- April 9, 2019, Bill C-97Bill C-97 – The Budget Implementation Bill – was introduced to Parliament. It included a new statute (the College Act) creating the “College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants” – a new regulator for RCICs and RISIAs.
- June 20, 2019 – College ActCollege Act was passed by Parliament.
- June 21, 2019 – College Act received Royal Assent.
- September 19, 2019 – Membership endorsed ICCRC becoming the new College at a Special General Meeting (SGM).
- October 21, 2019 – Federal Election, followed by appointment of the new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino
- November 20, 2020 – Government of Canada statement on the proclamationGovernment of Canada statement on the proclamation of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act.
- November 26, 2020 – Minister Mendicino’s statementMinister Mendicino’s statement on the coming into force of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act.
- December 9, 2020 – Canada Gazette noticeCanada Gazette notice notice formally sets the coming into force of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act.
- December 11, 2020 – ICCRC’s Chair of the Governing Board, John Burke, sends letter of application for continuanceletter of application for continuance as the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants to Minister Mendicino.
- December 11, 2020 – ICCRC’s application for continuance press releasepress release.
- May 15, 2021 – IRCC released the proposed draft Code of Professional Conduct for College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Licensees for public comment.
- May 18, 2021 – ICCRC received a letter from Minister Mendicinoletter from Minister Mendicino stating his intent to approve the application for continuance and to set a date of continuance for the College.
- May 2021 – Fall 2021 – Ministerial order approving the continuance and setting the “date of continuance” – on the date of continuance, the Council will become the College.
- A transitional Board will oversee approval of the College By-laws and other procedures.
- Government Regulations made pursuant to the College Act will also be developed and promulgated during this period, through the usual government regulation-making process. This involves industry and public consultation periods and, ultimately, approval by the Federal Cabinet on the advice and recommendation of the Minister. These regulations will include a new Code of Professional Conduct for licensees.
- The Minister will issue a final order setting the number and composition of the final College Board of Directors and will prescribe a date by which the new Board must be in office.
- The College will hold an election for the licensee directors on the new Board.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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1. Why is the creation of a new College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants necessary? What is wrong with the current system under the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council?
In Canada, almost all regulators of professionals are established under statute. ICCRC’s current authority arises from its designation by the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Citizenship Act. This delegated authority creates administrative and legal challenges that can prevent ICCRC from delivering timely and effective professional compliance and regulatory services.
In the past two years, ICCRC has worked with IRCC and key stakeholders to obtain the necessary statutory authority. This will provide enhanced powers and tools for oversight, enforcement and investigation, and expanded authority to identify unlicensed immigration consultants and hold them responsible for their actions.
The statute includes new authority to identify and pursue unlicensed immigration consultants. It also provides enhanced powers to investigate, obtain evidence and order refunds of inappropriate fees. The legislation would also create a new fund to compensate persons adversely affected by the unlawful conduct of licensed immigration and citizenship consultants.
Very little will change in your daily work. ICCRC is working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on the development of regulations to support the new College and will have more detail on the specifics regarding licensing, compliance, professional conduct and professional development in the weeks ahead.
Clients will benefit from knowing that complaints made to the College will be vigorously and efficiently investigated. Clients who have been financially affected by the misconduct of a licensed immigration and citizenship consultant may be able to obtain compensation.
ICCRC is working with IRCC to ensure a seamless transition. Nothing changes with your current licence or authority. However, in due course, a new licence will be issued to you. No changes will be made to the professional designations “RCIC” and “RISIA” as those designations have established cachet in the community
There will also be a new licensee insignia created for use on websites, printed materials, etc. that conforms with the College’s new branding.
ICCRC’s professional development approach, requirements, accreditation process, and associated learning resources will be transitioned to the new College. Any changes will only result in a net increase in the quality of the services and resources available to you. We note that ICCRC has been reviewing its current CPD requirements, and this review, together with any changes that may flow from it, will proceed.
The expanded authority and investigative powers provided for in the statute will make the complaints and discipline process more efficient and effective. This is a benefit to both RCICs and the public. Details regarding specific changes to current processes will be finalized through regulation. We are working with IRCC on the development of these regulations and welcome any feedback you have on how to improve on our current process under the new College. Feedback can be directed to email@example.com.
8. The previous government believed remodeling the regulatory body in 2011 would resolve issues with the regulation of immigration consultants. Why should the public trust that transitioning to the College will resolve the outstanding issues within the industry?
The greatest challenge ICCRC faces today is its limited ability and authority to obtain evidence, collect fines and costs, enforce disciplinary sanctions, and pursue unlicensed immigration consultants. ICCRC is essentially expected to enforce strict rules on RCICs and against unlicensed immigration consultants without the right tools or authority to do the job.
With this proposed statutory authority, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants will have robust powers to protect the public. These will include the authority to take substantive action against RCICs who breach the Code of Professional Conduct for College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Licensees as well as against unlicensed immigration consultants. This will go a long way towards improving protection for consumers of immigration services and enhancing the reputation of our growing profession.
9. The Globe and Mail did an in-depth investigation of alleged fraud perpetrated by some former RCICs on immigration clients. How will this new statute achieve better results for those vulnerable Canadians and immigrants?
The abuses chronicled in the media flow from the ICCRC’s limited ability to collect evidence. The fact is that very few witnesses are willing to come forward for fear of compromising their immigration status. Those that do may be easily intimidated by unlicensed immigration consultants. Under the new legislation, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants will be able to launch investigations, obtain important evidence from other sources and compel witnesses to testify at disciplinary hearings. These new tools will go a long way towards helping to protect immigrants.
10. We have heard from individuals and organizations about growing problems with unlicensed immigration consultants who take advantage of prospective immigrants overseas. How does this proposed legislation help the government combat these unlicensed immigration consultants overseas?
We are working with IRCC to establish the scope of authority and continue to cooperate with our colleagues in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Once it receives statutory authority, the new College will also have the enhanced status necessary to engage directly with foreign government agencies. Bill C-97 also includes additional funding for enforcement and public education that will go a long way towards clamping down on unlicensed immigration consultants who are operating abroad illegally.
11. Some argue that lawyers are the best option for consumers in resolving complicated immigration cases. Why wouldn’t the government just enable lawyers to take on a greater role and eliminate RCICs altogether?
Often it is a specific group of lawyers who argue that lawyers are the best option for providing immigration and citizenship services. Lawyers are already authorized to provide the full range of immigration services and certainly play an important part in resolving immigration and citizenship issues – but it is just one part.
Immigration and Citizenship Consultants have been representing immigration clients for decades, working on their own or alongside lawyers to provide much-needed immigration services. These services are needed for various reasons: many lawyers choose to practise in other areas of law that they find are more interesting or lucrative than immigration; immigration consultants often hail from and serve particular demographic groups in which lawyers are underrepresented; the barriers to entering the legal profession are often insurmountable to some interested in providing immigration and citizenship services; and, at the end of the day, the authorization of lawyers, immigration consultants (and notaries in the province of Quebec) to provide these services promotes consumer choice and healthy competition.
Reducing options for immigration and citizenship services limits consumer choice, creates financial barriers for some, and ultimately limits access to appropriate representation. Freedom to choose where to obtain immigration and citizenship services from among competent, ethical and regulated professionals provides new Canadians with the opportunity to obtain the best possible services to meet their needs.
12. Given this proposed new authority, what immediate benefits should the public expect to see? What early steps will the organization take to address unlicensed immigration consultants?
In the short term, the public can expect the College to step up its licensee-enforcement activities with respect to open cases, and institute immediate actions against several unlicensed immigration consultants who have been on our radar. We will continue to build on our partnerships with the RCMP, CBSA and other levels of government to better share information and coordinate our efforts to crack down on fraudulent activity here and abroad.
On September 19, 2019, in a Special General Meeting, ICCRC’s membership overwhelmingly endorsed the Council’s transition to the new College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC).
14. Since the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) released its Report in 2017, what steps has ICCRC taken to rectify the problems identified in that Report?
ICCRC has taken significant steps to strengthen the organization by increasing education standards, streamlining the complaints and discipline process, improving its governance mechanisms, and revamping communications and outreach strategies. A key component of these new initiatives has been the hiring of new senior leadership including a new President & CEO and Director of Professional Conduct (each with a strong background and experience in professional regulation), Director of Professional Standards, Research, Education and Policy, and Director of Public Affairs & Communications. In addition, ICCRC has hired significant additional resources to support Professional Conduct activities. These include additional investigators and lawyers, a mediator, a case coordinator, and a legal advisor, all to expedite the complaints and discipline process.
ICCRC announced the entry into an agreement with the Faculties of Law at Queen’s University and of the Université de Montréal to develop and offer the new Graduate Diploma Program. This represents a significant upgrading of the educational prerequisites for becoming an immigration and citizenship consultant.
The College Act provides for existing RCICs to seamlessly transition to “licensees” of the new College. Going forward, we will continue to monitor proficiency standards and address any future upgrades through continuing education.
No, they do not require any additional education to transition to the new College.
The transition to the Graduate Diploma Program has resulted in the gradual phasing out of the Immigration Practitioner Programs (IPPs). The cut-off date for new registrants into the IPPs was July 31, 2020. Learners enrolled in the IPPs are expected to graduate by December 31, 2022, at which point the IPPs will be retired. IPP students who graduate by December 31, 2022 will be permitted to sit the Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant Entry-to-Practice Exam (RCIC EPE) up to three years after graduating from the IPP. Please note that the last administration of the current EPE will take place in February 2022, after which the EPE will be updated to reflect the new Essential Competencies for RCICs.
As of August 1, 2020, only Queen’s University and Université de Montréal are permitted to accept new registrants into their programs which are the only pathways to sit the RCIC EPE. The Graduate Diploma Program in English was launched in January 2021. It is anticipated that the Graduate Diploma Program in French will be available in September 2021.
The proposed statute does not explicitly provide for professional corporations as it is drafted. Current ICCRC rules permit RCICs to offer services through business corporations. Professional corporations are usually created through provincial legislation. We will explore whether they may be created through federal legislation as we go forward.
20. Can you provide details regarding the mandatory RCIC-IRB Class of Licence to practise at the IRB?
The College Act provides for specialization for RCICs who practise specific activities. The only specialized education currently being considered is for licensees representing clients before the four Divisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada. The Specialization Program will offer three pathways to obtain the RCIC-IRB Class of Licence: (1) the Specialization Education, (2) the Prior Learning and Assessment Recognition (PLAR) and (3) a combination of both pathways. The Specialization Education pathway will prepare RCICs to competently advise and represent their clients before the IRB. PLAR will assess RCICs’ competence to advise and represent clients before the IRB. RCICs who meet the requirements of PLAR will not be required to take the Specialization Education. However, participants of one of the pathways will be assessed for validation of competence (through the Specialization Exam) before being issued the RCIC-IRB Class of Licence. Continued competence will also be required.
It is anticipated that by July 2022 only RCICs with the RCIC-IRB Class of Licence will be able to represent clients before the IRB.
21. Why does ICCRC not have enough of a financial footing when it received $51 million over five years?
Funding for immigration enforcement activities in the federal budget ($51 million over five years) is not earmarked for the College. These monies are going to fund the CBSA’s resources for criminal investigations and to IRCC for the creation of a new system through which the department will impose administrative penalties and sanctions to ensure compliance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act. The federal budget also provides for the allocation of resources to IRCC for targeted public education and awareness activities. Outreach officer positions will be introduced internationally to inform populations in certain countries of the legal obligation to use the services of an authorized representative (lawyers, licensed immigration consultants and notaries in the province of Quebec) and of the consequences of using the services of an unlicensed immigration consultant. So, the $51 million is not for the College. The College will rely on annual licensee fees to establish its financial footing.
22. How can the College more effectively fight unlicensed immigration consultants? Are there strategies in place?
The Act gives the College the authority to file an injunction against a person who acts as an unlicensed immigration consultant. In other words, a Canadian court can charge the person with contempt of court if they continue to provide services without authorization. There will therefore be consequences as a result of the new authority of the College. To improve the fight against unlicensed immigration consultants, the new system of administrative penalties will also make it possible to fine unlicensed immigration consultants to urge them to change their behaviour and require them to become licensees of the College if they want to provide services. The federal budget will also allocate $2 million to CBSA so that they can conduct more investigations against unlicensed immigration consultants.
23. What is the process for reporting an unlicensed immigration consultant abroad? What is the first thing to do?
It is possible to file an injunction with a Canadian court, but it is difficult to uphold the law in the same way abroad. For the law to have an effect, the person must travel to Canada. IRCC is allocating more resources to public education and awareness abroad, not only to explain the reasons for using licensed immigration consultants, but also to issue warnings about the risks of using unlicensed immigration consultants; and creating five positions abroad, in India, Turkey, etc., to educate people about the dangers of using unlicensed immigration consultants. IRCC has chosen countries where there is a high demand for immigration to Canada.
Just like ICCRC, the College will be self-funded through the annual fees paid by licensees. Paragraphs 80(1) (j & k) of the College Act gives the College Board of Directors the power to make By-laws regarding the fees to be paid by licensees.
ICCRC operates with an annual budget of approximately $12 million. While planning for the College’s initial years of operation is still being completed, annual budgets are expected to remain in this range for the foreseeable future.
In addition to the usual disciplinary and enforcement powers granted to similar professional self-regulatory organizations over their licensees, the College will have the statutory ability to seek injunctive relief against unlicensed immigration consultants.
The College will be a special federal act corporation governed by the College Act. The organizational structure of the College will be similar to that of many professional self-regulatory organizations operating in Canada today. Operations will be overseen by a governance Board of Directors comprising elected licensees and public representatives appointed by the Minister. College staff will be led by a President & Chief Executive Officer and will include a Registrar.
ICCRC obtained member approval to apply for continuance as the College, has successfully applied to the Minister, and now awaits the Minister to set the date of continuance. On May 18, 2021, ICCRC received a letter from Minister Mendicinoletter from Minister Mendicino stating his intent to approve the application for continuance and to set a date of continuance for the College.
29. Will there be any demographic or geographical requirements or considerations for the selection of Board members and, if so, what are the details?
The College Act provides for a transitional Board of Directors comprising four licensee Directors from the Board of the current regulator and five public representatives appointed by the Minister. ICCRC’s By-laws provide for geographic representation; however, the College Act provides for the Minister to set the number of Directors and the allocation between elected licensees and appointed public representatives at the end of the transition period.