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Immigration Law: Area of Practice UK

by Charles Nwabueze
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Reading Time: 6 min

What is Immigration & Asylum Law?

The act of immigration is the process of entering the UK to permanently live and/or work here. Immigration & asylum law is the body of laws which covers the range of situations where a person from a foreign country is coming or comes to the UK, either for a temporary visit or with the intent to live permanently in the UK (as a citizen, as a legal permanent resident or other categories with the entailing benefits). 

There are a host of options that apply to different people depending on the purpose and the length of stay in the UK. Immigration lawyers through their knowledge of immigration laws can offer various options to their diverse clients – individuals or companies – regarding the immigration and asylum status they may need to seek. The operating word here is knowledge of the sector, as great expertise is mandatory for this complex field of law, particularly in areas such as human rights, social welfare, employment and mental health.


Leading Immigration Law Firms

The following firms in the UK come recommended for their expertise in the area of family law:

  • Bates Wells
  • Kingsley Napley
  • Mishcon de Reya LLP
  • Macfarlanes
  • PwC LLP
  • Doughty Street Chambers
  • Carter Thomas Solicitors
  • Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
  • Deloitte Legal
  • Lewis Silkin
  • Garden Court Chambers
  • Penningtons Manches Cooper 
  • Russell-Cooke
  • Squire Patton Boggs
  • Baker McKenzie
  • Bird & Bird
  • Dentons
  • Gherson 

What does the Work Involve?

If immigration lawyers are not pushing through applications for asylum and making human rights claim through applications by family members and students, you can find them working on advising and helping businesses secure immigration status or permanent residence for their owners or workers. Immigration lawyers deal with all legal matters relating to immigration and nationality. 

The work of an immigration lawyer will sometimes overlap with the practice areas of employment, tax, social welfare, mental health, prison law, criminal law and civil law.

Typical Day of an Immigration Lawyer

As you can see from above the work in immigration law is very varied as such what a lawyer will do on a typical day will also be varied. For example, some days in the week may see some lawyers just calling and meeting with clients, drafting legal documents and liaising with the Home Office. Other days might see the lawyer representing the client before a tribunal or working with other colleagues to deliver a service to the client. 

Tasks of an Immigration Lawyer

Immigration lawyers must have the know-how to help their clients. Their duties on a given day may include: 

  • Look at the client’s case to see if they have chances of success at the application they are trying to make
  • Present cases in court or tribunals representing the client or in other cases, the government (Home Office).
  • Help shepherd applications for citizenship or work visas through the complex legal requirements and systems that countries have for non-residents.
  • Review reports, evidence, and conduct research.
  • Question witnesses, victims or others involved in the case.
  • Instruct a barrister 
  • Receive instructions from a solicitor
  • Attend proceedings with the client.

Cheddar of Immigration Lawyer

The average salary for an immigration lawyer is £34,228 per year in the United Kingdom – for firms outside the City or at smaller firms. According to, the average immigration solicitor salary in London for someone starting (or with 1-4 years of experience) is £48,714. A lawyer that has over 4-5 years of experience will earn around £70,000. For those whose experience surpasses this – from 10 and above, their earnings can also surpass the £120,000 mark.

Sought-for Skills

For those who are not residents in the UK, the work of an immigration lawyer can be that of a saviour, as quite often these lawyers can often decide if these people stay or leave the UK. Quite a few of the following skills should be developed:

  • Sound judgment
  • Good communication 
  • Great advocacy skills, you’ll need this when dealing with immigration Tribunals
  • Have a genuine interest and desire to want to help people
  • In-depth knowledge of immigration legislation, the system and the Home Office will help you to represent your client to the best of your ability
  • Ability to work under pressure as there are often some deadlines to hit
  • An international outlook as you’ll meet people from different backgrounds
  • Great commercial awareness to offer the best solutions to your clients, especially businesses
  • An interest in human rights and international and domestic politics will also serve you well you the wider background of your client’s situations.
  • Great interpersonal skills 
  • Analytical skills

Work-Life Balance in Immigration Law 

Immigration lawyers often work long hours during the week in an office environment and this happens from the early stage of a training contract programme or pupillage. A survey conducted by Legal Cheek in 2021 showed that many trainee and associate lawyers work more than 11 or 12 hours in an average day, and immigration trainees are no exception to this rule. The longest days were experienced by those working in large U.S. firms headquartered in London. On the other hand, those working in firms headquartered outside of London typically self-reported a more manageable average workday. 

The life of an aspiring immigration Lawyer

As a trainee or pupil, your life at your law firm may look like the following 

  • Exposure to a wide range of immigration applications, appeals and judicial reviews from the onset (your first six).
  • Working with the solicitors and barristers, assisting them with their cases. 
  • Help in case preparation and presentation
  • Attending conferences
  • Conduct legal research
  • Draft legal submissions and observe court hearings
  • Take instructions from solicitors for hearings before the immigration tribunals
  • Give barristers instructions
  • Assisting with general file management

How Do you Become One?

The route of becoming an immigration lawyer depends on whether you want to practise as a solicitor or barrister. 

If you want to be a solicitor, you need to follow the route of getting a law degree, then taking the LPC and then embarking on a training contract. If your degree is not in law, all you’ll add to this route is the SQE – you take it before the LPC. 

If you want to be a barrister, the route is the same as above, except that, instead of taking the LPC you take the BPTC, instead of the SQE you take the GDL for those without a law degree. The work experience you need is a pupillage instead of a TC at a chambers good in this practice area. 

You should endeavour to get work experience in this field as immigration is something that is rarely taught at universities. You can volunteer for a local charity or community centre.

Who Might be a Good Fit?

Do you consider yourself to be someone with a genuine interest in helping people out then a role in immigration law may be the way forward for you? This is quite essential as a lot of the time the clients that you’ll be meeting are people under stress, that want to stay in the UK but may be feeling pressurized by the Home Office. 

Those with a degree in Politics or public policy and seeking a law career should consider this practice area.

Developments in the Sector

Graduate Visa
In 2021, the Home Office announced the Graduate visa to attract “the world’s brightest talent, who aspire to a career at the highest levels of business, science, the arts and technology to see our United Kingdom as the natural place to fulfil their aspirations.” 

The Graduate route or Graduate visa gives international students who have graduated from UK universities permission to stay in the UK for at least two years. The two years stay is for those who have either completed an undergraduate degree or a master’s. Those who have completed a PhD can apply to stay for up to three years.

This route is open to all and discriminates against none. This is a fantastic opportunity for international students who want to take their next steps into employment in the UK, as holders of this Visa can work or look for work in most of the employing industries. However, you must be in the UK when you apply.


Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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