Find out more about the people behind the advice in this new series of interviews with our solicitors. Rashid Uzzaman, business immigration solicitor, shares his law journey that’s taken him from Citizen’s Advice to business immigration and Harper James.
How long have you worked at Harper James?
I joined the firm in May 2018.
What inspired you to practise law in the first place? Tell us about your legal career so far?
My route to a law career was quite unorthodox. I was all set for a career in IT, but always had doubts about sitting in front of a computer for the rest of my life. At the last minute, I changed my UCAS application in favour of law. It was the best decision I ever made. At first, I worked at the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, where I was very proud to be able to give back to the community. I then secured a position at a regional firm called Blakemore’s Solicitors in the immigration department. It opened up my eyes to just how important immigration was to businesses and people in the community. I saw immigration as the movement of people and it was this movement that made it possible for companies to grow.
How does working with Harper James compare with other firms you have worked at?
The firm is very progressive, and the rate of its growth is phenomenal. I admire the firm’s ethos to steer away from the traditional law firm mentality and embrace new ways of working.
Our reliance on tech and software solutions to deliver legal services gave us a head start for the remote-working shift necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Define business immigration law in a sentence
It is difficult for me to define business immigration law in one sentence, but I’d say it is the movement of people. The world has become incredibly advanced and diverse. This is partly down to the ability to move the correct people into the correct positions to maximise their skillset, no matter where the business is based, or what sector they operate in. In my opinion, if the movement of people were to stop, so would innovation and so would the growth of businesses as we know it.
What’s the best piece of business Immigration advice you could give a business?
If you are a business and wish to expand or compete at a higher level, hiring your key personnel is absolutely vital. I work with a lot of businesses and it is common to see that some positions simply cannot be filled with UK-based individuals, as there simply aren’t enough of those professionals to meet the demand. An example of this is software developers, where ambitious companies need to open up their recruitment options to visa holders in the UK (students or workers) or to individuals based outside the UK, whether they are in the USA, India or elsewhere.
What has been the proudest moment at Harper James/of your career so far?
I have been lucky to be able to work with some truly great companies and people. I am a huge fan of Formula One and I was privileged to previously work very closely with one of the most successful F1 teams of all time. They, like any other company require the movement of people from all over the world to keep their business from becoming stagnant. Their constant striving to become the best in their field meant that they had to source people from all corners of the world.
What do you do to unwind?
I keep fit, play online games and also try to regularly upload to my YouTube channel. I started the channel for my son who is five. I try to upload or stream videos of the games he will enjoy watching.
Tell us a prediction for your practice area in 2021
Brexit has brought about major changes to immigration rules, meaning there is no difference between EU and non-EU migrants now, as there had been for a number of years. The government’s new points-based system is designed to encourage people from across the globe to be able to come to the UK if they have the relevant skills to fill suitably skilled roles.
What advice would you give regarding the ongoing challenges businesses face due to COVID-19?
Immigration law has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, since travel between countries has been limited. However, the advice I would give to existing employers of migrant workers is that their responsibilities will continue towards their employees, even during the pandemic. If an employer is having issues, they should contact us as soon as possible so that we can advise and ensure the correct immigration systems are put in place in a timely manner.
The government has issued several relaxations of the rules regarding sponsors and migrant employees, which we are happy to discuss with employers or employees if required. These measures are aimed to assist both employers and employees through the pandemic.
In my opinion, the UK has not gone far enough with these measures, especially with those visa holders who have no recourse to public funds in their visa conditions. There has to be some urgent guidance in this area so that these people are not forced to continue working (often illegally) to earn a living, especially since they are barred from claiming any form of state benefit.