“Are you being served?” - the Regulation of Immigration Advice under UK Law
Providing immigration advice and services in the UK is a regulated area overseen by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). The OISC is an independent body responsible for ensuring that immigration advisers and service providers meet high standards of professionalism and competence.
Immigration law is regulated to ensure that those seeking immigration advice and services receive accurate and reliable information from trained professionals. The UK immigration system can be complex and confusing, and mistakes or misunderstandings can have serious consequences for individuals and families. By regulating immigration advisers and service providers, the government aims to protect vulnerable individuals from fraud, exploitation, and poor quality advice.
The OISC provides three levels of registration, with each level allowing advisers to provide different types of immigration advice and services:
Level 1: advisers can provide advice and services in relation to applications for entry clearance, leave to enter, leave to remain, and limited asylum claims.
Level 2: advisers can provide all the services of Level 1 advisers, as well as advice and services in relation to further submissions, administrative review, and appeals to the First-tier Tribunal.
Level 3: advisers can provide all the services of Level 1 and Level 2 advisers, as well as advice and services in relation to judicial review and appeals to the Upper Tribunal.
There are some professions that are exempt from OISC regulation, such as solicitors and barristers who are regulated by their respective professional bodies. At Lawyery, we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and therefore exempt from OISC regulation, as we are fully trained and qualified solicitors, with appropriate levels of qualification, on-going training and supervision plus insurance and price transparency. Our website www.lawyery.co has an interactive SRA badge to prove our regulated status.
For other advisors, who are not exempt, they should be able to prove registration with the OISC. To become registered with the OISC, advisers must meet specific criteria, including completing relevant qualifications, demonstrating good character, and having appropriate insurance. Once registered, advisers are subject to ongoing monitoring and must follow the OISC's Code of Standards and Guidance.
Registered advisers must display their OISC registration number on their website and in their premises to ensure that clients can easily verify their status. Clients should always check that their adviser is registered before taking any advice or services.
Even if the advice is free or provided by a charity, it may still need to be regulated by the OISC. The OISC provides exemptions from registration for some organisations that provide free immigration advice, including charities and non-profit organisations. However, these organisations must still meet certain criteria to be exempt, including having policies and procedures in place to ensure the quality of the advice being provided.
It is important to note that providing immigration advice or services without being registered or exempt from registration is a criminal offence that can result in severe penalties, including fines of up to £5,000 and imprisonment of up to two years. If someone is found to be providing immigration advice or services without being registered or exempt, they can be reported to the OISC through their website.
The OISC plays a crucial role in ensuring that immigration advisers and service providers meet high standards of professionalism and competence. If you are seeking immigration advice or services, it is important to ensure that your adviser is registered with the OISC at the appropriate level, unless they can prove exemption. To verify an adviser's registration status or to report any illegal activity, visit the OISC website at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-the-immigration-services-commissioner or email firstname.lastname@example.org. So if you have an advisor in the UK, be sure to check that they are regulated before you act on their advice.