What legal representation is available in immigration and asylum matters and is there a regulatory system?

Why is legal representation useful for appeals before the Immigration & Asylum Chamber?

There are a number of reasons that anyone bringing an appeal before the Immigration & Asylum Chamber should use all means necessary to acquire legal representation. Experienced immigration solicitors and counsel will know how to navigate the complex system of immigration rules and human rights grounds of appeal. Procedural points can often be crucial to the outcome of immigration hearings. An appellant may not know what exactly he/she must prove or to what standard of proof. An appellant may not know exactly what documentary evidence would help his/her case and when he/she must send copies to the Immigration & Asylum Chamber and Home Office.

Until recent reforms, unqualified people were able to represent clients both when dealing with the Home Office in the initial stages of immigration matters and even at hearings at the Immigration & Asylum Chamber (then Asylum & Immigration Tribunal). This is no longer the case. Until 1 January 2000, there was also no legal aid available for immigration representation but this too has changed in favour of appellants.

Is there a dialogue between legal representatives and the immigration policy-makers in government?

Yes, experienced representatives often form organisations who are qualified to comment and consult on legislation, offering their opinions on potential consequences of new legislation on the current system. This is particularly important as the immigration rules change almost daily. It is crucial that legal representatives are kept up to speed with the latest updates. After all, asylum and immigration are highly politicised fields, in which changes come about via the law.

Why was a regulatory system set up to control who is permitted to represent in immigration matters?

To summarise, a regulatory body for legal representation in immigration matters was thought to be needed in order to rid the country of ‘unscrupulous immigration advisers’. An applicant for leave to remain (and particularly asylum seekers) may not be fluent in English; will no doubt know little about the UK’s legal immigration and asylum system and perhaps, crucially, will be vulnerable due to the significance of succeeding in this matter upon their future. So, combined with a lack of public funding and the freedom given to unregulated ‘representatives’, it is not surprising that many applicants were taken advantage of, during the 1990s and first few years of this decade. Even if an immigration adviser was indeed qualified, the work they carried out (again for extortionate fees) left a lot to be desired; the most likely reason being that immigration law is often omitted from the majority of professional training in law. There are even those who continue to set themselves up as immigration practitioners, charge ridiculously high fees and often provide services of little or no value to their ‘clients’.

What system is in place to protect applicants from being the victims of fraud or poor legal practice? 

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For more information on:

  • What is the role of the Immigration Services Commissioner?
  • What regulation is there within legal professional bodies who represent in immigration cases?