Immigration to Canada? Hiring a Right Immigration Lawyer Can Make a Difference

You may wish to live, work, or go to school legally in Canada. Perhaps you are trying to reunite with family members, your spouse or a common law partner. Whatever your immigration needs, choosing a right  immigration lawyer is probably one of the most crucial decisions that you can make to maximize the chances of obtaining a visa, permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship.

Invariably, the first question that comes to mind, before you even consider retaining an immigration lawyer for spousal sponsorship, work or visitor visa is: “should I hire an immigration lawyer? Do I actually need one?

There is no legal requirement for you to be represented by counsel in your applications and dealings with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada or Canada Border Services Agency. These government agencies do not offer priority processing or other automatic preferential treatment for clients who are represented by immigration lawyers or licensed consultants. Nevertheless, as this article will show, the benefits of retaining a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to handle your immigration matters are real and quantifiable.

You probably heard rumors and suggestions from well-intentioned friends and family members that sound something like this: “You don’t need an immigration lawyer! Why waste money? Family sponsorships are easy and fast. My friend Mary just got her permanent residence and she did everything by herself. You just need to ask people who have been through the process for help and guidance, and if you must get help, go to an immigration consultant.”

Your best bet would be to thank your friend for their help and concern and start lawyer shopping – and here are the reasons why. First, you are not privy to all the details of Mary’s case that make it different than yours. Each person’s circumstances are unique and raise unique evidentiary and legal question. If you wish your application to succeed in a reasonable time and with relative ease, you must reject that temptingly simplistic but faulty cookie-cutter approach to immigration law. Second, the immigration laws and regulations that Mary faced have likely changed. Immigration law is a complex and evolving area of law, marked by rapidly changing policies, guidelines and case-law.  Third, immigration process, be it spousal sponsorship or one of the economic migration classes, can be confusing and the paperwork overwhelming. If you are juggling the responsibilities of full-time work , social and family obligations, preparing the forms and pulling together the required evidence can turn into a harrowing experience. Remember also that in many cases, the submission of your application for processing by CIC is not the end of your hard work. It is merely the beginning. CIC may request additional evidence, legal submissions, clarifications and request in-person interviews. Without a lawyer to act as a filter, your ongoing communications with immigration officials may needlessly delay the process and inadvertently reveal information that appears harmless but which may jeopardize the final outcome of your application.

So where do we stand right now? You don’t know where to start. You feel confused. Your paperwork looks simple but you are not sure… You are planning to marry or have already married a non-Canadian and you are living in Canada. Maybe you are in a common-law relationship and your partner lives with you in Canada. You want to file a sponsored application for permanent residence so that you can build a life together. You read through the guides and the forms. Some of the questions seem tricky. You want to avoid hidden traps. You fear making a mistake that kills your chances of being together. Preparing papers by yourself or giving up does just not feel right. You know that mistakes and inconsistencies can lead to delays, give rise to misrepresentation and even cast doubt on the veracity of your marriage or common law relationship. These weighty considerations and your future happiness should not be left to chance.

Choosing a Right Immigration Lawyer FOR YOU

You have decided that your future is worth investing in and that you would like to be represented by an immigration lawyer – a wise decision!

While most immigration lawyers in Toronto and Canada are competent and dedicated professionals, you need to find a lawyer that you feel comfortable with – someone who is not just right, but who is right for YOU.  Follow your intuition and consider the following suggestions when choosing the right immigration lawyer for you.

Here are some ways the right Canadian immigration lawyer can change the way you experience the immigration process – and improve your chances of winning.

1. Immigration Law Is Complex and Unpredictable

Immigration laws, rules and procedures can change overnight, usually with little or no warning. A court decision or a departmental policy change on a seemingly small point of law can change or significantly affect the outcome of your case. Some changes can have a retroactive effect. Remember Mary and her application? It is precisely because of this fluid nature of immigration regulations that her example will likely not help you today.

As you can imagine, keeping track of constant changes and new developments is time consuming. That is why you should look for an immigration lawyer that specialized in your particular type of matter. While most of us can do anything in the area of immigration law, the unpublicized truth is that each of us has our preferences and strengths. For example, I specialize in family and spousal sponsorships and certain economic class applications, such as Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Workers. Some of my colleagues focus heavily on immigration appeals, while others practice overwhelmingly in the area of refugee protection.

2. Define the Role of Your Immigration Lawyer

Each lawyer should clearly define his or her duties and your responsibilities as a client in a written and signed Retainer Agreement. If a lawyer does not provide you with this document, keep looking. Some of the qualities that you should be looking for in an immigration attorney include:

  • Guiding you competently through the complex immigration law system
  • Evaluating your qualifications and eligibility at each stage of the process
  • Exploring the full range of legal and practical immigration options and considerations which may be open to you
  • Being honest and firm with you, especially if serious issues arise in your application. Your lawyers should assess problems and try to develop an alternative plan for you to achieve your goals – if any.
  • Ensuring that your representations are truthful, relevant and that your actions today do not cut off avenues for future success, and refusing to take short cuts which may hurt your case
  • Understanding the immigration system inside and out, and know how to work with immigration officials to your benefit

3. Whether you are rick or poor, male or female, straight or gay Immigration Lawyer Should See You as a Person, Not a File Number

Yes, law is a business, but it as also much more than that. A successful and effective immigration lawyer will be able to empathize with you and devote all the time that your file deserves.  As a general rule and unless you are dealing with high level litigation, it may be wise to choose small and medium size law firms or sole practitioners over large immigration law firms, which are more likely to delegate the bulk of the work to their assistants. After all, you are paying for lawyer’s expertise and that is what should get. Each application for family sponsorship, permanent residence, citizenship, or a visa is unique and has at its core a person seeking to better his or her life. Your immigration lawyer cannot lose focus of the main goal of your application, which is to bring your together or keep it from being torn apart. Few immigration clients bring perfect documents; sufficient evidence and almost none have simple histories. A good lawyer will work with you to fill these gaps and present the best possible application to CIC for processing.

4. Immigration Law Is About Advocacy and Commitment

No immigration lawyer can guarantee the outcome of a particular case, but through our attention to detail and strategic approach, we can drastically improve your chances of a positive outcome.


Mu name is Ivan Steele, and I am an immigration lawyer in Toronto, Canada. Throughout my career, I have specialized in family and immigration law – two areas that deal heavily with personal connections and high stake family dynamics. While I cannot guarantee the outcome of your immigration matter, I can offer you excellence in advocacy, my knowledge, my commitment and my background as a psychotherapist.

Whether you are gay or straight and trying to bring a spouse or a common-law partner to Canada of otherwise seeking permanent residence, I am here to explore your immigration options, counsel you and advocate tenaciously on your behalf. My assistant, Rolando, and I will sit down with you, go through your personal history,  identify all possible solution and devise a plan to  work towards obtaining the results you want.

As a gay immigration lawyer in Toronto, I am uniquely equipped to address the concerns and unique challenges of same-sex immigration to Canada.  At Ivan Steele Law Office, you will find a safe haven and the help of passionate and compassionate immigration professionals.

This legal information brought to you by Ivan Steele Law Office

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and divorce lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and divorce lawyer


Changes to Canadian Exprience Class Applications in 2013

Although one of the newest permanent residence programs implemented by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is Canada’s fastest growing immigration program. CEC provides a straightforward path to permanent residency for foreign workers and international graduates of Canadian institutions by essentially rewarding them for the work and educational experience acquired in the country. One the most important changes to the program eligibility was introduced in January 2013. Canadian work experience requirement was lowered from 24 to 12 months, providing additional incentive to the prospective applicants. This reduction is a signal that the Government of Canada places high premium on the experience obtained in the Canadian social, educational and employment content. This reduction, therefore, benefits foreign graduates in Canada on a post-graduate work permit.  Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney explained the changes with the following commentary: “The Canadian Experience Class makes Canada more competitive in attracting and retaining the best and brightest individuals with the skills we need,.  “These are people who have already demonstrated their ability to integrate into the Canadian labour market and society. The CEC allows these skilled and educated individuals to bring their skills and talents, contribute to our economy and help renew our workforce so that Canada remains competitive on the world stage.” The following is a brief overview of CIC’s explanation of eligibility for CEC:

Work experience

To apply for permanent resident status through the CEC, you need at least one year of full-time experience (or the equivalent in part-time work) as a skilled worker in Canada. Full-time work means at least 30 hours per week. The one-year work experience must have been obtained within the three years preceding the date your CEC application is received.

To work in Canada after graduating, your best option is to apply for a post-graduation work permit. Information on obtaining a work permit is available on CIC’s website at These permits may be valid for up to three years. There are no restrictions on the type of work you can do or where you do it, but to qualify for the CEC, remember that at least one year of your work experience must be in a skilled occupation (see “skilled work experience”).

It is also important to note that work experience you may have acquired as part of your academic program, such as an internship or a co-op placement, does not qualify under the CEC. Part-time work you may have performed during your studies does not qualify either.

If your existing work permit is about to expire you may be eligible for a bridging open work permit. Bridging open work permits allow qualified applicants to keep working while they await a final decision on their permanent residence application. For more information about bridging open work permits including eligibility, visit
Skilled work experience

Your work experience in Canada must be in a job or an occupation that requires a specific level of skill, education or training. To qualify, your experience must be in one of the following categories of Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Skill Type 0
This includes senior management occupations, middle and other management positions.
Skill Level A
Occupations at this level usually require university education at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate level.
Skill Level B
Occupations at this level usually require education obtained at a college or vocational institute, apprenticeship training or three to four years of secondary school followed by more than two years of on-the-job training, specialized training courses or specific work experience.

To find out if your work experience qualifies, check the NOC website at
Language requirements

To qualify for the CEC you must prove your proficiency in English or French. This includes speaking, reading, listening and writing in one or both official languages.

The expected level of ability in English or French will vary according to your occupation. For example, the language requirements for managerial and professional positions are higher than the requirements for applicants who have been working in a technical occupation or in a skilled trade.

To prove your language skills, you will need to take a language test given by an agency that is approved by CIC and include the results with your application.

You will find more information about specific language requirements on CIC’s website at These language requirements are subject to change.”

This legal information brought to you by Ivan J. Steele, M.A., J.D., Barrister and Solicitor

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and immigration lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and immigration lawyer