I get asked a lot about which agency we hired when we applied for our PR visa to Canada. But rather than simply giving the name of the agency (which I did anyway in the title), I thought of giving my honest review as well.
I also shared in this post some tips for choosing and hiring an agency based on our own experience, and from my continuous research about the Canadian immigration.
I hope that this would help you decide which agency to hire for your PR application to Canada.
So, here goes.
Disclaimer: This is not a paid review of the mentioned agency and I based my opinion on our personal experience with North American Services Center.
Update as of November 7, 2021: I added a link in this article for a post I’ve published where you can find a list of other legit agencies in the UAE, Qatar, and KSA.
So, which agency did we use?
It’s an agency called North American Services Centre with its main office in Dubai, UAE. My husband was the one who found them through Facebook.
They used to offer free Express Entry seminars, and we attended one of those. My husband immediately signed up for their service right after the seminar without even checking if this agency is legit.
So when we came home, I did the due diligence even though we already paid them our retainer fee.
How much did they charge?
If I remember it correctly, their initial consultation fee costs AED 11,000. But this was in 2015, so they might have changed it now.
On top of this, we also paid them service fees on the following:
- When they booked our IELTS exam for us (quick tip: you can book your own IELTS exam; I wish we did that, like what we did for our ECA or Education Credential Assessment where we contacted WES directly so we saved a little money on that)
- When we submitted our application for OINP (Ontario Immigration Nominee Program)
- When we renewed our Express Entry profile (after a year), and
- When we submitted our application for permanent residency.
So AED 11,000 was just the initial retainer fee. I couldn’t exactly remember how much their service fee was for every submission that we did, but it was maybe around 1-2K AED per submission.
But back then, they offered us a 50% discount on their retainer fee if we will sign-up on the same day of the seminar we attended. My husband obviously didn’t want to miss this offer, so he pulled out and swiped his credit card just like that.
I was against his impulsiveness, but my husband won’t budge. He was too determined to push our PR application. My hesitation increased when someone told us that none of this agency’s clients in the last 5 years have been granted a PR visa to Canada.
Good thing though that we didn’t listen to her.
But even then, I researched about this agency when we came home.
Is this agency legit?
Based on my research, I found out that NASC is a legit agency. Its owner is Kathryn Macdonald, an active member of ICCRC.
So, that’s one good thing because Canada says that only licensed immigration consultants can represent you or offer you immigration advice in exchange for a fee.
According to IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada), you can check if a person is licensed to represent immigrants or to give advice through the following:
- Citizenship or immigration consultants must be a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.
- Lawyers or notaries must be a member of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society, or the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
- Paralegals (Ontario only) must be members of the Law Society of Upper Canada
If they are not members in good standing, IRCC says you should not use their services.
But we never actually talked to Kathryn Macdonald.
How’s their service?
I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews about their service and I’d like to share my two cents.
During our application, we dealt with different employees for each stage of the Express Entry process. Which is honestly not ideal for me because that means there’s no single person dedicated to handle our application from start to finish.
Overall, those who handled our file seemed to be okay. They know what they’re doing, but there were some questions where they didn’t know the answer exactly (for example, there was question in the form where we need to indicate our passport’s country of origin; obviously, it should be Philippines, but we were told to put UAE because our passports were renewed and issued by the Philippine Consulate in Dubai; we didn’t follow what they said though).
On their website, they mentioned the following:
What are we going to do for you
1. Guide you through the registration process in Canada, including immigration procedures from start to finish.
2. Match your skills and interests to our Canadian selection of job vacancies.
3. Educate you about the communities that might interest you and determine your best chances of success.
4. Facilitate contact with prospective employers.
5. Assist you in identifying education and real estate options for you and your family.
6. Support you as you make your transition to your new job and provide all information on landing and settlement procedures.
They did the first one, but I don’t remember them doing the rest. Hmmm.
If you want to watch the video testimonial I did for them (they asked us to), here it is (jump to 2:55).
What I said here was true. But there’s something you should know.
After this meeting, I noticed one small detail.
In our PR visa, it says that it was issued on November 24, 2017.
NASC only told us to send them our passport for stamping around early January 2018. Our visa’s expiry was on February 14, 2018.
I wondered: why the gap? Why are we notified quite late that we only have less than a month to prepare for our landing in Canada (2 weeks to be exact)?
Was it because IRCC notified them only by then? Or did IRCC notify them a few months back, but they missed the email or forgot to tell us, or something?
I’d like to think that it wasn’t the agency’s fault. But I sent them an email to clarify it but I didn’t receive any response from them. I guess, their job was finished anyway.
To be fair to them, if that was indeed NASC’s fault, I wouldn’t blame it on the agency. Perhaps, one of their employees missed that important email from IRCC. They have lots of other clients, life is too busy, etc.
Or perhaps, it was indeed IRCC’s fault. Or maybe, it was nobody’s fault at all. But it doesn’t matter now anyway.
However, I’m still saying this so you’ll be more proactive when it comes to your PR application if you also plan to hire an agency.
It’s their job to guide you in the process, but if they slip up for whatever reason, it might be too late. We’re just lucky that even though we got the stamp of our PR visa less than a month before its expiry, we still made it.
We flew to Canada on February 3, 2018—around 2 weeks after we got our visa.
Tips when choosing and hiring an agency
So if you plan to hire this agency, or if you’re considering any other agency, or if you’re still looking for an agency, here are some tips:
- Before deciding to hire an agency, consider taking the DIY route. Here are the pros and cons to help you decide. Just know that DIY isn’t for everyone, but it works. Here’s the story of my friend who took the DIY route. She’s now a PR here in Canada, FYI.
- If you think that hiring an agency works best for you, start by asking trusted friends and family members/relatives who are already here in Canada. If you’re from the UAE, Qatar, or KSA, here’s a list of legit agencies in these countries.
- Check if the immigration consultant is licensed and is an active member of ICCRC. To check the status of a consultant, go to ICCRC’s website and verify them. If you’re hiring an immigration lawyer, then he/she must be a member of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society, or the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
- Read these tips from ICCRC on how to avoid immigration fraud. You can also refer to this self-assessment questionnaire to know if an agency is legit.
- Ask a lot of questions from your consultant. Read this guide from ICCRC on what to ask your consultant. Remember: it is their job to guide you, and you’re paying them for immigration advice and to represent you in your PR application. But it’s okay if they don’t know some answers right away because not every applicant’s situations are the same. But they should be able to give some answers after doing their research or asking someone from the industry.
- Be proactive in following up, but be respectful (i.e. do it during business hours and be polite; just because you’re paying them doesn’t mean they’re at your disposal even on weekends or midnights). Sure, they might get pissed off from your constant follow-ups. But that’s your right. You need to know what’s happening because the agency will be IRCC’s main point of contact. If they miss an email with a deadline for you to submit some important documents, then it’s too late. I’m not saying that all consultants or their employees/assistants make these mistakes, but let’s be honest. Some employees aren’t as dedicated as others, so we need to do our part as well by keeping in touch with them from time to time.
Summary and next steps
Just to summarize, North American Services Center (with their main office in Dubai) is the agency we hired for our PR application to Canada. The agency is represented by a licensed consultant (Kathryn Macdonald), so they’re legit.
Overall, our experience with them is okay except for one tiny hiccup, which may or may not be their fault (but it didn’t matter anyway because it didn’t affect our permanent residency; it was just a bit inconvenient to have 2 weeks to prepare to land in Canada).
So, what are your next steps?
If you’re still considering other agencies, consider the tips I mentioned above. Alternatively, you may also want to consider my aunt, Anna Nones, who is a legit Licensed Immigration Consultant (she’s an active member of ICCRC). She co-owns an agency based here in Ontario, Canada. Send me a message here if you want to get an assessment.
But if you already signed an agreement with an agency, I hope you made sure they’re legit.
And lastly, remember: be proactive in following up with them, but always remain respectful.
About the author:
JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story.
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