Working with an Immigration Consultant

Working with an Immigration Consultant

If you need immigration advice, licensed immigration consultants have the specialized expertise to help you.

They have met competency standards established by the College and follow a Code of Professional Conduct (the Code).

The Code sets standards to which all licensees of the College must adhere. It requires immigration consultants to:

  • Foster a relationship of trust
  • Act ethically with honesty, integrity, and respect
  • Respect the deadlines and timelines associated with an application
  • Conduct your affairs efficiently and cost-effectively
  • Communicate with you in a timely and effective way
  • Demonstrate cultural sensitivity
  • Get the assistance they need to help you when necessary (for example, by hiring an interpreter or translator)


What to expect

Immigration consultants can help you by:

  • Explaining immigration and citizenship options.
  • Recommending the best program for you.
  • Filling your immigration or citizenship application.
  • Communicating with the Government of Canada on your behalf.
  • Representing you in an immigration or citizenship application or hearing (An RCIC must have an RCIC-IRB class of licence to represent you before the Immigration and Refugee Board).

Immigration consultants have different levels of expertise and provide varied services. They also charge different fees. You may wish to speak to several immigration consultants before deciding which one best meets your needs.

NOTE: Anyone who provides Canadian immigration or citizenship advice or representation for a fee or for any other benefit must be a licensee in good standing of the College, a member of a Canadian law society, or a member of the Chambre des notaires du Québec. Immigration consultants providing Canadian immigration or citizenship services in countries other than Canada are still subject to Canadian law.

Tips for hiring an immigration consultant

Verify your immigration consultant’s status on our online public register. Check disciplinary notices in our Complaints and Professional Conduct section.

Ask your immigration consultant for references, and read reviews online.

Compare your immigration consultant’s fees with others’.

Directly contact the immigration consultant handling your application. Always use the contact information on our online public register.

If you are in a job or study program, contact your employer or school directly with questions.

Signing a Service Agreement

An immigration consultant prepares a service agreement (previously known as a retainer agreement) to state that they will provide immigration services to clients in exchange for a fee.  

A licensed immigration consultant must enter into a written service agreement with you before any immigration or citizenship consulting services are provided or, if there was an initial consultation, before any additional immigration or citizenship consulting services are provided.

Before entering into a service agreement with you, a licensed immigration consultant must:

  • confirm the following information using credible sources:
    • your full name,
    • your home address, personal telephone number and email address,
    • your occupation or occupations, and
    • your business address, telephone number and email address, if applicable;
  • provide you with a template of the service agreement; and
  • if you have entered into a service agreement with another licensed immigration consultant,
    • ensure that the service agreement with that licensed immigration consultant has been completed or has been terminated in writing before completion, or
    • if you wish to engage the services of both licensed immigration consultants, obtain clear instructions from you on the scope of the service agreement.

The service agreement must include the following information:

  • the licensed immigration consultant 's name, licence number, address, telephone number and email address;
  • your name, date of birth, address, telephone number and email address, if any;
  • your immigration status, if known;
  • a summary of any preliminary advice given to you by the licensed immigration consultant;
  • a statement that the licensed immigration consultant endeavours to provide quality immigration or citizenship consulting services and to adequately supervise any person who assists in the provision of those services;
  • an identification of the people who are likely to assist in the delivery of immigration or citizenship consulting services;
  • your instructions;
  • an itemized list of the services to be provided, tailored to your needs, that describes the nature of the services;
  • estimated time frames for the delivery of the services;
  • an estimate of fees, including the hourly rate and the anticipated number of hours, or an agreed fixed fee or, if the services are provided pro bono, a statement to that effect;
  • an estimate of expected disbursements;
  • an identification of any goods and services tax, harmonized sales tax or other tax or levy to be charged to the client;
  • the terms of payment for fees and disbursements, including any interest payable on unpaid amounts;
  • any advance payments to be made by you and the licensed immigration consultant's refund policy;
  • an explanation of any additional costs that you may be required to pay;
  • if applicable, a description of any conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest relating to you;
  • a statement that any original documents you provided to the licensed immigration consultant will be returned to you as soon as there is no longer a legitimate reason for the licensed immigration consultant to possess them;
  • the licensed immigration consultant’s complaint-handling procedure;
  • an indication of the official language in which you choose to receive services;
  • a statement that the licensed immigration consultant will obtain assistance, when necessary, including by retaining the services of an interpreter or translator;
  • a description of the College's role as the licensed immigration consultant's regulator and an explanation of the College's complaints process;
  • an explanation that the College may require the production of documents in accordance with the College Act and any regulations or By-laws made under the College Act;
  • confirmation that the licensed immigration consultant has provided a copy of the Code of Professional Conduct to you;
  • an explanation of what will happen to your file if the licensed immigration consultant becomes incapacitated or is otherwise unable to continue providing services under the agreement;
  • instructions on how you may:
    • if applicable, obtain online access to information regarding their application, expression of interest or proceeding, and
    • verify the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's online processing times related to applications, expressions of interest and proceedings; and
  • any other terms agreed to.
Get a copy of the agreement

The licensed immigration consultant must keep a copy of the signed service agreement for their records and provide a copy to you.


The College has introduced a new guide for service agreements. This Guide for Developing Your Service Agreement supersedes the old Retainer Agreement template and will support licensees in drafting client agreements. 

How much should it cost?

RCICs set their own fees

Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) set their own fees. As a regulatory body, the College does not set fee guidelines for business relationships. However, RCICs must set fair and reasonable fees for the specific services they provide.

RCICs have different levels of experience. They charge varying fees, and many provide different service levels, although they all must adhere to the same rules and Code of Professional Conduct.

We recommend that you speak to several RCICs to decide which representative is right for you.

When comparing the fees charged by RCICs, you may wish to consider:

  • Years of experience
  • The complexity of your case
  • The number of people included in the application (family members)
  • Any time limits that may be in place
  • How long the application will take to process
  • The level of service they will need to provide
RISIAs do not charge "fees"

Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs) do not collect fees directly from students. They are paid employees of specific Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).


All RCICs and RISIAs must meet the following standards to remain in good standing with the College.


  • Complete a graduate diploma program delivered by Queen’s University or the Université de Montréal or an Immigration Practitioner Program.
  • Complete mandatory Practice Management Education (PME) courses.
  • Complete 16 hours of professional development every year.
  • Participate in a competency-based assessment.
  • Comply with a Code of Professional Conduct.

  • Complete the International Students and Immigration Education Program (ISIEP) delivered by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).
  • Complete 6 hours of professional development every year.
  • Participate in a competency-based assessment.
  • Comply with a Code of Professional Conduct.

Other items to note

The licensed immigration consultant must include their full legal name and licence number (begins with the letter ‘R’ and is followed by 6 numbers. For example: R123456) on the agreement.

The immigration consultant signing your Retainer Agreement should be the person conducting the immigration services for you.

Use caution if someone other than the licensed immigration consultant asks you to sign a Retainer Agreement (for example, a company or an agent).