This month, Home Secretary Theresa May announced the Triennial Review of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). The Government are conducting the Triennial Review to decide whether there is a continuing need for the functions and form of the OISC and whether it should continue to function independently from the Government. The call for evidence opened on 16 October 2014 and will continue up until 14 November 2014.
Gathering Information about the OISC
Individuals who have used an OISC accredited immigration organisation or adviser can contribute to providing evidence by using the online call for evidence. This is to measure the appropriateness of the body’s delivery mechanism and its governance arrangements. This call for evidence is part of the process for gathering information about the OISC. It will look at the current functions of the OISC and how it delivers them, whether those functions are necessary and if they are, whether there are alternative ways in which they could be delivered.
- In section 1, Current functions of the OISC: This section seeks to find out to what extent people are aware of the functions of the OISC, and to what extent these functions are considered necessary
- In section 2, Regulation of immigration organisations and advisers: Some immigration advisers, such as solicitors, who are members of a professional body (e.g. the Law Society) are regulated by that body. This section explores whether it is necessary to have a body which regulates immigration advisers who are not members of a professional body.
- In section 3, Delivery models: This section explores whether, if the functions of the OISC continue to be necessary, there is a better way of delivering them.
- In section 4, definition of a non-Departmental Public Body: This section considers the reasons why the OISC was set up as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and whether these reasons still apply now.
- The last section, About you: This section asks for information about you, your organisation and role.
Cases against OISC Firms
Last week, Phillip Watson based in Liverpool was convicted for providing illegal immigration advice. On 22 October 2014 at Liverpool Sefton Magistrates Court Mr Watson was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months, along with a 10 week curfew. He also had to pay the prosecution costs of £2009 and compensation of £3000.
District Judge Clancy ruled:
“This is an extremely serious matter. I didn’t believe any of your evidence, you were clearly lying. Your performance under Oath was a disgrace and some of the devices that you tried to employ in your evidence were astonishing.”
A couple of years ago the BBC exposed an OISC immigration regulated firm in Birmingham for ‘ripping off’ families. The company has since been banned from practicing after receiving a number of complaints about its services. Families who instructed the firm told the BBC that they paid more than a £1000 for a service that was never delivered. One of the victims, Ian Northeast a British national wanted to bring his mother in law who resided in Thailand to the UK after she had lost her husband suddenly. Mr Northeast paid £1,250 for the visa application process but failed to get a visa or refund 18 months after instructing the firm.
After receiving approximately 100 complaints in just over a year the immigration firm was struck off in 2012. This alone made up 25% of all complaints received by the industry’s regulatory body between 2011 – 2012.
Immigration Services Commissioner, Suzanne McCarthy commented on the purpose of OISC:
“The OISC is here to ensure that people seeking immigration advice are treated fairly by people they can trust who are fit and competent. Watson chose to operate outside the law. I hope that the outcome of this case sends a clear message to others who maybe considering providing immigration advice- either act within the law or you will find yourself in court.”
How to check if you are using an SRA regulated Law Firm?
Instructing a firm of solicitors will ensure that your case will be managed and progressed by qualified lawyers and not OISC immigration caseworkers/advisers. All law firms are regulated by the SRA and appear on the following website directory provided by the Law Society of England & Wales: