BBC warns people against using two UK immigration firms

Wed, 2012-10-24 12:21 PM

A BBC investigation has revealed that a UK immigration advisory firm took fees for services it did not provide. Former employees say that they were encouraged to lie to clients. The investigation has also revealed that a second firm has been offering advice without being authorised to do so.

The BBC programme Inside Out investigated two immigration advisory firms, UK Visa and Immigration and UK Immigration Barristers. Both firms are based in Birmingham and, according to Inside Out, are linked.

UK Visa and Immigration is the trading name of UK Visa Specialists Ltd. It was founded in 2010 and was regulated by the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC). UK immigration companies are not allowed to give immigration advice unless they are regulated. After a number of complaints were received, UK Visa and Immigration was deregulated by the OISC in July 2012. Over 100 customers of the company have complained to the OISC that they have paid fees of around £1,000 to the firm and yet have not got the visas that they were promised. The firm attracted one quarter of all complaints made to the OISC in the year to July 2012.

The UK Visa and Immigration website is still online. We recommend you give it a wide berth. Ash Shadat, the director of UK Visa and Immigration says that he intends to refund customers who have paid a fee and not received a service. However, he said, the money is being held by credit card companies who have not yet released it to him. He has said that he is prepared to refund customers with his own money if it eventually becomes necessary.

The BBC spoke to three former employees of UK Visa and Immigration who said that they were ordered to extract as much money as possible from customers. One said 'When a customer called up, we were told to put them on hold for 10 minutes, pretend we'd come back from a chat with a barrister and say "As long as you can pay today, then we can 100% get your visa sorted.' He continued 'Employees were under pressure to get more money out of the customers. I heard customers crying on the phone. One Consultant turned round to a guy in his fifties and said "Do you love our wife? Well great, so is she worth £1,500?" You wouldn't talk to your dog in the same way.'

The employees also claim that in April 2012, their bosses told them that, when they answered the phones, they were no longer to say that they worked for UK Visa and Immigration but instead to say that they worked for UK Immigration Barristers.

UK Immigration Barristers was established in 2011. It has never been regulated by the OISC. The BBC spoke to the director of UK Immigration Barristers, Nadeem Akhtar. Mr Akhtar used to work for UK Visa and Immigration as a legal advisor. He says that he was self-employed when he worked for UK Visa and Immigration and denies that UK Immigration Barristers is linked to UK Visa and Immigration. He says that UK Immigration Barristers uses the services of various call centres.

Mr Akhtar also told the BBC that his company, UK Immigration Barristers, did not give immigration advice. The firm, he said, was merely a portal that put those wanting immigration advice in touch with suitable barristers. The barristers would then give the advice. He also said that he had asked the Ministry of Justice and the OISC if he needed to be regulated to provide this service and had been told by both that he did not.

However, the BBC asked the Ministry of Justice and the OISC if this was the case. Both bodies denied having given any such advice to Mr Akhtar.

The BBC also paid an actress to phone UK Immigration Barristers. She asked for advice over what visa she should apply for for her boyfriend. She was given advice over the phone by a call centre worker who was not a barrister. When this allegation was put to Mr Akhtar he responded by saying 'the call centre has a strict zero policy regarding giving immigration advice.' He said that the employee in question had been suspended pending an investigation.

The BBC handed a file to the Immigration Commissioner, Suzanne McCarthy, who said that if there is evidence of abuse then her office will prosecute the firms concerned.

The UK Immigration Barristers website is still online. We recommend you give it a miss.

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