Question of ethics

October 2014

Providing immigration advice or services when 'unqualified'

Q. I am an in-house immigration solicitor working for a Law Centre and I have been asked to supervise non-solicitor advisers who are not authorised to do such work in their own right by the Office of the Immigration Services Commission ('OISC'). Am I permitted to do this? 


The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 ("IAA") makes it an offence for a person to provide immigration advice or services ('immigration work') unless he or she is a 'qualified' person. (sections 84(1) and 91).

Section 84(2) of the Act sets out the different grounds on which a person will be 'qualified' for the purposes of the Act to provide such services and includes, inter alia, where a person is "acting on behalf of, and under the supervision of", a qualified person (s84(2)(e)).

This provision allows non-solicitor staff employed in a recognised body or by a recognised sole practitioner to undertake immigration work under the supervision of a solicitor or another qualified person.

However, it is the view of both the SRA and OISC that an adviser employed by a law centre cannot rely on this particular provision in order to do immigration work, even when supervised by an in-house solicitor, because in doing the work, the adviser is acting on behalf of the employer and not the solicitor employee and the above criteria in section 84(2)(e) are not therefore satisfied.

Unless, therefore, the advisers are 'qualified' under one of the other grounds set out in section 84(2), you should explain to your employer that you cannot supervise them in doing immigration work since you cannot be a party to the commission of an offence.

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