How can I tell if my immigration or refugee legal representative is reliable?
4. Ask about fees
Ask the person about their fees, including:
- their hourly rate
- how much your case is likely to cost
- how often they will bill you for their services
- how much you need to pay for disbursements, for example, the cost of court filing fees, an expert medical report, or application fees
- what could cause the cost to increase
- how you can lower the cost
- if they will work with you to establish a payment plan
- how much money you need to deposit before they begin work on your case
If you hire them, you should receive a written contract that lists the specific services they will provide and what the total fee will be. Ask for a timeline for when tasks will be completed and how fees will be charged. Get a signed receipt for all payments you make.
The person you hire will usually ask you for a deposit before they agree to start work on a case. This is sometimes called a retainer. If they ask you for a large sum of money before they hear the facts of your situation, this can be a sign that they are not trustworthy.
You can ask:
- how much work the retainer will likely cover
- if they would agree on a payment plan if you're not able to pay the full amount of the deposit at once
If you pay a deposit, get a receipt to show the amount that you paid. If the total cost of your legal work is less than the retainer amount, you should get the unused portion back.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) application processing fees are always in Canadian dollars and should never be deposited into a personal bank account or through a private money transfer company. Be cautious of anyone who asks you to send them money for fees directly or not in Canadian currency. If you don't have a credit card, it is possible for your representative to pay IRCC fees for you, but this should be stated clearly in your written contract. And you should get a receipt that confirms payment to IRCC.