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The Law Society has stepped in to act as a sponsor for overseas workers, as City law firms struggle with the UK’s tougher new immigration rules.

The organisation will serve as an umbrella sponsor for firms looking to take on overseas staff for vacation schemes, secondments and placements, which are not covered by firms’ new sponsorship licences.

The Law Society was given authority to act as an overarching sponsor earlier this year and is currently in the initial stages of putting the scheme into place.

It declined to say how many law firms have expressed an interest in making use of the sponsorship arrangement, but said it would apply mainly to international firms with interests overseas. It is expected to aid several hundred migrant workers over a 12-month period.

While many firms have already been awarded licences to sponsor overseas lawyers, under the new points-based regime which came into effect in November last year, it does not cover those such as vacation scheme students.

CMS Cameron McKenna had to defer one Easter vacation scheme student from India, as the student was unable to secure a permit, with that student and one other summer scheme participant expected to be sponsored by the Law Society.

The news comes as the Law Society lobbies for changes to all aspects of the new rules. One main issue is that Border Agency rules state all positions have to have been advertised within the last six months, which is a problem for law firms recruiting trainees two years in advance.

However, the Law Society is hoping to get this period extended to 12 months and is lobbying for a 24-month period.

Law Society head of public affairs Nicky Edwards said: “The main thing we have been pursuing is for the Border Agency to have a better understanding of how law firms recruit. It is an ongoing process, but we have already secured some improvements.”

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