Choosing an Immigration lawyer
A guide to finding a regulated solicitor who specialises in Immigration
Immigration law is a specialist area and not all lawyers do it. So how would you choose an immigration lawyer?
A lot depends on what you want or can afford.
Legal Aid is not routinely available in immigration matters but there may be certain circumstances where you can get it, if for example your case involves domestic violence. If you want to find out whether you qualify for Legal Aid you can check on the government website https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid, or speak to a solicitor authorised to carry out Legal Aid work who can assess you.
If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, then you may want to find a lawyer who does work on a fixed fee. Solicitors who offer immigration work are required by their regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, to publish information about their prices on their website. If you are looking for solicitors, they should be able to give you information about costs before you start using them.
If you are being offered a fixed fee it is sensible to check what it covers and whether it will cover everything you need or whether there will be additional charges. Also check whether it includes VAT and disbursements. Disbursements are payments that will have to be paid out to other parties such as tribunal fees or barristers fees.
Sometimes solicitors will give a quote for a fee, which is guidance and not a fixed fee. So, the eventual fee may be more or less than the quote. It is important to be clear about whether you are on a fixed fee or have received a quote.
For immigration work you do not have to use a solicitor or lawyer geographically close to you. It is work that can be done at a distance, but some people like to see their lawyer in person.
Languages spoken may also be relevant. The Law Society website will tell you what languages a firm of solicitors speaks.
If you need to know whether a solicitor specialises in Immigration work, it is worth checking whether they have the Law Society Immigration and Asylum law or Immigration Law Advanced Accreditations. These do not guarantee that someone will deliver good service, but they will have had to pass examinations and assessments in immigration law to get the full accreditations.
The Immigration Law Practitioners Association is an association that lawyers specialising in immigration can join, which provides training and guidance to them. Again, membership is not a guarantee that their services will be better, but it is a good indication that they have some specialism in the area.
Another source of recommendation may be legal directories such as The Legal 500 or Chambers Legal directory. These tend to feature larger firms who do not do much, if any, Legal Aid. However, they often specialise in business law so if you are an employer or employee looking for visa advice especially in high salary jobs, these directories may be useful.
You should also check whether your lawyer is regulated, as that should mean that they must meet certain standards. Solicitors working in solicitors’ firms should be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board. Immigration advisors who are not solicitors, barristers or members of other approved professional bodies should be regulated by The Office of The Immigration Services Commissioner. Using advisors who are not regulated runs the risk of using people who do not have proper knowledge of immigration law and there would be very little formal recourse if things went wrong.