Rogue immigration advisers to face tougher rules
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Thursday 14 May 2009
Tougher rules to tackle rogue immigration advisers, including a “yellow card” warning system for firms that do not meet the requirements, are to be announced today by the Home Office.
Ministers propose to give the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner greater powers to tackle unscrupulous and unqualified advisers after receiving more than 3,500 individual complaints.
Under the proposals the commissioner, who regulates more than 1,600 immigration advice firms and 4,000 individuals, will be able to issue businesses with warnings to say that their practices are not up to scratch. The commissioner will also get the power to ban individuals who have given advice illegally in the past from owning or take part in an immigration advice business.
Among recent cases Max Kingsley, 59, from Margate, Kent, was jailed for nine months after passing himself off as a professor and taking thousands of pounds from his victims for illegally providing immigration “advice”.
In a separate case, James McDonald, 60, from Stirling, was ordered to pay a 5,000 fine, 1,000 compensation and 5,600 prosecution costs for illegally providing advice to Pakistani migrants. He told his clients he worked on a “no-win, no-fee” basis but in fact he took money claiming it was for expenses.
The commissioner's office has successfully prosecuted 77 organisations and individuals and issued 67 formal cautions since it was set up in 2001. The immigration minister, Phil Woolas, said it played a crucial role in tackling advisers who played the system and offered false hope. “Those responsible will be investigated and prosecuted,” he warned.
Suzanne McCarthy, the current commissioner, said that if the consultation proposal were implemented it would protect the immigration system from abuse. “Good immigration advice is in everyone's interest. Bad advice ruins lives,” she said.