The Legal Services Board (LSB) is to launch an assessment of the regulation of immigration advice and services after taking over responsibility for overseeing frontline regulators in the field.
Meanwhile, for the first time regulators will not have to pay a fee for having their immigration regulatory activities overseen; the costs will be absorbed by the LSB.
On 1 April, the LSB took over from the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) oversight responsibility for the three existing regulators – the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards – plus any other approved regulators under the Legal Services Act 2007 that might wish to apply to regulate immigration work.
Previously the three regulators had been paying the OISC about £110,000 a year in total for its oversight activities. The LSB said: “Now that the LSB has taken over this function, it will not charge those regulators a separate fee for immigration but will instead absorb the cost of this additional regulation within its current budget.”
In November the LSB dismissed the idea of levying a fee itself, saying: “The LSB does not consider that this arrangement would practically fit with its regulatory approach.”
The LSB said it was unlikely lawyers would notice any day-to-day changes after the handover. But hinting at a possible imminent increase in the regulators’ workload, it warned that “the LSB will be taking more interest in [the] regulation of immigration advisors, particularly in the early days”.
Elaborating, it said: “As immigration advice and services will be a new piece of work for us, we will consider looking to see where there might be any gaps in how this advice is regulated currently by the relevant approved regulators.”
The board said it would work with the regulators “to develop an understanding of how they assess compliance and use their enforcement powers for immigration advice and services”.
Indicating that it believes its oversight will lead to a superior service, the LSB predicted that: “Longer term, we expect that a consistent, modern and consumer focused approach in the regulation of all legal services, including immigration, will lead to better outcomes for consumers.”