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.

ARIA AGM

Thank you to all those who attended the ARIA AGM held 16th May 2013.

Ian Westwood welcomed our guest speakers Kathryn Denyer and Jonathan Kingham of LexisNexis and Ken Hanslip of NSL Validation Solutions.

The Minutes are our now avaliable to the Membership. To receive a copy together with a download of the Power Point presentation given by Ken Hanslip and receive a one week trial of the services provided by LexisNexis please send your request to admin@aria-uk.org

LexisNexis product brochure download for your information – LexisPSL Immigration Factsheet

ARIA responds to the Home Office

Following an announcement from the Business and Investment Team at the Home Office, ARIA have signalled intent to participate in the newly established “Operational Forum”.

The principle intent of the Operational Forum is to foster excellent working partnerships and ongoing dialogue with the Home Office’s key operational service-users and representative organisations regarding routine operational issues.

The Operational Forum will consist of a representative group of key organisations and representatives. The forum is intended to be inclusive and will consist of organisations representing both in-country and overseas experiences. Each organisation will be offered one place. Members will agree to represent the views of their organisation and cascade information/feedback between their organisation and the forum.

Interested ARIA members are invited to contact the Management Committee for more information.

If you are a practicing and regulated immigration adviser in the UK, you are also invited to contact the Management Committee for membership information. (admin@aria-uk.org)

ARIA Responds to the SRA

ARIA will respond to a public consultation sponsored by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).  The SRA provides the British public with confidence in practicing solicitors by assuring that their conduct and competence meets the legal standard.  Currently, the SRA are sponsoring a consultation entitled “New Overseas Rules”, and the subject matter affects areas of interest to our membership. 

ARIA members are invited to contact the Management Committee for further information (admin@aria-uk.org).

ARIA AGM 16th May 2013

The Annual General Meeting of the Association of Immigration Advisers 16th May 2013.

There are many changes taking place in the field of UK Immigration. These changes will continue to come from UKBA, but also by the regulator, the OISC, who are proposing changes to the code of practice. As you know, the Cabinet Office has been leading a debate on the future role and mandate of the OISC, and its outcome will affect us all.

With this in mind we believe it is time for ARIA to take a lead and be the voice that speaks out for and on behalf of all (Regulated) Immigration Advisers.

We hope you will join us on the 16th of May to participate in ARIA’s growing relevance in the regulated marketplace for immigration advice and services.

I ask you to attend to contribute to the debate.

Ian Westwood, ARIA Chair

ARIA AGM, Friends House, Euston, London, NW1 2BJ

Start time 6.00 pm

To register your attendance please complete and return the AGM form by following the link –   AGM Notice reply MAY 2013

Agenda

1. Report from the committee

2. Election of officers and committee for next year

3. Presentation by Lexis Nexis – demonstration of a tool to make casework easier, and an opportunity to learn more about the legal aspects of representing a client

4. ARIA – the way forward. What do you want from ARIA? Discussion facilitated by the current Interim Chairman

5. Close of business

 

Association of Regulated Immigration Advisers

The Association of Regulated Immigration Advisers is the professional Association for Regulated Immigration Advisers in the United Kingdom. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 provides for the Regulation of Immigration Advisers in the UK.

Since the Immigration Act 1971, and the British Nationality Act of 1981, successive Governments in the UK have, for a number of reasons, introduced further immigration laws and changed many aspects of existing British Immigration Law and Rules. These, together with the introduction of further British Law to cater for European Community Immigration imposed on the UK over the years, has made the whole area of UK Immigration law extremely complex.

In view of this, Immigration Law is becoming more and more of a ‘specialist’ area of UK Law. This has resulted in many Solicitors turning their attention away from Immigration towards other areas of domestic law. Immigration organisations, advisers, consultants, and law centres have therefore steadily found it necessary to provide an increasing amount of legal advice and services in the area of Immigration.

It is important all people seeking Immigration advice and services both in and outside the UK, for whatever reason, are reassured the advice and services they receive is given in a competent, efficient and effective manner. The introduction of Regulation in regard to UK Immigration and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner has gone some way to achieve this. The Association of Regulated Immigration Advisers will compliment this by providing further reassurance that a professional association supports the Regulated UK immigration advice and service providers, and those who are outside of UK Regulation by the adoption of ‘Best Practice’ processes and procedures.

We hope the pages of this web site will provide some reassurance that our members providing advice and consultancy immigration services in the UK, have the support of this Association. It is also our primary aim to promote the image and professionalism of Regulated immigration advisers in the UK, and in doing so encourage the provision of more effective and efficient immigration services generally.

When choosing immigration advice and service providers, it is therefore in your interests to ensure the organisation you choose to provide the immigration advice and services you require, is regulated and is one of our member organisations. Look for our logo and ask!