What is it like working in the trenches every day with people trying to immigrate to Canada?
Interview | Aya Kawakita-Nguyen
Most people who have to go through the immigration process in Canada are just glad when it’s over, but immigration consultants have made it their calling.
Aya Kawakita-Nguyen became a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) after working with Japanese students and seeing them give up on their dreams of staying in Canada because they didn’t have any help navigating a confusing immigration system.
“I thought, ‘I need to be the person who’s assisting with these things.’”
Now she is celebrating 10 years running her own practice. Many of her clients are Japanese, but she also has clients from all over the world. For Aya, it’s about getting to know each of her clients and moving through the process with them.
“Every case is different. Even for sponsorships—people think it’s just one template, but it’s not. So I have to talk to them for at least an hour to get a picture of the specifics of their case before I even start to give advice. Every case needs a solid, appropriate plan.”
To provide immigration advice in Canada, you have to be a lawyer or a RCIC like Aya.
RCICs have special training and are up to date on the constantly changing rules and laws. They know how to deal with unusual situations and they are able to communicate with IRCC officers after filing applications.
At one point in the middle of our interview Aya has to take a call. It’s an immigration officer trying to get in touch with someone regarding an application that she is helping with. I see her change gears immediately, delving into the details of the case. After chatting with the officer for a while she turns back to me.
“That’s a good example of what my days are like.”
Aya explains that she always has to be on call-available to respond when something happens in a case and ready to use any opportunity to advocate on behalf of her client.
“It’s about knowing the case well. I am always the first point of contact so when things like this happen I can react quickly. That was a good call because I feel like the officer and I clicked—I was able to develop a rapport.”
The work of an immigration consultant is very much that of a go-between who is constantly in touch with all the people involved with a case.
“I have a lot of family sponsorship cases. You know why they come to me? Because when it comes to legal procedure, they can’t communicate with each other.”
The applicant is often reluctant to bother their sponsor, but the sponsor has a lot of responsibilities and they need someone to keep track of deadlines and help to keep them on task.
“So they like having me in the middle to push things along.”
When Aya’s not being the task master, she’s the hand-holder.
“Sometimes, my clients, they come here and they get emotional. They cry. Often, they open up to me because they know I speak Japanese. I let them talk because I want to hear their story so I can give them accurate advice. I tell them my experience because I immigrated to Canada and I felt hopeless when I had to go through three and a half years of procedure. Sometimes I feel like crying too because I know what they’re going through.”
It’s a stressful and emotionally charged job, but Aya is clearly passionate about it. When I ask her about her favourite parts of her job she says she loves reading her clients’ testimonials.
“It’s personal. But I like talking to people. As you can see, I’m a talker!”
The job can be hard for sure, but for Aya, it’s even more rewarding. Her other favourite part of the job?
“When I give my client a call to let them know their immigration process has been successfully completed.”
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