Interview: Manuel Padilla, immigration law adviser at Latin American House
Latin American House's Legal and Social Advice Service (LESAS) includes an immigration law advisory service which delivers quality legal and social advice to Latin Americans, other Spanish and Portuguese speakers, and other migrants, so that they are aware of and able to exercise their rights and participate fully in community life. Currently, the immigration advisory service is funded with the kind support of Lloyds Bank Foundation.
In this interview with Manuel Padilla Behar we will briefly analyse some of the most common immigration issues currently affecting the Latin American community in the United Kingdom, as well as looking at the types of assistance offered by Latin American House.
What are the major immigration issues that affect or are currently faced by Latin Americans living in the United Kingdom?
The main issues relate to how families can regroup in the UK, how individuals can extend their visas and how people without the right to live in the UK can regularise their immigration situation. With regards to the first issue, we often have people with two nationalities, for example, Spanish and Colombian, who want to bring a husband/wife, children etc. to the UK. In relation to the second issue we have people already with right to live in the UK through being married to a British citizen, or being the mother of a British citizen for example, who want to extend their visas. Finally, we have seen cases of those who perhaps have children who have lived in Britain all their lives but who lack themselves, along with the rest of the family, permission to reside in the UK legally on a permanent basis.
What are the disadvantages of not having a regularised immigration status?
Living in the UK without permission has more complications than simply not being able to go on holiday to your country. The government has introduced a series of measures designed to make people decide to leave the UK rather than continue to live in the UK without permission. For example, if you do not have the correct “papers” it is very difficult to open a bank account, access NHS services for free, and find employment, not to mention simply being able to walk the streets without fear of being detained or asked for your documents.
Why is Latin American House’s immigration advisory service important?
Latin American House’s advisory service is very important because it is free and because it is something that the community needs. Increasingly more people need help with their immigration issues because the immigration rules can be confusing and are constantly changing, the application forms are extensive, the application fees are very high and because the consequences of submitting an application incorrectly can be catastrophic not only financially but also for the lives of the people involved. For all these reasons people prefer to have assistance and advice before sending off any application.
Finally, how does the immigration advisory service in Latin House work and how can it be accessed?
Each Wednesday evening we operate a drop-in service starting at 3pm and we usually see between eight and ten people. No prior appointment is required. What we try to do is to give advice in general terms, so that those accessing the service can in the first place understand what their immigration issue is and subsequently how to solve it. From there, users can come again when they have made some progress with their issue to discuss things further including any subsequent questions or doubts. In addition, one Saturday a month we see a number of people by prior appointment. We also answer questions via email and telephone each Wednesday up until 3pm.
For more information on Latin American House's Service's Legal and Social Advice Service please click here.