The Future of Regulations and the OISC

ARIA CONFERENCE & AGM

DATE CONFIRMED ~~~~~~~ 21st MAY 2014

ARIA are holding their Annual Conference, AGM and training day on 21st May 2014 at the Friend’s Meeting House, Euston Road, London.

Our Keynote Speaker is Suzanne McCarthy.

There will be presentations from the Home Office, respected advisors and key industry experts.

We expect the day to be very popular – so book now!

The Conference is open to both members and non-members.

To book your attendance, please complete the booking form and return to ARIA with your payment. Delegate Booking Form

Programme details ARIA PROGRAMME

If you are not currently a member and would like to join, please follow this link for further details and to download the ARIA membership application form. MEMBERSHIP FORM 2014

Members are asked to attend to vote at the AGM.

I look forward to welcoming you to what promises to be a very interesting event.

Peter
Peter Larkin
ARIA Chairman

MEETING WITH THE OISC

ARIA Chairman, Peter Larkin, and Secretary, Ian Westwood, held an initial meeting with Suzanne McCarthy, the Immigration Services Commissioner on 13th January. We hope this to be the start of a new relationship with the Commissioner and her staff to engage in positive debate regarding our industry. We agreed future meetings will focus on matters of importance to all advisors, and we therefore encourage you to contact us if there are any issues you feel we should be raising. There will be further consultation on the codes and standards in due course, and we encourage you to give your comment directly to the OISC as well as letting ARIA know what you think. 

As a reminder of something mentioned by the OISC at the meeting, but also in recent communications from them to all advisors. Prior to OISC audit, they do make contact with the Home Office to seek feedback on the applications being made by advisors. The Home Office are permitted to share details with them, and therefore they are likely to review completed cases with you during audit visits. 

Operational Forum Feedback

Dear ARIA Member,

Please take the time to read the attached minutes from the UKBA Operational Forum held on 7th October. You may well have viewed this as a webcast. Please note the Home Office are seeking feedback on a number of issues, including items for the agenda of the next meeting in January. You should send feed back to OperationalForum@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk and we ask that you copy us in to your response. We would also be happy to raise issues on your behalf if you prefer, in that case please email us directly at admin@aria-uk.org.

Please click here for minutes of the Operational Forum – Note of meeting 071013

On Friday 11 October 2013 The Government published its new Immigration Bill

Amongst other provisions, the Bill proposes further amendments to the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. If Parliament supports these proposals, it will mean a number of future changes to the OISC regulatory scheme.

The attached fact sheet, issued by the Home Office, explains the proposed changes and you can see the Bill and monitor its progress through Parliament by accessing http://services.parliament.uk/bills/.

The OISC will be making further information available about the Bill and the implications for the OISC scheme and the immigration advice sector over the coming months, starting with the OISC Autumn news letter.

If you have any questions at this stage please e-mail info@OISC.gov.uk.

To download Factsheet please click here: Factsheet – OISC

Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner

Immigration Bill

Factsheet: Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (clause 57 and Schedule 6)

Immigration Minister Mark Harper:

“It is vital that the immigration advice sector is properly regulated in order to protect its clients from opportunistic and unscrupulous immigration advisers.”

“This new legislation will extend the powers of the Immigration Services Commissioner so that she will be able to regulate more effectively and promptly prevent unfit and incompetent organisations continuing with their activities.”

“These changes will also save money for the taxpayer by reducing the time and funds wasted on dealing with unmeritorious applications and appeals concocted by unscrupulous advisers.”

Background

The immigration advice sector has always attracted, and continues to attract, opportunistic and unscrupulous immigration advisers. Parliament recognised this by passing the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 which makes it an offence to provide immigration advice and services without being regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) or an existing qualifying regulator such as the Law Society.

The number of regulated bodies has increased steadily since the OISC was established and stood at 1,971 on 31 March 2013. These bodies vary widely from small community-based organisations and sole traders through to national charities and large specialist advisory services.

The Government believes that the powers of the Commissioner, currently Suzanne McCarthy, need strengthening to enable her to fulfil her role effectively, in particular in relation to the cancellation or suspension of registration, and her powers of entry. The current regulatory regime is also unnecessarily complicated and confusing in the way it distinguishes between organisations that charge and do not charge for their services.

What we are going to do:

• Ensure the immediate cancellation of the registration of unfit, incompetent or defunct organisations. Under the present law, the Commissioner has sometimes been unable to remove organisations from her approved list of fit and competent firms for many months after they have become defunct or have been found to be otherwise unfit to operate.

• Allow the suspension of an adviser charged with a serious criminal offence. There have been a number of situations where the Commissioner has been obliged to continue to allow advisers to operate and to appear on her authorised list of advisers when they have been charged in relation to serious criminal conduct.

• Enable the Commissioner to require entry to business premises to conduct inspections. At present she can only require entry in relation to the investigation of a specific complaint. This means that even where there are concerns about whether an adviser is operating inappropriately, it is currently possible for that to continue for a sustained period before the Commissioner has enough evidence to be able to take action.

• Allow the Commissioner to require entry to a business operating from a private residence to conduct an inspection or to investigate a complaint. At present, some such organisations, which make up about 20% of regulated organisations, are able to frustrate the Commissioner’s attempts to inspect them or investigate complaints

• Create a single category of regulated organisation. At present the Commissioner exempts over 800 immigration organisations, generally voluntary bodies, from the requirement to be registered, so that they do not need to pay a fee. The different rules which apply to the regulation of exempt organisations have resulted in a confusing and unnecessarily complicated regulatory scheme.

How we are going to do it

• Create a new duty on the Commissioner to cancel the registration of a regulated organisation in certain circumstances, including where they are unfit, incompetent or defunct. Cancellation decisions will be appealable to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration Services).

• Create a power for the Commissioner to apply to the Tribunal to suspend the activities of an adviser charged with a serious criminal offence until the matter has been resolved.

• Allow the Commissioner to apply to a Magistrate, or Sherriff in Scotland, for a warrant to enter, at reasonable times, any premises in which a regulated adviser is operating and to which she needs access. There would be no provision to use force to gain entry; failure to comply with such a warrant could result in cancellation of the organisation’s registration.

• Require all immigration organisations to be registered, but provide a power for the Secretary of State by order to require or authorise the Commissioner to waive the requirement to pay a fee in respect of certain organisations. The Government intends, subject to parliamentary approval, to use this power to maintain the existing arrangement under which those organisations that do not charge for their services are not required to pay a fee.

The Bill will benefit:

The five proposals in the Bill will lead to improvements in the regulation of immigration advice and services and improvements in the quality of immigration advice, resulting in a reduction in the harm caused by dishonest or incompetent advisers. Effective regulation of immigration advice protects clients from exploitation and also prevents unmeritorious applications and appeals which waste public funds and delay the handling of other immigration cases.

Next steps

The new powers will be commenced by order. In respect of the creation of a single category of regulated organisation, the Bill requires the Commissioner to immediately register exempt organisations on commencement. This means that they will not need to apply to the Commissioner to become registered. The Government intends to make an order requiring the Commissioner to waive the registration fees of organisations that do not charge for their services.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Will these changes mean that the Government will be introducing fees for non-profit organisations?

No. The government is committed to maintaining the principle that those organisations that do not charge for their services, do not pay a fee to the OISC. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the government intends to make an order to this effect once the Bill is enacted.

Do these changes place additional burdens on third sector organisations?

No. Under the new arrangements, third sector organisations that do not charge for their services will need to reapply for registration at a frequency to be determined by the Commissioner. However, this is very similar to the process they currently comply with voluntarily under which they submit details of their advisers to the OISC annually.

Further Reading:

Details of the OISC are available at their website: http://oisc.homeoffice.gov.uk/

Home Office
October 2013

STAKEHOLDER FORUM 22 JULY 2013

A member of the ARIA committee attended the meeting. Here are the points noted:

1. A new data base of Tribunal Determinations is going live in about a
week’s time. It will only be backdated to the 1st June 2013 at first. Both
reported and unreported determinations will go on. It will be searchable.

2. Interpreters – Capita claim they are now getting their act together. A
new financial package for interpreters was put in place in May and has
improved attendance by interpreters. The arrangements with Capita have
saved the Tribunal Service £15,000,000 a year.

3. Country Guidance – this will be updated once a month. Anyone with a
very recent Determination should notify the the Tribunal to ensure it
appears. There may be a public seminar on country guidance next Spring.

4. Most types of JRs are likely to be transferred to the Upper Tribunal
on the 1st November.

5. A Protocol on communications between judges of the Family Court and the
Tribunal was signed last Thursday.

6. Delays in processing appeals and hearing dates. All the Tribunal’s
planning for this year was on the basis that there would be a drop in the
number of appeals. The opposite has been the case and they are now listing
for Taylor House and Hatton Cross for January and February next year.
Unofficially the President of the First-tier (Mr Clements) said it was
down to money. They cannot utilise empty court rooms by employing more
judges.

7. The question of problems with payment of fees for appeals was not
reached but Mr Justice Blake said he would deal with it in the minutes.