Fake News and Fake Immigration Lawyers – Don’t Get Scammed – Get the right UK Immigration Lawyer

Lately, I have heard quite a few accounts of people who have been ‘advised’ by someone who is claiming that they are an Immigration lawyer/advisor, but have given migrants shockingly bad advice, which lands them in more trouble than they bargained for. Are these people really lawyers? And how can you find out for sure? There have also been many cases of ‘fake news,’ but how can you find out if it’s fake news and avoid being taken in?

I hope to share a few tips on how to find the right information or lawyer for your UK Immigration Matter:

Check they are regulated:

First of all, if you are seeking advice, you should note that it is a criminal offence for a person to provide immigration advice or services in the UK unless their organisation is regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), or is otherwise covered by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The legislation provides

     84 Provision of immigration services.
(1)No person may provide immigration advice or immigration services unless he is a qualified person.
(2)A person is a qualified person if he is—
(a)a registered person,
(b)authorised by a designated professional body to practise as a member of the profession whose members the body regulates,
(ba)a person authorised to provide immigration advice or immigration services by a designated qualifying regulator,]
(c)the equivalent in an EEA State of—
(i)a registered person, or
(ii)a person within paragraph (b) [F3or (ba)] ,
(d)a person permitted, by virtue of exemption from a prohibition, to provide in an EEA State advice or services equivalent to immigration advice or services, or
(e)acting on behalf of, and under the supervision of, a person within any of paragraphs (a) to (d) (whether or not under a contract of employment).]    

Members of certain professional bodies (i.e. a designated professional body) may give immigration advice without registering with the OISC. These bodies include:

  • General Council of the Bar
  • Law Society of England and Wales
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
  • Faculty of Advocates
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland
  • Law Society of Northern Ireland

How to check?

Thus, putting it simply, immigration advisors/solicitors are all regulated and members of a professional body, and this is important as the relevant regulating body ensures that they are accountable for their advice, and can intervene if something goes wrong, to protect the public.

For example: All Solicitors must be registered with the Law Society! If you cannot find them here http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/, you probably need to think twice before giving any instructions. A Law firm should be also registered with the SRA, and you can find all firms here http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/using-solicitor/law-firm-search.page.  Once you have found a solicitor or company on the above-mentioned websites you can be assured of good quality and accountability.

So, if your so-called ‘lawyer’ is not registered with OISC, or working under any of the above regulated professional bodies, run a mile…you may be dealing with a fake lawyer, and will have no protection if things go wrong.

Ask around – seek recommendations and read reviews:

Also, as with any other profession, you should seek recommendations from your friends and family, as well as look at their customer reviews:

There are lots of immigration advisors/lawyers in the UK who can assist you with your UK immigration application, appeal or with general advice. In the majority of cases having a good Lawyer can make the difference between you being granted a visa at the first application. In Human Rights and complex immigration matters, it is usually better to engage the services of a UK Immigration Solicitor/Advisor. If they tell you that they are a genuine lawyer or advisor don’t just take their word for it; do your homework, find out if they are regulated and also ask for recommendations or read their reviews.

Example: Most Law firms have social media websites on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google, which allow their clients to leave feedback and give you an idea of what sort of company or lawyer will be handling your case.

Know the difference between various titles:

Before you hire an immigration advisor, solicitor, or barrister, it is also advisable to understand the differences between the titles (see this article about the differences title here), but ultimately the biggest mistake you can make, other than not having a solicitor in a complex immigration matter, is having bad or poor representation from someone who should not be giving advice in the first place i.e. an unregulated immigration advisor.

In my field of work, I have heard too many horror stories from people who have spent thousands of pounds making an application and relying on such an immigration advisor/lawyer/solicitors, only to discover that the person they were dealing with did not have the expected qualifications or knowledge to competently deal with thei matter.

There are a lot of purported legal advisors with no legal qualifications and fake news around, so it is always better to check the source before giving any instructions, or submitting an application relying on such information.

Get the right source for Information:

Additionally, when it also comes to sources for the law and current immigration rules, it is always wise to check the government website, the latest legislation and the Home Office Guidance. 

There are no shortcuts and it can be easy to be taken in by the fake news on the internet e.g. Silent Amnesty Policy!;  see a screenshot of a WhatsApp text currently doing the rounds.

While there is a lot of useful information on social media, please make sure you counter-check any news with an official government source, reputable newspaper, or with a qualified UK immigration solicitor.

” if the deal is too good,think twice

As a UK immigration solicitor, I advise clients to be wary of the person who purports to offer heaven on a silver platter, or what can only be logically outrageous promises, e.g. someone promising to help you apply for ILR directly, even though you are an overstayer, with no real basis for even a normal visa.

Any good UK Immigration solicitor should not only be able to explain what they intend to achieve, but also explain to you in simplified terms on what legal basis they will achieve this objective.

Example of a Scam in Nottingham:  There is a lady in Nottingham who has been charging tens of thousands of pounds to desperate migrants from a certain community, mainly preying on overstayers, or those with short visas, with promises of Indefinite Leave to Remain through a backdoor contact she has inside the Home Office. 

The lady asks for half of her fees immediately and the rest once the person has received confirmation that the application has been received by the HomeOffice, which normally comes about 3-4 weeks later.

This is quite an impressive con and hundreds have fallen for it. Unfortunately, unbeknown to her client’s, all this lady does is choose the cheapest application (normally an EEA residence card, which costs £65) and sends it in with the payment details and passport; this automatically triggers an acknowledgement letter confirming the person’s interim right to work, but the application contains blank inner pages, is eventually refused and the decision sent to the lady, who never tells the migrant.

As a UK immigration Lawyer with over 10 years experience with the Home Office, I can confirm that you can accuse the UKBA of many things; being slow to process applications, confused, sometimes incompetent or not fit for purpose, but one thing they are not is corrupt! As a migrant myself, I can appreciate that in some jurisdictions immigration officers are easily corrupted and will bend the rules, depending on how much you are willing to pay …. this does not happen within the Home Office!

We live in an age of fairly new, fast social media and fake new, thus, although it can be helpful that we can  find out anything at the tap of a button, one ought to be careful whose advice we take or follow, as lots of people are falling foul of the immigration system and even putting themselves is much worse positions than they are already in, simply because they have followed some fake news about a non existent amnesty or loophole, published by a person who has no business giving advice to anyone.

Finally, Please report them and call them out!

Please always make sure that the person you are about to instruct has appropriate qualifications. Remember, it is a criminal offence to provide immigration services without being registered; the law provides:

Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
91 Offences.
(1)A person who provides immigration advice or immigration services in contravention of section 84 or of a restraining order is guilty of an offence and liable—
(a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both; or
(b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine, or to both.

While a lot of the victims who fall for these types of scam are not able to remedy their visa situation and are now over-stayers (some due to this scam), I feel that I have a responsibility to write this Article and warn people. It would also really help if those who have been a victim and now have sorted their immigration status, would report the companies or individuals to the police and the OISC, who deal with all unregulated advisers. If everyone affected reported it, then perhaps we could stop con people from taking advantage of vulnerable persons.