Solicitors handling immigration work can only do so from organisations overseen by a legal regulator or the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), the Solicitors Regulation Authority has decided.
It has made permanent the temporary change made on the eve of the Standards & Regulations coming into force last November.
This means that immigration solicitors cannot take advantage of the rules that allow other solicitors to deliver unreserved work from unregulated businesses.
Immigration is the only area of law which is not one of the reserved legal activities yet is still subject to a standalone regulatory regime, overseen by OISC for those who are not authorised lawyers.
The new rules – approved by the SRA board last month – only allow solicitors to operate from a narrow range of OISC-regulated organisations: law centres and other non-commercial bodies.
If they want to provide immigration advice to the public from other OISC-regulated entities, solicitors must be regulated by OISC and explain to consumers that they are doing so on that basis.
OISC regulates 1,612 organisations and 3,135 registered advisers. The SRA regulates a little over 5,000 immigration practitioners and around 2,000 law firms in total do some immigration work.
A recent six-week SRA consultation on the rules received only 10 responses, with positive responses from the Law Society, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and charities operating in the sector.
“We also received three responses from individuals who said that they were not opposed, but nor were they convinced that the change would have any impact,” the board heard.
The board approved the rules as they appeared in the consultation and will now apply to the Legal Services Board for final approval.