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When entering any professional field, it’s always a good idea to learn from people who have been working in it for years and who can share their experiences and insights. We decided to speak with Rakesh Sharma (IMCD program, Ashton College – 2008) about what it takes to work as an immigration consultant. He has been successfully practicing in the field for over ten years. Currently, Rakesh is the President of Alliance Immigration & Education Consulting Inc., the firm that has been sponsoring Graduation events at Ashton College for the past several years.
Rakesh, please tell us about your background in immigration? How did you start your career in this field?
Like many new immigrants, when I came to Canada in 2007, I started thinking about a career change. Someone I knew suggested the immigration consultant course at Ashton College, and I met with the admissions advisor there. I really liked what I learned about the program and what opportunities it could open for me. So, I decided to go for it and never regretted that decision. I completed the program in 2008 and got licensed the same year. I effectively started practising in early 2009.
What services does your company, Alliance Immigration & Education Consulting Inc., provide?
We provide a wide range of immigration services to our clients and mainly focus on PNP and Express Entry programs, business immigration, family sponsorships. We also help clients with their applications for work and study visas, and with appeals to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
To clients who’re already in Canada, we offer settlement services, assisting them with accommodation, opening bank accounts, applying for health insurance, obtaining a driving licence, etc. In that sense, we provide an end-to-service. We not only help our clients move to Canada, but we also make sure they settle, find their feet here.
You have been working in immigration for over ten years now. How would you say the industry has changed?
Immigration is a dynamic, ever-changing field, and that is the only constant here. The advent of Express Entry has transformed the whole gamut of Canadian immigration. Coupled with the robust Provincial Nominee program, it has changed the immigration landscape. It has resulted in immigrants from all over the globe, having found new avenues to make Canada their home. It’s very important for immigration consultants to monitor the trends and understand how their clients can benefit from them, which is something we do consistently.
What are the major challenges for immigration consultants nowadays? What should potential immigration consultants be prepared for?
The most challenging aspects of an immigration consultant’s career are the following:
• To keep oneself regularly updated on all the changes in the immigration rules and regulations.
• To meet deadlines day in and day out.
• To manage time efficiently.
• To remain competitive in a market that is witnessing the regular influx of new consultants.
Immigration consultants should act in their clients’ best interests while adhering to an ethical and above board conduct at all times; be honest and straightforward. They also need to be very attentive to details. With an enormous amount of documents to be created or processed, there is no place in this business for misunderstanding or confusion.
What are the key success factors for immigration consultants who want to establish their practice? What should they start with?
Ideally, they should start only with an established mentor who can properly guide them through the process of opening their practice; teach them how to avoid pitfalls, if any; and ensure there aren’t any serious lapses that may occur due to the lack of experience. There is no harm in starting with a small office to keep operating costs low and to avoid all that financial pressure of keeping your head above water.