For immigrants who wish to come to the UK the amount of help they are likely to require will depend on:
- Their country of origin;
- The purpose of their proposed visit to the UK; and,
- The length of their proposed visit to the UK.
Detailed guidance for applicants is available both online and in the notes attached to each application form. For straightforward applications many applicants will find that they can complete the process without assistance.
However, immigration application forms can be lengthy, applicants may have to supply additional documents and the consequences of getting it wrong may be very serious. For those who do wish to get advice, or more information, before they embark on the process, the organisations below may be able to help.
UK Border Agency
Anyone who is in the early stage of planning a trip to the UK, but is unsure of the immigration or visa requirements they may have to satisfy, could start by consulting the UK Border Agency website. The UK Border Agency is the Home Office department responsible for processing and deciding visa applications. The website gives detailed information about all stages of the immigration process.
The UK Border Agency also has a dedicated visa website providing further detailed information and guidance for immigrants. This site has a simple online questionnaire to help people work out whether or not they have to obtain a visa or entry clearance before coming to the UK.
Application forms and the relevant guidance notes for immigrants may also be downloaded from the UK Border Agency website.
British Embassies and Consulates Overseas
For foreign nationals applying from overseas most immigrant applications will be made through their local British embassy or consulate. Any embassy or consulate which provides visa processing services will also be able to provide advice and information to prospective immigrants.
The Office of Immigration Services Commissioner
In the UK anyone who provides advice on immigration matters for a profit must be registered with the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). Advisers who are registered should display the OISC logo. To provide advice on immigration issues without being OISC registered is a criminal offence and there is no guarantee that the advice will be accurate. Non-profit organisations which offer immigration advice need not be registered but must obtain a certificate of exemption from the OISC.
The OISC website has a list of all registered and exempt immigration advisers and may also offer advice over the telephone about the availability of advisers in a particular area.
The Immigration Advisory Service
The Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) is the UK’s largest and most renowned charity providing specialist legal advice about, and help with, immigration issues. The IAS can also provide representation. Depending on the individual’s status this advice may be free or a fee may be charged for it. However, the IAS is a not-for-profit organisation therefore the purpose of the fee will be to cover their costs and is likely to be considerably lower than consulting a lawyer. Free advice is available to people who cannot afford to pay for it and who have a case which has a likelihood of being successful.
The IAS has offices throughout the UK as well as in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. The IAS website has addresses for all offices and is itself an excellent source of information on immigration issues.
Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau is one the UK’s best known advice charities. Information on immigration issues is available on their website and some of their advisers may be able to assist with specific advice. However, even if the Citizens Advice Bureau is not able to help with a particular query they will certainly be able to direct enquirers to a person or organisation who can help.
Community Legal Advice
Community Legal Advice (CLA) is funded by legal aid and may provide free, confidential advice on a number of issues, including immigration. This advice is generally available to those who would qualify for legal aid. However, even if the CLA cannot help, because the person does not satisfy the criteria for legal aid, they will still be able to provide a list of local advisers who may be able to help.