Bar working to resolve immigration challenges for non-EEA national barrister

The International Committee has raised its concerns with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) over recent amendments to the Points-Based System which make it more difficult for non-European Economic Area (EEA) national barristers to practise in the UK.

Until March 2011 non-EEA nationals wishing to practise in the UK as barristers of England and Wales were able to gain permission to enter the UK via Tier 1 (General) of the Points Based System. Barristers who are already working under Tier 1 are able to apply to have their Tier 1 visa extended. The UK Border Agency has advised that because Tier 1 (General) is now closed to new applicants, Tier 2 (General) is currently the most appropriate route for non-EEA Barristers who have been offered tenancy or, if they are an employed barrister, a contract to enter the UK. Tier 2 is for people coming to the UK with a skilled job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker. An individual entering under this category is also required to have a Tier 2 sponsor and meet certain educational and earnings thresholds. More information can be found on the UKBA website at http:// www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/.

Bar Council believes that the Tier 2 (General) requirements present a number of challenges that may prevent talented non-EEA national barristers that are qualified as barristers of England and Wales, from practising in this jurisdiction. It is feared that such restrictions will damage these barristers’ careers and lead to a loss of talent and diversity from the English and Welsh Bar. In early summer Peter Lodder QC met with the acting Chief Executive of the UKBA to raise the Bar Council’s concerns. At the meeting he emphasised the importance of the Bar remaining open to non-EEA national barristers and their crucial role in enhancing the Bar’s standing and capacity as a provider of international legal services. The Bar Council is working closely with the UKBA to resolve the issues identified.

Any queries regarding this issue should be directed to Sarah Richardson at SRichardson@BarCouncil.org.uk.
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