International outlook of trainees threatened

Changes in immigration policy are making it increasingly difficult for firms to recruit immigrants as trainee solicitors.

Until recently, international students could switch from the Tier 4 student migrant category to the Tier 2 category. This was a common route for aspiring migrant trainees. It could be used as long as migrants had completed at least one year of academic study.

But changes to the Immigration Rules mean that students cannot switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 unless they have passed a UK-recognised bachelor or master’s degree or attained certain awards in education.

The Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is considered a diploma rather than a degree, is no longer accepted. Paragraph 245HD(d) of the Immigration Rules means that the only way in which a migrant LPC student can make the switch is by taking a UK degree and then maintaining continuous leave whilst studying the LPC, before applying to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2.

The Law Society requested last year that the LPC be recognised as a degree but the Home Office replied that the Government had no intention to implement such a change.

This means that migrant students who return to their countries of origin after their degrees finish and remain there for 28 days or more after their leave expires, without applying for further entry clearance, are barred.

So what can law firms and migrants do?

Trainee candidates can upgrade their Legal Practice Course or Graduate Diploma in Law to a bachelor’s or master’s degree, as offered by some providers, and firms can recruit trainees during university milkrounds and then have the trainees apply for Tier 2 from overseas.

The risks of excluding migrants from trainee intakes should not be dismissed too lightly in an increasingly globalised industry.

Raj Shah is a trainee in the employment, reward and immigration team at Lewis Silkin