The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has had to suspend rules due to come into force today that would allow solicitors to operate from firms regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
Rules 9.5(b) and (c) and 9.6 of the new Authorisation of Individuals Regulations will not come into force today after the Legal Services Board approved the delay on Friday.
Immigration is the only area of law which is not one of the reserved legal activities but is subject to a standalone regulatory regime overseen by the OISC.
Solicitors working in SRA-regulated firms are exempt from OISC regulation, but if they are not working in such practices, OISC requires them to apply to be authorised as part of an OISC-registered organisation. If approved, they act as an OISC-registered adviser rather than as a solicitor.
However, the OISC has been worried about the overlap between its regime and the new SRA rules allowing solicitors to practise from unregulated businesses.
A statement issued on Friday said that, following “a detailed examination” undertaken by the SRA and OISC “of the impact of the changes to rule 9 [the SRA rules on immigration advice], on the OISC statutory regulatory scheme and the wider immigration advice sector”, solicitors’ right to operate from OISC-registered firms has been suspended.
An SRA spokesman said: “We have been in ongoing conversations with OISC around increased flexibility to allow solicitors to provide immigration advice and services to the public from any type of firm regulated by OISC.
“OISC have asked us not to make this option available to solicitors at this time. We have agreed and have introduced a transitional provision while we are in discussions with OISC and other stakeholders about how the changes might work in practice.
“This does not affect anyone currently doing immigration work.”