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Canada launches new immigration certification for international student advisors

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The inaugural entry-to-practice exam has been announced for international student advisors in Canada who wish to become a Regulated International Student Immigration Advisor (RISIA)
  • The exam is available only to those currently employed by recognised education providers in Canada and with three years’ advising experience
  • RISIA registration is now required under Canadian law for international student advisors who wish to provide immigration advice or assistance with immigration matters

We have reported previously on the implications of 2011 amendments to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Simply put, the amendment makes it illegal for anyone other than an accredited immigration representative to provide advice or otherwise represent a student during an application (or any other process) with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). In this context, in order to be considered “an accredited immigration representative,” the advisor or agent must be a member in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) or a lawyer authorised to practise in Canada.

The legislation applies both to agents and advisors in Canada and those abroad, and one of its effects has been to prevent even international student advisors (ISAs) based at Canadian institutions and schools from providing the immigration advice that they have always offered in the course of their day-to-day work with students.

Canadian institutions objected vigorously on this point, and also to the expense associated with qualifying ISA staff as Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) under the requirements of the new legislation.

ICCRC was subsequently obliged by CIC to create a new professional designation for student advisors employed by Canadian education providers. The new credential – the Regulated International Student Immigration Advisor (RISIA) – was first announced in late 2014.

In June of this year, the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) announced that it would develop the new training course to certify RISIAs. “CBIE is the central national network for ISAs, and building this education programme is a natural progression of our work,” Karen McBride, the president and CEO of CBIE, said at the time. “The programme will cover the scope of immigration policies and practices pertinent to international students and will be a cornerstone professional development offering within our sector, made possible with the support of our members coast to coast.”

First qualifying exam announced

Most recently, on 1 October 2015, CBIE announced the launch of the entry-to-practice exam (EPE) for RISIA certification. The inaugural exam – with a two-hour examination period and 100 multiple-choice questions – will take place on 8 November 2015. For the inaugural sitting only, candidates may take the test locally with oversight from an ICCRC-approved invigilator. Thereafter, the exam will be offered at designated locations in Canada every February, May, August, and November.

The 8 November exam is being offered for ISAs who are currently employed by a Canadian institution or school, and have at least three years’ experience providing immigration advice to international students. Aside from the experience requirement, only those employed by the following providers are eligible to sit the exam: school boards, language schools, and post-secondary institutions which are members of one of the member organisations of the Canadian Consortium for International Education (CCIE) and/or are designated learning institutions as defined by CIC.

Registration for the 8 November EPE is open now on the ICCRC website, and candidates will also find a newly published Code of Ethics as well as a study guide for the exam.

The exam is offered at a fee of CDN$500 and, for successful candidates, RISIA registration carries an additional annual fee of CDN$913. This compares to standing ICCRC member fees of CDN$1,809.25 per year, and a variety of training and continuing development requirements for Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs).

The RISIA EPE covers a range of related topics, including concepts in Canadian immigration law, specific aspects of immigration policy and practice as they pertain to international students (and their dependents), and issues of ethics and professional responsibility for ISAs. The exam topics are reviewed in some detail in the study guide noted above.

ISAs who do not meet the three-year experience requirement will be required to complete a forthcoming training programme to be introduced by CBIE in early 2016.

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