Through the grapevine: the risks of taking immigration advice from your peers - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogThrough the grapevine: the risks of taking immigration advice from your peers

10 December 2019

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In my immigration practice I meet people everyday who are interested in coming to Canada or staying to study, visit or work, or to obtain permanent resident status. Some of my clients come very prepared and have done a lot of independent research, while others are just beginning to learn about the available options to meet their immigration goals.

What I have found over the years is that even the most prepared clients value having a second opinion or hearing about somebody else’s experiences, even if it is just to confirm something they already know. However, if you are in the process of thinking about your own immigration matters you should be careful about where you get your information and advice from.

Understandably, immigration applicants often turn to the people who are closest to them for advice. Many have friends, classmates, co-workers or relatives who have gone through similar immigration processes. Some also turn to expatriates from their country through social media or forums to discuss their immigration concerns. While it is beneficial to have these support networks you should not blindly follow the advice or rely on the experiences of others because there is simply no “one size fits all” solution in Canadian immigration law.

Family, Friends and Acquaintances

As a Vancouver immigration lawyer,I frequently hear from clients that they have a “friend” who has made a certain application or received a certain immigration result. They then question why they are not able to accomplish the same. There are many reasons that you should be wary about relying on other people’s experiences.

Often there are one or two small but important differences between cases that change the entire complexion and viability of an immigration application. Commonly, an immigration strategy may be entirely dependent on something very specific like the country of citizenship of the person involved or the type of permit they hold. It is also common for people to speak in terms that mean something different to them than it does to others. For example, many people have the misconception that visas and permits are the same things and use these terms interchangeably, or the term “job offer” may mean something different from one person to the next.

Finally, you should be aware that immigration officials do make mistakes. It is possible that one person may have been mistakenly granted a work permit or other permit, and you should not rely solely on this to determine whether you would qualify for the same thing.

Immigration Call Centre and Website

Many immigration clients I have spoken with believe that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) and its officials are all-knowing and all-seeing. In reality, IRCC officials are human beings too and, like the rest of us, are prone to making mistakes as I touched on earlier.

There are two common and official places to turn to for immigration information and advice. First, the IRCC website is a good resource for general information about different immigration programs and procedures, but it is rarely useful when considering your own specific circumstances. In reviewing the IRCC website you must keep in mind that it has been prepared for consumption by the masses. The information available there is usually drafted in a generic way that will not address the specific nuances of your case. Moreover, clients often have difficulty finding the answers they need from the IRCC website if they don’t conduct their search using the exact terminology immigration officials use. This makes the IRCC website useful only as a general resource.

Similarly, people who are already in Canada have access to Immigration Call Centre agents who they can speak to about pending or planned applications made from within Canada. However, their advice should be taken with a grain of salt because Call Centre agents are not legally trained, do not inherently know anything about your case or what other immigration applications you’ve made before, and may therefore be limited from being able to give you helpful case specific information.

Employers and Schools

Finally, clients also turn to their employers, schools or their agents for immigration related information or advice. This is understandable but any advice received should also be critically reviewed.

Some of the most egregious advice that I have heard of has been given by parties with a personal stake in the decision-making process. I have seen cases where employers advise clients that they can work for a different business than the one named on their work permits because the other business is owned by the same people. This is untrue. I have also heard of cases where clients are told by schools that they can get post-graduation work permits (“PGWPs”) from studying there based solely on the fact that a handful of students were approved PGWPs in the past. These are both examples where the party giving the advice directly benefits from it and it is the person who acts on the advice that suffers the consequences.

As you can see, there are many different sources of information available to those who are interested in coming to Canada or staying here, ranging from anecdotal advice from friends or colleagues to public online forums. While it is generally a good idea to seek out as much information and feedback as you can, talking with other people about your immigration matters does not mean that you should stop thinking critically for yourself. It is important to remember that any information you receive may be specific to circumstances that don’t apply to you or was given without regard to whether it will help you reach your ultimate immigration goals. If you think that something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Use your common sense, ask follow up questions, and do not hesitate to ask for a second opinion from authorized immigration representatives if you are still in doubt.

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