Should I engage the services of a Lawyer for my Immigration matter?
This is a very good question, and of course most lawyers will advise you that you should. But they would, wouldn’t they? After all, more work and more money for lawyers.
But there is another side to this question, and sometimes it might nonetheless be a good idea to do so.
Over recent years immigration applications have become remarkably complicated. This is famously the case, for example, with Appendix FM family visa applications. Appendix FM was introduced into the Immigration Rules in 2012 and is massively more complicated than the old family visa rules it replaced.
There are pages and pages of both rules and policy guidance. Rules and policy guidance cover the same subjects but are written in different styles and sometimes the policy guidance contains additional information that the rules do not. The rules constitute the “relevant law”, and if there is any apparent discrepancy between the rules and the policy guidance (which is not “law”) then the rules should hold sway.
The problem is though that the rules are written with an incredibly complicated nomenclature and they are consequently very difficult to navigate. The truth is that lawyers often struggle to get to grips with all this, but it is their job and they have to get it right. And, also, lawyers who deal with Appendix FM day in day out at least have some general familiarity with it and will not be approaching it as newcomers.
Similar remarks could be made about, for example, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa scheme, which is also amazingly complicated. This visa route is now closed to new entrants but applications for extension and settlement are still possible, and both extension and settlement applications are notoriously difficult.
This brings up another issue. You might say that, although any visa application refusal is obviously upsetting, there may in many cases be more at stake with an extension or settlement application than there is with an entry clearance application from outside the UK.
If your extension or settlement application is refused you are at risk of becoming an overstayer: unless you submit a fresh application or lodge a challenge to the decision (either by way of Administrative Review or appeal) this is what will happen.
But if the application was poorly prepared then a challenge might be unsuccessful and again you will find yourself at risk of becoming an overstayer. In a worst case scenario you would have to leave to UK to avoid becoming an overstayer and thus acquiring a bad immigration record.
So you really need to get it right or, in some situations, you need to know if your application is weak, so you know where you stand.
And other types of application, for example visitor visa applications, although not victim of over-complicated rules, operate against a culture of cynicism and suspicion amongst decision-makers. It can be very hard (and depending on which country the applicant is applying from) to convince them that the applicant really is a genuine visitor and really does intend to return home at the end of the visit. So an experienced person preparing an application may stand a better chance of success than a novice.
For these sorts of reasons engaging a lawyer might be a good idea but, having said that, it is always important to engage a lawyer that you trust. You need to engage a lawyer who evidently knows what they are talking about and who shows a good technical understanding of the visa rules. And you also need a lawyer who is prepared to be honest with you and realistic about the chances of success. As in most fields of activity, some lawyers are better than others.
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