A licensed immigration adviser:
- must, if charging a fee for an initial consultation, before the initial consultation, obtain the client’s written consent to the fee and the payment terms and conditions for that fee, and
- when conducting an initial consultation with the client or potential client, whether charging a fee or not, is not required to meet the requirements at 17 and 18 below, but must adhere to all other requirements of this code of conduct.
Potential clients and advisers may wish to engage in an initial consultation prior to entering into a formal engagement for services. Some advisers may conduct initial consultations free of charge. Others may charge a standard fee or an hourly rate.
If an adviser is charging for an initial consultation they must obtain the client’s written consent to the fee and the payment terms and conditions for that fee before the initial consultation commences. This will avoid any misunderstanding about what the client must pay and how and when the adviser expects to receive payment.
An email exchange with the client accepting the fee and payment terms by email reply is acceptable. The main thing to remember is that the disclosure of the fee and the client’s agreement to it must both be in writing.
Only clauses 17 and 18 do not need to be adhered to when conducting an initial consultation. That is, a copy of the summary of licensed immigration advisers’ professional responsibilities and the adviser’s internal complaints procedure do not need to be provided to the client and there is no need to enter into a written agreement with the client at the initial meeting.
If the client does decide to engage the adviser to provide further services following an initial consultation, a written agreement would then need to follow. More guidance on written agreements can be found on the following pages.
If the client decides not to use an adviser’s services following an initial consultation, the adviser could complete a letter of non-engagement to ensure that the outcome of the initial consultation is clear. However this is not a Code requirement.
What has changed compared to the 2010 Code?
2010 Code – did not have any specific requirements relating to initial consultations. Advisers were required to have a full written agreement with a client where they charged a fee for an initial consultation.
2014 Code – requires that advisers must, if charging a fee for an initial consultation, before the initial consultation, obtain the client’s written consent to the fee and the payment terms and conditions for that fee.
Advisers are not required to meet the requirements of clauses 17 or 18 when conducting an initial consultation, but all other requirements of the Code must be adhered to.