The role of an immigration consultant is interesting and challenging, but it takes a lot of work, time and money to become designated, grow a client base and build a team. For some, the commitment of taking the required courses and passing the necessary exam (as well as attending the annual seminars and workshops that are needed to maintain the designation as an ICCRC-certified Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant) can be a bit too much.
One of the best ways to get into the field, without fears of taking on too much, is to start out as an immigration assistant. While there is training involved in gaining a certificate as an immigration legal assistant (what immigration assistants are often called), the education program duration is less than half the required amount of time than for that of an immigration consultant.
Why Start at a Lower Level?
Many people already know they want to work in Canada in immigration services, so the question may arise as to the benefit of starting as an assistant rather than looking to the full immigration consultant role. Beyond the reduction in time and financial resources mentioned above, the benefits of starting as an immigration assistant are numerous.
1. You will gain valuable experience directly in the field working on Citizenship and Immigration Canada files every single day. This allows you to not only see the types of paperwork required in the job but also to get to know the information required from clients, the types of words and phrases used in answers on those forms and the procedures for the application process.
Additionally, by managing actual active files you’ll begin to see the various types of application opportunities (methods Immigration Canada offers) to allow for a Canada visa, permanent resident Canada status or other methods for coming to Canada for immigrants. You may also be involved in interacting directly with clients and gaining the experience in spotting trouble beforehand – which will be advantageous down the road in your career.
This kind of experience – whether you work for a designated immigration consultant or an immigration lawyer – will be more valuable than you can imagine if you decide to move on to becoming an immigration consultant. Plus, you’ll be making an income as you learn more and build upon your traditional education.
2. Try the shoe on to see if it fits.
Perhaps the greatest advantage for those uncertain about taking on the full-scale commitment of becoming an immigration consultant is the ability to try out the field before investing the advanced amount of time and money. Yes, you will be investing time and money in education as an immigration assistant, but as mentioned, it is about half of what is required to become an immigration consultant, so consider it a partial investment in your future if you decide to proceed to that level, and only half of a loss, if you determine the career isn’t right for you. Plus, schools often offer program credit transfers for those who have completed the immigration legal assistant course and wish to take the Immigration Consultant program.
3. Jobs for Immigration Assistants are abundant and there’s no need to establish your own firm or client base. A quick look of Indeed – the online job search tool – reveals many jobs in Western Canada for assistants in the immigration consulting field. Some employers may be looking for previous experience, but for those applicants who have the education behind them from a school that leads the way in immigration training, there will be a better chance to land the jobs that don’t require previous experience and perhaps some looking for minimal experience.
Be sure to check job postings closely before applying. Within the job postings on Indeed are those for admin assistants in immigration consulting firms. While prospective immigration assistants should expect to be doing admin work like answering phones, booking appointments and filing, you must ensure that the work exposes you to things that enhance your immigration field experience and don’t confine you only to administrative tasks.
Salary ranges fluctuate in the field, so ask about this at a second interview stage if the hourly, monthly or annual rate wasn’t clear in the job posting or mentioned in previous conversations with the potential employer.
4. Build up connections and contacts.
While working in an immigration office, you’ll be exposed to the connections needed by an immigration consultant. This could be governmental contacts, other immigration consultants or those in other countries. With a basic knowledge of who to reach out to and how when the need arises, you’ll be far better prepared to take on the job as an immigration consultant.
Additionally, these connections and contacts will help you grow in your career. Networking is important for immigration consultants, just as it is in just about every job out there! You can get to know others in the field and learn about jobs as an immigration legal assistant to find your first role or to possibly move to another if you aren’t ready to make the leap to immigration consultant. If you are ready to move on to the next level in the immigration consulting field, you may hear about jobs with firms looking for immigration consultants or perhaps you will become known as an expert in certain types of client files and receive work from your contacts and connections in the field. Never underestimate the power of getting to know others and creating positive ties with them.
The world of immigration consulting is growing in Canada. It’s a wonderful job opportunity for those looking to help others achieve their dreams of coming to Canada. For those looking for jobs in Canada for immigrants, it’s an opportunity to build on personal experience and skills earned in another field in a different country.
There are numerous reasons why the role of an immigration consultant could be right for you – but, if it’s just not the right time to take that big step (and commitment), it may be right to start at the immigration assistant (immigration legal assistant) level to get your foot in the door, gain experience, take a job in an in-demand field, learn about immigration work to determine it’s right for you and create some great, helpful contacts.