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UK-US immigration: Planning, preparation and pitfalls

We had a very interesting and lively morning at our first joint UK-US immigration session with B&A Immigration, expert solicitors that handle immigration issues in the United States.

We gave delegates an overview of the UK immigration system and heard from Kelly Brackley and Mackie Barham of B&A Immigration, who provided a very helpful insight into how the visa system works in the USA.

The session was highly interactive and practical and a number of key themes emerged as a result of the informative morning. Those key messages are:

Immigration is a hugely complex area

It is governed by a variety of legislation, policy documents, guidance, case law amongst others. In the UK, it is a criminal offence to provide immigration advice unless the adviser is, broadly, a lawyer or the adviser is regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). This really highlights the complex nature of the legal landscape that immigration operates in.

It is important to make sure that the advice you receive is correct, which is more likely to be achieved if your advisor is a lawyer or regulated by the OISC.

Planning is key

It takes an inordinate amount of time to obtain a visa and that is once all the documents have been collated. Immigration departments around the world require a wealth of information that take, quite often, a significant amount of time to gather together. Once those documents have been obtained, the visa application process can take many months. We heard from B&A Immigration that in some instances visas can take up to two years to be granted in the USA. Do not underestimate how long the process can take.

Be prepared

If you move staff around the world globally, it is really important that that they are properly counselled as to how they should interact with border officers and any law enforcement officers that they may come across. We heard stories as to how law enforcement officers have sought to cease devices (such as mobile telephones and laptops). This produces difficult issues regarding confidentiality as well as more practical problems such as whether your staff are able to contact the office if devices are retained by the law enforcement officers.

Make sure that your staff always have a manual record of key contacts in case devices are ever ceased. Advise staff to be clear as to the purpose of their visit, so if they are questioned by immigration officers they do not say anything which may inadvertently raise suspicions and ultimately deny them entry to their destination.

Some matters can have unintended consequences many years later

This is important to bear in mind when advising staff. For example, accepting a criminal caution in the UK may impact on that person’s ability to travel to the USA. Whilst a criminal caution is not within the matter of disclosable offences generally, the same cannot be said for the individual’s right to travel freely. In other words, accepting a caution may mean that the person cannot travel to the United States.

It is important, therefore, that staff are aware that even if they accept a caution and they do not inform you, that if they seek to travel outside of the UK they may have problems in obtaining a visa or may have a visa withdrawn.

What should HR professionals do?

It is important that those that are responsible for global mobility within your organisations and your staff are aware of potential pitfalls, so that they know when to take advice and how to ensure that staff are properly prepared to ensure that they can move freely and without any problems.

If you would like to discuss this article or any global mobility issue, please get in touch with:


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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