Tougher rules against rogue immigration advisers

Tougher new rules to tackle rogue immigration advisers are to be launched by the Government

Tougher new rules to tackle rogue immigration advisers are to be launched by the Government, the Home Office has announced.

The proposals would give greater powers to the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) to tackle unscrupulous as well as untrained and unqualified advisers. Poor advice can cause distress to individuals, delay hearings, and slow down casework and decision making.

The measures announced are set out in the ‘Oversight of the Immigration Advisers Sector Consultation’, giving users and stakeholders an opportunity to give their views on how immigration advisers can be better regulated.

It is the OISC’s role to ensure that those giving immigration advice are qualified. It currently regulates over 1,600 organisations and around 4,000 individuals.

As part of a toughening up of the system, the consultation proposals include: tightening restrictions on individuals who have provided immigration advice illegally so they cannot own or participate in an immigration advice business; strengthening the rights of the OISC to access and inspect immigration advisers; and issuing businesses with ‘yellow card’ warnings to say that their practices are not up to scratch. These would act as notice to improve standards and set out any changes required.Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: ‘The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner plays a crucial role in making sure that people are getting the right advice on immigration matters and tackling those advisers that play the system and offer false hope.

‘Any abuse of our immigration laws will not be tolerated. Attempts to frustrate the system cost the taxpayer money and make it more difficult for people who genuinely need our protection.

‘Those responsible will be investigated and prosecuted. The OISC has already undertaken over 75 successful prosecutions, but we need to help them to take tough action earlier.’

Since its creation in 2001 the OISC has driven up standards across the immigration advice sector.

It has received over 3,500 complaints about advisers – it has successfully prosecuted 77 organisations and individuals, issued 67 formal cautions. The courts have issued nearly £60,000 in fines and compensation, and awarded around £45,000 in court costs.

Suzanne McCarthy, Immigration Services Commissioner, said: ‘The OISC has already created a successful regulatory system and raised the standard of immigration advice available. If these proposals are implemented it will allow the OISC to give greater protection to individuals from unscrupulous advisers and protect the immigration system from abuse. Good immigration is in everyone’s interest. Bad advice ruins lives.’

These improvements to the regulation of immigration advisers follow the reforms, announced last week, to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. The Tribunal reforms will mean a faster, more efficient system that will save the taxpayer money, speed up the removal of those who are found not to need our protection while integrating genuine asylum seekers quicker.

These changes will help to improve public confidence in the immigration system and are part of the biggest shake-up to the immigration system for a generation. This also includes fingerprint visas and ID cards for foreign nationals that lock people to one identity, and our high-tech electronic border controls that check people against police, immigration and customs watch-lists and will cover even more passenger journeys by the end of this year.

by Monika Journo 

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