Qualifying from abroad to work in England and Wales
From September 2021, lawyers from abroad and overseas students who wish to qualify in England and Wales can sit the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE allows you to qualify as a solicitor by taking the same exam as domestic candidates. The first examinations will take place in November 2021.
Unlike the previous system, the SQE offers more flexibility and opportunities for overseas students to qualify in England and Wales, as you can meet most of the requirements from abroad.
If you’re a foreign lawyer looking to requalify in England and Wales, the SQE replaces the qualified lawyers transfer scheme (QLTS).
SQE requirements for overseas students
If you’re an overseas student, in order to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, you’ll need to:
- hold a degree in any subject or an equivalent qualification (such as an apprenticeship) or work experience
- complete two stages of assessment, SQE1 and SQE2
- complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE)
- satisfy the Solicitor Regulation Authority's (SRA) character and suitability requirements
If you have a degree or equivalent qualification from outside the UK, you can take the SQE if your qualification is:
- shown to be equivalent to either a UK degree or equivalent UK qualification through a UK National Information Centre (ENIC) statement of comparability, or
- an accredited qualification at level 6 (or above) of the European Qualifications Framework
Even if you do not have a degree, you can take the SQE if you can show work experience equivalent to a UK degree.
This would be a sufficient standard of general education and learning (level 3 equivalent of the Regulated Qualifications Framework) and considerable work-based learning.
Applications for equivalence will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The SQE is divided into two parts:
- SQE1 consists of two exams in multiple-choice question format
- SQE2 consists of a series of practical assessments of skills through written and oral examinations
Sitting the assessments outside the UK
You can sit the following parts of the SQE at a range of test centres internationally:
- SQE2 written assessments
However, you'll need to sit the SQE2 oral assessments in England or Wales. The assessments take place over two and a half days.
Note you cannot book your assessment directly through Pearson VUE.
You may not be able to sit your assessment at your nearest centre, as seats are allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
The total cost of the SQE assessments is £3,980, which breaks down as:
- SQE1 – £1,558
- SQE2 – £2,422
How to prepare
The SRA will not require candidates to complete any preparatory courses before sitting the SQE.
However, taking an SQE preparation course may give you the best chance of passing the assessment.
You can carry out the two-year qualifying work experience (QWE) anywhere in the world, but it must be signed off as meeting the SRA requirements by a solicitor of England and Wales.
QWE can be done at a maximum of four separate organisations, including:
- law firms
- legal clinics in academic institutions
- law centres
- other appropriate organisations
There will be no minimum length of time for placements.
The work experience does not need to be completed in one block directly before qualifying as a solicitor. Candidates can gain experience as you progress through your education, and this can include summer work placements or work as a paralegal, so long as it's signed off.
Candidates should consider whether a placement will offer enough time to develop the necessary competencies you'll be seeking to have confirmed and signed off.
Qualifying as a solicitor via the old route
If you're already on your way to becoming a solicitor by September 2021, you can complete your qualification through the traditional route.