5 The OISC’s Code of Standards
Fitness and competence to provide advice form the backbone to the system of regulating immigration advice.
Further guidance can be found in the OISC’s Code of Standards; the latest version of the Code available at the time of writing this course was published in 2016. It takes a principle-based approach and covers professional practice, conduct and discipline across the immigration advice sector. In addition, there are several guidance notes.
The general overview of the Code of Standards is as follows:
- Organisations and advisers must always act in accordance with UK law.
- Under the OISC regulatory scheme an adviser is only authorised by the Commissioner to work for a specific organisation or organisations.
- Organisations and advisers must only act according to, and within, their authorisation.
- All organisations and advisers must remain fit and competent within the Level and Categories for which they are authorised.
- When giving immigration advice or immigration services, organisations and advisers must act .
- Advisers must be able to demonstrate that they are compliant with the Commissioner’s Continuing Professional Development requirements.
- Advisers must clearly identify themselves when giving immigration advice or immigration services.
- Organisations must ensure that no unauthorised person(s) provide immigration advice or immigration services on their behalf.
- An organisation is permitted to have persons operating above their authorised Level or in Categories for which they are not authorised, but within the Level and Categories granted to the organisation, if the Commissioner has given written authorisation of the organisation’s supervision arrangements.
- Organisations and advisers must not take advantage of a client’s or a prospective client’s vulnerability.
- Organisations and advisers must not mislead their clients or prospective clients.
- Organisations and advisers must always act in their clients’ best interests subject to regulatory and legal requirements.
- Organisations and advisers must, as far as reasonably practicable, satisfy themselves that documents supplied to them in support of an application are genuine.
- Organisations and advisers must:
- a.show due respect, politeness and courtesy to all
- b.be prepared to provide to a member of the Tribunal Service staff, immigration judge or Government immigration and nationality staff, including those at posts abroad, identification and confirmation of their authorisation by the Commissioner to provide immigration advice or immigration services
- c.not mislead the Commissioner, Government departments or any other statutory or judicial body
- d.not knowingly or negligently permit themselves to be used in any deception; and
- e.not seek to abuse any procedure operating in the UK in connection with immigration or asylum, including any appellate or other judicial procedure, or advise any person to do something which would amount to such abuse.
- Organisations and advisers must treat their clients fairly and without prejudice or bias.
- Organisations must have a written equality and diversity policy that meets current statutory requirements.
- Where an organisation has a policy of offering immigration advice or immigration services only to specific client groups the organisation must make this publicly clear.
- Organisations which offer immigration advice or immigration services online must ensure that their online information clearly explains what immigration advice or immigration services they are authorised to provide, the generally expected timeframes for delivery of such work and any associated costs.
- Organisations which provide immigration advice or immigration services online must have a clear and prominent statement on their website that they comply with current regulations including any cooling-off period to which clients are entitled.
Activity 4: Looking at the Code of Standards
Read the OISC’s 2016 Code of Standards and use the space below to note down of any principles that are relevant to an immigration adviser’s work. In particular, look for any information on client letters, and make a note of any requirements.
The Code’s associated guidance notes have details on:
- advisers’ inability to work, and ending a case
- additional advice and outsourcing work
- client care letter
- confidentiality and keeping the client informed
- conflicts and referrals
- fees and accounts
- handling complaints
- notifying the Commissioner of changes and concerns
- running the organisation and case management
- use of the OISC logo and adviser business promotion.
The notes include a great deal of information; more than is needed to successfully complete the OISC Level 1 examination. However, you need to be aware of the Code and its associated guidance.
The OISC Level 1 examination requires advice to be given in the form of a letter. Understanding what makes a concise and clear advice letter is an important skill. The information on the client care letter provided in the Code will be relevant if you plan to qualify as a Level 1 immigration adviser.
- An organisation must keep a record of the client’s agreement to their client care letter either by way of a signed and dated copy of the letter or evidence of their agreement electronically.
- A client care letter must contain:
- a.a statement identifying the client for whom the organisation is acting;
- b.a statement of the client’s immigration status, if known;
- c.full details of the client’s instructions, advice given and the work agreed to be done with estimated timeframes;
- d.confirmation of the costs estimated or agreed;
- e. confirmation that if client money is held by the organisation on behalf of the client, such money remains the client’s until the client is invoiced and payment is due;
- f.information explaining what, if any, additional costs may be incurred for which the client may become liable;
- g.contact details of the adviser dealing with the matter including their name, address, telephone number and email address;
- h.confirmation that if the client is required to hand over any original documents to the organisation, the client will, if necessary, be given copies of those documents as soon as reasonably practicable;
- i.the organisation’s complaint-handling procedures;
- j.all other terms and conditions of the agreement, and, if online selling regulations are relevant, the client’s protections under relevant legislation;
- k.confirmation that the organisation is regulated in the UK by the Commissioner and that the Commissioner has the power to examine the client’s file; and
- l.confirmation that the organisation retains full responsibility for all work done on behalf of the client.