‘Really, you signed blank forms?’ Best practices for immigration clients.
Posted on - Oct 04, 2016
By Catherine Sas, Q.C.
Often the clients that come to see us at our downtown Vancouver immigration law office have previously worked with other immigration professionals. In many cases they have not been advised according to best practices and/or have placed misguided trust in those professionals.
One of the most blatant misguided practices is to have applicants sign blank immigration application forms and then rely on the immigration professional to complete the application on their behalf. If an immigration professional asks you to do this, warning bells should go off immediately and you should find another professional to work with.
Signing blank application forms and relying on a professional to complete them for you is clearly problematic. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provides that an applicant must answer all questions put to them truthfully. This includes the completion of all the application forms and the provision of all supporting documents. Where inaccurate information is provided, an applicant can be found to have misrepresented information in their application. Section 40(1)(a) of IRPA stipulates as follows:
Section 40. (1) Misrepresentation – A permanent Resident or a foreign national is inadmissible for misrepresentation
(a) for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material fact relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act”
The penalty for misrepresentation – either direct or indirect — is a five-year ban from being able to make a future immigration application! This means that anything that anyone says on your behalf can lead to a finding of misrepresentation against you. You want to ensure that the information that you provide is completely accurate. It is no excuse to say that you were relying on your immigration professional.
The immigration application process is a legal process that is ultimately the responsibility of the individual applicant. It is your signature on the application form and not that of your representative. IRCC and CBSA officers routinely hear stories from applicants that they were only following the advice or recommendation of their immigration professional. Not surprisingly that does not provide an applicant with an excuse for inaccurate information. Many Federal Court decisions have considered instances of allegations that the grounds for refusal of their cases were due to the actions or advice of their immigration representative. The Federal Court has not sided with the applicants in such situations.
Be sure that all the information that you provide is accurate. Make sure that you review all of your application forms with your immigration professional before you sign them. If you are not fluent in English or French, be sure to have a qualified interpreter review them with you so that you are sure that you understand all of what you are signing off on. Don’t rely on friends or family to be your interpreter as they may not be familiar with legal or immigration industry terminology. Use common sense – if a professional recommends something that you don’t feel comfortable with or that strikes you the wrong way, ask for your file and find another professional. Your immigration application is ultimately your own responsibility and not that of your immigration professional. Take your responsibility seriously to avoid a misrepresentation finding in your future!
Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.
Related Topics: Canada Immigration Laws, Canadian Immigration Programs, family, Immigration, worker