26 July 2017

Should you hire an immigration lawyer? (Yes.)

Dropped the mister's first round of immigration paperwork at the post office earlier this week. To keep in touch with this blog's focus on penny-pinching, let's talk about any steps I've been taking to try to save money in this process.



I'm not sure I can recommend any.

The biggest question is probably whether one should hire a lawyer. We actually did. We had an in-person consultation and then an extended phone call with a Canadian immigration lawyer. She helped clarify my status under Bill C-37, and she gave us a road map for the process.

Since our consultations, though, it's been D.I.Y. for us. While I don't think that's the best move for everyone, I chose it for us for a few reasons:
  1. I'm a native speaker of one of the official languages of our destination country. Seems obvious, but no joke. I spent a lot of (my parents') money learning a foreign language in college, but there is no way I'd be doing this on my own if I couldn't do it in English.
  2. I'm not actually immigrating, myself. Since it's just the mister I'm seeking to bring in legally, our case is a little streamlined.
  3. I'm already a lawyer, and in a legal system very similar to Canada's. I'm in no way qualified to advise anybody else on their Canadian immigration matters (or any other Canadian legal matters). But the Canadian and U.S. systems, outside of Québec and Louisiana, evolved from the same starting point. So where I don't know the specifics, I can make a very good guess as to where I need to look to find them.
  4. To that point, Canada's immigration paradigm kind of closely follows that of the U.S. That is, there are a lot of statuses, visas, and categories on one side of the border that correspond to statuses, visas, and categories on the other side, though with different names (student visa versus study permit, for example). What don't match are the i's that must be dotted and t's that must be crossed.
  5. And so the devil is in the details -- while at the same time, I have to keep in mind the scope of the project and our overall goals. Luckily, this is pretty much the definition of the transactional lawyering I do for a living. Honestly, this project doesn't seem hugely different from my bread-and-butter work.
  6. We all know the line, though, about how a lawyer who represents herself has a fool for a client. One reason why we talked to a lawyer about my status under Bill C-37 was that I'd blown my deadline (under the old law) to file my paperwork. This week, I was about to mail off the mister's application packet when I thought, you know, maybe I should check the online instructions again, first. And I found that we were using 2 outdated forms, and we'd blown the deadline for using these older forms. By 9 days. Oops. An actual Canadian immigration lawyer would have known about the issue of the new forms and either informed us of the change or handled it as part of their work for us.
  7. The amount we're not paying the Canadian lawyer we've previously spoken to is only a little bit under the amount we'll be paying our moving company. While neither price is as high as I'd expected or feared, it's nice to sort of pay the movers with money we would otherwise have budgeted for legal services.

Good thing, since I signed the paperwork for the movers yesterday.

But that's just us. Not hiring a lawyer has worked for us, so far. A good lawyer will tell you that you should hire one yourself for something as big as immigrating to a new country. I will, too. We've balanced a bunch of factors here and made our decision. I really hope we're not being "penny wise, pound foolish," though, and I wouldn't tell anybody else to go this way.

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