The Solicitors Regulation Authority has agreed to delay rules that would have eased restrictions on how solicitors can provide immigration advice to the public.
The changes were part of a revised set of standards and regulations that came into force today. Solicitors would have been able to provide immigration advice and services from any type of firm regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
However, the SRA said today that it had been asked by the OISC not to make the option available: '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.'
At present, section 84(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 allows individuals to provide immigration advice and services without being regulated by the OISC if they are authorised to practise by a designated qualifying regulator, such as the SRA.
Fee-charging organisations and charities, and non-commercial advice services which do not meet the SRA practice framework rules may employ in-house solicitors who can provide legal advice within the organisation without any requirement for the individual to be authorised by the OISC. However, they cannot provide immigration advice and services to the public as solicitors.
If they wish to provide immigration advice and services to the public they must apply to the OISC to be authorised as part of an OISC-registered organisation. If approved, they will be acting as an OISC-registered adviser rather than as a solicitor.
The OISC said that it had carried out 'detailed examination' with the SRA of the impact of the code of conduct changes on the OISC statutory regulatory scheme and wider immigration advice sector. The decision not to implement the changes - which was agreed by the Legal Services Board, the oversight regulator, last week - was made as a result of that work.
The OISC said: 'The effect of this will be that solicitors authorised by the SRA to provide immigration advice and services can continue to do so from 25 November 2019 onwards, in the same way that they could prior to that date.'