 members, the majority of whom (77%) transferred their membership from CSIC (Table 1.1). The ICCRC added 552 new members in the first 18 months in existence. Footnote 8

Table 1.1: Number of ICCRC Members, as of December 2012

Membership type Number of members Proportion
Membership transferred from CSIC 1,898 77.0%
New memberships 552 23.0%
Total 2,450 100.0%

Source: ICCRC Registrar’s Report, February 2013

While immigrations consultants are located across Canada, the highest numbers are concentrated in Ontario (41.8%) and British Colombia (29.6%) (Figure 1.1). Few consultants are located in the Atlantic Provinces, with only 1.1% of ICCRC members being located in these provinces. A small number of registered immigration consultants are located outside of Canada (5.2%). Footnote 9

Figure 1.1: Distribution of ICCRC members, June 2011 – December 2012

Figure 1.1 described below

Source: ICCRC Registrar’s Report, February 2013

Text version: Figure 1.1: Distribution of ICCRC Members, circa December 31, 2012
Jurisdiction Number of Members Proportion
British Columbia 725 29.6%
Prairies 261 10.7%
Ontario 1,023 41.8%
Quebec 287 11.7%
Atlantic 26 1.1%
North 1 0.0%
International 127 5.2%
Total 2,450 100.0%

Source: ICCRC Registrar’s Report, February 2013

The majority of ICCRC members are owners or part operators of immigration consulting firms (87.2%) or an employee of a consulting firm with no ownership stake (8.7%). Footnote 10

Table 1.2: Employment types of ICCRC members, as of December 2012

Employment type Number of members Proportion
Owner / part operator of an immigration consulting firm 2,167 87.2%
Employee of consulting firm with no ownership stake 215 8.7%
Employee of a law firm or a Quebec notary firm 48 1.9%
Employee of a for-profit firm whose primary business is not related to immigration consulting help 41 1.6%
Employee of a non-profit firm or non-government organization 14 0.6%
Total 2,485 100.0%

Source: ICCRC Registrar’s Report, February 2013

The majority of ICCRC members are relatively new to the immigration consulting business, as 63.5% have been practicing immigration consultancy for less than five years (Table 1.3). Those with five to fifteen years of experience represent a sizeable minority within the ICCRC (24.9%), and a minority of ICCRC members have more than fifteen years experience (11.6%).

Table 1.3: Years of experience of ICCRC members, as of December 2012

Years of experience Number of members Proportion
<5 years 1,578 63.5%
5-15 years 619 24.9%
>15 years 288 11.6%
Total 2,485 100.0%

Source: ICCRC Registrar’s Report, February 2013

The information above was obtained from the ICCRC. Additional information about the immigration consulting industry (e.g., types of clients served, locations of overseas offices) was collected through a survey administered to ICCRC members. A summary of the information can be found in the Technical Appendices.

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