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Question & AnswerWhere can I get legal advice and help with my refugee claim?
You can choose a lawyer, a paralegal, or an immigration consultant to help you with your refugee claim. The main differences between these professionals are their education and the services they are allowed to provide. Consultants or paralegals might charge less than a lawyer, but this is not always the case.
Lawyers are licensed to provide all kinds of legal services and they are trained to give legal advice. Lawyers can explain what the law says and how it applies to your situation.
A lawyer who knows about refugee law can explain:
- how Canadian law defines who is a refugee
- the process for making a claim
- whether your claim has a chance of success, or if you should make a different type of application, like a
- what information to include in your Basis of Claim (BOC) form
- what documents and can help prove your claim
- how to prepare for your hearing
- whether you could successfully challenge a negative decision
A lawyer can also help you to find, fix, and explain any mistakes or inconsistencies in your refugee application.
A lawyer can represent you if you're making a refugee claim, if you have a refugee hearing, or if you want to file an appeal at the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). If you get a negative decision on your refugee claim or RAD appeal, a lawyer is the only professional that can represent you on an application for judicial review at Federal Court.
The Law Society of Ontario has a directory of all lawyers that are licensed to practice law in Ontario. You can search the directory by name, address or postal code, language, or the type of law that they practice. It also has information about whether the lawyer is facing a discipline process.
The government has useful tips for choosing a refugee lawyer.
A paralegal is another type of legal professional. There are strict limits on the services a paralegal can give.
A paralegal can give you advice and provide services only if your case is at one of the tribunals of the (IRB). For example, a paralegal is allowed to help you with a refugee claim at the Refugee Protection Division (RPD), an appeal of a refugee claim to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD), and a detention review or before the Immigration Division (ID). A paralegal won't be able to represent you on a judicial review application if you get a negative decision on your refugee claim or RAD appeal.
The Law Society of Ontario has a directory of all paralegals licensed in Ontario. You can search the directory by name, address or postal code, language, or the type of law that they practice. It also has information about whether the paralegal is facing a discipline process.
The Ontario Paralegal Association has a tool called “Find a Paralegal” at the bottom of their homepage. You can search by name, keywords, the type of law that they practice, or location.
Some immigration consultants are paralegals. Other consultants have some training in immigration and refugee law, and might have practiced law in another country, but are not licensed to practice law in Ontario.
There are strict limits on the services a consultant can give. For example, a consultant can't give you legal advice or represent you in Federal Court. If you're thinking about hiring a consultant, use this resource for information about different types of consultants and what to look for in a consultant.
Immigration consultants should be registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC). You can check the CICC’s registry to find out if a consultant is registered.