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As we gear up to the opening of our Newcastle office, we spoke to renowned North East immigration expert, Susan Harrison, who will be heading the office up to get her take on the current state of immigration law, as well as her own motivations for specialising in the field of immigration. Susan has 10 years of experience in immigration law at all levels from initial asylum claims and PBS applications, all the way up to permission to appeal applications in the High Court and Court of Appeal. In addition to this, Susan has a vast amount of experience advocating in country guidance cases on The Gambia, Libya and Iran. Susan has a keen interest in languages, world affairs and human rights issues. Where did you qualify as a lawyer? I did the postgraduate diploma in law (PGDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle. Why did you choose immigration law? As an undergraduate studying French and Spanish I often used to read Amnesty International publications because they were published in French and Spanish and were a welcome distraction from the literature I was reading. I became very interested in human rights issues at the same time and fell into immigration law after I completed the LPC. Immigration law has allowed me to combine a love of language, culture and world affairs with the law. What is your career background in a nutshell? 10 years working for a law firm in the North East of England which specialised in immigration law. I joined the IAS Leeds office in July 2014, and I am now heading up the new IAS office in Newcastle. What do you think are the the biggest challenges faced by UK visa applicants today? Successfully applying for a UK visa is currently fraught with obstacles for many applicants. In particular many couples who need spouse/unmarried partner/civil partner visas are faced with prohibitive financial requirements. I think the introduction of the income and cash savings threshold has been one of the biggest challenges of late because many applications were placed on hold pending the decision in MM (Lebanon) & Others and many applications have failed on this basis despite the fact the Sponsor is working hard but has insufficient income and/or savings. In your experience, what are the benefits of using a trusted immigration expert rather than trying to apply yourself? There are many benefits to using a trusted immigration expert. We do this work every day which means that we are alert to changes in the case law and changes to the Rules, regulations and legislation. Allowing an immigration expert to help you apply means that your case will be advanced on every viable basis with no stone left unturned. This always offers better prospects of success. The Immigration Act 2014 brought about a number of changes to immigration law earlier this year, what do you think have been the most significant changes and why? I think the Immigration Act 2014 is a fascinating piece of legislation. The Act has brought into force changes to appeal rights but the way the Act is going to affect Landlords and the NHS most interests me. The Act will require Landlords/Agents to check the immigration status of their tenants and face a fine of £1000 per ‘disqualified’ person in a residential property. The Act also makes requirements of busy GPs and frontline NHS staff when registering new patients in order to ensure that only those entitled receive NHS services to which they are entitled. If you are seeking trusted immigration advice and guidance, Susan can be contacted through the details on our Newcastle office page.