Immigration is a process typically marked by stringent requirements, lots of paperwork, and long wait times. Immigration services in many countries have been set up, either by governments or charitable organizations, as a way to assist immigrants who, for whatever reason, do not have the resources to navigate the process alone. In the United Kingdom, the largest entity of this sort is the Immigration Advisory Service, a charitable organization staffed by lawyers and UK immigration law experts. There are many similar groups of immigration advisers around the world that provide the same basic palette of services, even though they may go by different names. These services include visa applications, the preparation of affidavits and other legal documents, and representation at immigration hearings, among other things.
The primary role of any immigration advisory service is to provide basic immigration information. A country’s official immigration office is of course a good place to get this information, but government offices and employees are usually ill-equipped to provide individual advice to everyone who asks. Most of the time, those with immigration questions and application concerns are better served seeking out a private attorney or, if they cannot afford traditional legal services, an immigration advisory service.
Most advisory services are funded by charities, are listed as non-profit organizations, or are made up of volunteers. They are usually staffed by lawyers or someone who has some defined knowledge of the immigration system. Such a person is typically known as an immigration consultant. Staff at an immigration advisory service will typically walk clients through as much of the immigration process as the client needs, from the provision of basic paperwork to advocacy at the national immigration office.
Different services have different goals. Sometimes, an immigration advisory service will cater predominantly to those seeking to immigrate from a specific country, or those who are fleeing from some sort of persecution or violence back home. Other times, the services are all-encompassing, although most are designed to assist clients below a certain income level.
Immigration services run by charities or volunteers are usually designed to provide immigration help to people who could not otherwise afford it. They usually offer free immigration services, or if not free, then at a severely reduced cost. Most immigration centers primarily cater to impoverished immigrants: people whose lives would likely be bettered by immigrating, but who lack the most basic resources to make the immigration process a success.
Immigrants who can afford it are usually expected to retain private counsel to handle their immigration process. Many of the wealthier immigrants choose to hire immigration attorneys who work at respected immigration law firms. Immigration for persons of means is, in most countries, a different battle than immigration for persons without. It is the goal of the immigration advisory service to ensure that all immigrants receive equal assistance and representation before the national immigration office.