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on 13th December 2011 at 11:41 (10351 Views)
The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner is a regulatory body which is responsible for regulating immigration advisers by charging them a fee of £ 575.00 from all those applying to become a Level-1 Adviser and £ 1750.00 from those intending to apply for Level-2 and Level-3 advisers. Today, any Tom, Dick or Harry can successfully pass the Level-1 exam, which is available on-line. It is just a copy and paste phenomenon, which is easily traceable on Google. Hence anyone and everyone, who can dish out £ 575.00 can become a Level-1 Adviser of OISC.
There are companies which advertise their expertise in getting aspirant Immigration Advisors registered with OISC within a fortnight. They charge anywhere between £ 200 to £ 1000 for their services – depending upon the work they do for their “Client”. Several companies are selling a software titled “OISC Registration Software” for £ 100.00 which guarantees the user its registration with OISC. Some companies help, those interested in UK Immigration Advice work, register with OISC. They provide one-window service to help anyone get registered with OISC; from Guidance, Course/Study Material for Code & Rules Test and Level 1 Test, Classes, Preparation for Tests, Completion of Application with Business Plan and Cash Flow Projections, Policies, Procedures and Systems as part of application to securing Professional Indemnity Insurance and assistance in opening Bank Accounts.
The functions set out by OISC for Level 1 Advisers are very confusing. It is up to the reader to draw his own inferences. In fact, Level-1 Advisers are not supposed to give advice as such, except for merely pointing an immigrant in the right direction or filling in simple forms. There is a test to pass to register at Level 1. This is an online multiple choice test done in the security and privacy of an applicant’s own home. Meaning, of course, that anyone can take the test for the applicant or even if the applicant do it himself, he can easily look up the answers at his leisure. Level 2 allows the adviser to actually give advice. Level 3 enables the adviser to carry out advocacy in the immigration tribunal.
The application fees is collected by the OISC under statutory powers and must accompany applications. Without the application fee, no application is entertained (Except if the applicant is working for a charity or a not-for-profit organisation). It is more like a shop where anyone can go and buy a Level-1 Adviser Certificate after paying £ 575.00. OISC has miserably failed in introducing and maintaining the level of expertise required to become an Immigration Adviser. There are several OISC registered immigration consultants, who can’t write a single sentence of English correctly. At the same time, there are several OISC registered immigration consultants, whose own status in U.K. is unclear. Several students have managed to get themselves registered with OISC as Level-1 Advisers. Some immigration consultants await a reply from Home Office for cases they have submitted regarding their own status in U.K. The OISC does not require any expertise from any applicant, who is applying to become its Level-1 Adviser. What a pity!
The Commissioner claims that there is no express power to refund these fees even if the applicant withdraws his application or remains unsuccessful for any reason what-so-ever. However, the Home Office advises that refunds might be made in exceptional circumstances. It is not clear, what those exceptional circumstances might be. Hence it is purely at the discretion of the OISC Commissioner either to give a refund or not on “Compassionate grounds”. No written document is available either from OISC or UKBA defining what those exceptional circumstances or compassionate grounds are under which the application fee of the applicant is refunded to him. Given to understand, as explained by the Deputy OISC Commissioner, if an applicant undergoes a heart attack after filing his application for registration as a Level-1 Adviser, then he might be offered a refund of his application fee. But if the applicant reaches a conclusion that he is unable to take the stress and would like to withdraw his application for OISC registration due to a pre-existing medical condition, then he will not be offered any refund and his entire fee will be confiscated. However, all this is an inference at the sweet will of the OISC Commissioner and no written policy to this effect is available from any forum. This policy is in total contrast of UKBA established practice of issuing full refund to businesses, who fail to qualify for registration as Tier-2 employers capable of issuing work permits to candidates originating from Third World countries.
This ambiguity has led the applicants to believe that the treatment meted towards them by the OISC Commissioner is unjust and unfair. When any business applies to the Home Office to become a Tier-2 sponsor (leading it to gain the ability to sponsor foreign workers to U.K. on work permits), they submit their application with a fee of £ 300.00 in favour of UKBA. However, if their application is unsuccessful for any reason what-so-ever, all these businesses get a full refund of the fee they had paid to the Home Office. On the contrary, when an applicant remains unsuccessful or withdraws his/her application for registration with OISC at any level, his fee between £ 575 to £ 1750 is confiscated by OISC. This is highly unfair on the part of OISC to practise a policy aimed at depriving the applicants of their registration fee, even if they withdraw their application. This proves that OISC is more a source of earning for UKBA and less a regulatory body. The hidden agenda of OISC is to earn money for UKBA by attracting more and more applicants seeking to become OISC registered advisors. OISC is least bothered about whether the applicant would succeed in getting its registration with this regulatory body. All OISC is concerned about is to get a cheque for a specific amount in its pocket, so that its revenue generating techniques might receive a boost on all accounts. By regulating over 1750 immigration advisers, OISC is approximately generating £ 1.5 million per annum
After making his application, if an applicant believes that he/she is not fully competent to take on the role as an immigration adviser and decides to withdraw his/her application, then he/she must be offered a full refund of the fee paid to the OISC Commissioner. It is perfectly logical and understandable that an applicant deems himself/herself unfit for a role and is withdrawing his/her application. Instead of rewarding him/her for their honesty, he/she is penalised by forfeiting the fee he/she had paid to the OISC Commissioner. This practice amounts to daylight robbery as if the OISC Commissioner is saying, “You have applied to become an immigration adviser – so bear the brunt and face the music”. This policy of not refunding the fee charged by the OISC Commissioner is very severe and dictatorial.
Initially there should be no fee at all for such a registration. It is the responsibility of UKBA to support the legal fraternity, which is trying to provide immigration related support to the citizens of U.K. OISC is a burden on the Exchequer and it can easily be got rid of. The whole registration process can be simplified by appointing a 3-4 member team within the Home Office to ensure that those, who qualify under a basic threshold, should only get UKBA registration. OISC is a white elephant which is consuming national resources and giving our society nothing in return. It is the need of the hour to get rid of such bodies and introduce a balanced approach leading to a stable immigration advisory service in U.K.