Mark Symes

Year of Call: 2004

"Mark Symes was very realistic, honest and professional. He was always clear in the information he provided and was very knowledgeable. We felt we were in safe hands with Mark and we can't thank him enough for working with us to win my husbands appeal."

Public Access Client, 2021

"Mark Symes was very thorough. I highly recommend him to anyone who is struggling with their immigration issues."

Public Access Client, 2021


To get in touch:​ Or you can contact the relevant​ Practice Team Clerks directly and they will be happy to assist with your enquiry.

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For solicitors & organisations | For individuals

Barrister Mark Symes provides advice and representation in all areas of immigration, asylum, and human rights law, including European Union free movement law. He has represented clients in every court from the Tribunal to the Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights.

Mark deals with work ranging from business immigration and entry clearance representations and appeals, to refugee and criminal deportation cases. He is one of the elite top ranked barristers for immigration by the expert legal directories.

Mark is registered with the Bar Council for public access work and regularly represents all kinds of private clients in difficult immigration scenarios.

Immigration: Asylum and Human Rights

Recognised by the legal directories as a "real expert on asylum matters", Mark is co-author (with Peter Jorro, also of Garden Court) of Asylum Law and Practice described as and as "indispensable in advocacy work for refugees and human rights", by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill.

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Immigration Law

Mark takes a proactive and hands-on approach to representing clients, and is available to discuss instructions from the earliest stage. He will advise on the best evidence and tactics that can really give you the best chance to win. You can rest assured that Mark will give your case his very best shot, leaving no stone unturned in helping you to find the strongest evidence. Mark can help you at any stage in your immigration case, ensuring that you fully understand the merits of all available options from the start. Or you can seek his advice just to get reassurance that you are pursuing the right course of action in the most effective way, whether or not you already have a lawyer on board.

Mark sits as a judge of the Upper Tribunal and First-tier Tribunal which gives him great insight into the way a case should be presented. He has appeared in many leading cases involving the most complex issues. He can make the most difficult factual and legal history easy for the Home Office or judges to understand. He is very well known to the Tribunal judges having specialised in immigration appeals for over 25 years. The most senior immigration judge in the UK wrote that Mark’s textbook Immigration Appeals and Remedies Handbook is “a compulsory addition to the library of every immigration judge and practitioner": President of the Upper Tribunal Mr Justice McCloskey).

Mark has long been one of the experts who specialist immigration lawyers go to in order to make sure that they are up to speed with the latest legal arguments and regularly speaks at practitioner conferences. He is recognised as having written the leading textbooks both on immigration appeals and judicial review claims and on international protection law.

Mark's specialities include: 

  • Advising on the best strategy for achieving the quickest route to regularising your immigration status or achieving an efficient route to settlement
  • Explaining the merits of every course of action open to you
  • Writing watertight representations to ensure you get the best outcome sooner rather than later
  • Persuading judges at appeal hearings of the strength of his clients’ cases
  • Writing persuasive pre action letters that avoid the need for subsequent legal action
  • Bringing judicial review claims, drafting accurate and persuasive legal arguments and achieving results via efficient and effective advocacy at the permission stage: he is well known for taking over and improving the prospects of JRs
  • Showing that administrative mishaps should not have disproportionate results
  • Proving that an interview was unfair
  • Demonstrating that new evidence or a change of circumstances creates a viable fresh asylum or human rights claim

Private client immigration work

Mark’s experience from practising immigration law for 25 years and sitting as a judge often helps his clients. He is able to deploy the knowledge and insight gained from presenting thousands of cases and the legal research that comes from writing established leading textbooks. Mark has recently helped his clients in:

  • Getting cases reconsidered at the administrative review stage due to a failure to properly engage with the evidence originally provided
  • Fighting “general refusal” reason cases based on English language test fraud allegations and omissions in application forms
  • Fighting allegations regarding tax evasion and asserted discrepancies in earnings reported to HMRC and UKVI
  • Getting ILR for clients arguing they have established 10 years’ lawful residence
  • Arguing that minor convictions should not prevent applications succeeding
  • Challenging refusals and revocations of nationality
  • All kinds of EU law and family migration cases (see further below)
  • Working alongside colleagues, helping detained clients obtain bail
  • Preventing deportation by putting together a watertight case on family links in the UK, advising on the best possible evidence and liaising with independent social workers: Mark is one of the very few barristers to win a deportation case in the Court of Appeal  
  • Every kind of refugee claim: including winning refugee status for bloggers and many others who have been politically active in the UK and abroad, and achieving justice for asylum seekers with claims based on their sexual identity

Family migration

Mark regularly represents individuals who face separation from loved ones. He regularly presents seminars to very experienced solicitors on the latest legal arguments that are available in these cases.

Mark’s recent work includes:

  • Identifying the best route for a spouse or partner to remain or come to the UK and getting the supporting evidence right
    Successfully arguing that there are “insurmountable obstacles” to a couple going abroad or that it is unreasonable for a child to relocate
  • Demonstrating that a spouse seeking entry clearance to return to the UK via did not contrive to frustrate the purpose of the Immigration Rules
  • Arguing cases for adult dependents such as parents living in difficult conditions abroad and wanting to join their children in the UK
  • Explaining how the complex financial requirements for the Appendix FM route can be met
  • Identifying the best options to obtain a visa to visit your loved ones
  • Resurrecting refused cases by advising on fruitful sources of fresh evidence, and working out just when JR rather than a further application is the best way forwards  

Business and private immigration

Mark's business acumen, developed whilst being a company director at HJT Training, makes him a good choice for commercial immigration advice. He has real expertise in every aspect of business immigration, from Van Der Elst visas for EU-established companies moving staff outside the Tier 2 route to investors, innovators, entrepreneurs and Tier 2 inter-company transfers. He has advised numerous wealthy individuals in complex cases. He has particular expertise with remedies in Points Based System cases including the withdrawal and suspension of sponsor licences, both of employers and educational establishments, an area on which he has written and spoken extensively. Mark has repeatedly been chosen as the Immigration Lawyers' Practitioners' Association speaker of choice at their annual conference for expert business immigration lawyers.

Mark's recent work includes:

  • Writing representations seeking the exercise of discretion in all kinds of commercial immigration cases
  • Advising on strategy and tactics in sponsor licence cases, including drafting representations against revocation and pre action letters
  • Obtaining reconsiderations and reopening the window for fresh evidence in administrative review applications
  • Advising investors on technical aspects of their applications and on the fastest settlement route
  • Advising businesspeople still on the Entrepreneur route regarding job creation and the timing of an application
  • Advising on how best to make use of the sole representative route
  • Demonstrating that a businessperson has established private life in the UK or that their property rights should be respected
  • Advising investors who have been refused settlement on the basis of suspicions as to whether their original investments were genuine because of the degree of control they held over their funds and the nature of their investments
  • Overturning a genuineness refusal for the members of a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Team

European Union free movement law

Mark has particular expertise in all aspects of European Union free movement law from claims under the 2016 Regulations to free-standing applications relying directly on Treaty Rights. He regularly trains and speaks publicly on matters involving European Economic Area (EEA) nationals. Mark has already given numerous talks on the settled status scheme and the impact of Brexit on domestic law in the immigration context.

Mark's recent EU law work includes:

  • Obtaining permanent residence and settled status for EEA nationals with challengingly complex histories of work, self-sufficiency and study
  • Advising on options in the run-up to Brexit for EU citizens and everyone else affected by Brexit, including dual nationals and family members
  • Advising the employers of EU workers on their future options
  • Advising on the pros and cons of different kinds of EEA residence rights
  • Showing that adult dependants are extended family members who should receive residence cards due to close family ties
  • Demonstrating that British citizens have genuinely conducted effective work abroad so they should be allowed to sponsor their family members via EU rather than UK laws (i.e. in Surinder Singh cases)
  • Defending clients from allegations of having entered into sham marriages
  • Running various EU law claims: the admissibility of post decision evidence, issues of damages, proportionality and unduly onerous administrative expectations and the ambit of effective remedy

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Notable Cases & News

Rwanda Judgment: Supreme Court unanimously rules Rwanda policy is unlawful

Sonali Naik KC, Adrian Berry, Mark Symes, Eva Doerr and Isaac Ricca-Richardson, of Garden Court Chambers, represent AS (Iran). David Sellwood, of Garden Court Chambers, is part of the team representing RM (Iran).

15 November 2023

Rwanda Plan in Supreme Court: Garden Court representing asylum seekers

Sonali Naik KC, Adrian Berry, Mark Symes, Eva Doerr and Isaac Ricca-Richardson, of Garden Court Chambers, represent AS (Iran). David Sellwood, of Garden Court Chambers, is part of the team representing RM (Iran).

9 October 2023

Rwanda Judgment: Court of Appeal rules government plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful

Sonali Naik KC, Adrian Berry, Mark Symes, Eva Doerr and Isaac Ricca-Richardson represent AS (Iran). David Sellwood is part of the team representing RM (Iran).

29 June 2023

Permission to appeal on additional grounds granted in challenge to Home Secretary decision to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda

Sonali Naik KC, Amanda Weston KC, Mark Symes and Isaac Ricca-Richardson of Garden Court Chambers represented AS (Iran) instructed by Paul Turner and Iain Palmer of Barnes Harrild and Dyer Solicitors.

14 March 2023

Rwanda judgment: Permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal granted

Sonali Naik KC, Amanda Weston KC, Mark Symes, Eva Doerr, Isaac Ricca-Richardson, Alex Grigg, David Sellwood, Raza Halim and Ali Bandegani of Garden Court Chambers instructed for the claimants.

18 January 2023

Rwanda judgment: Home Secretary failed to properly consider if asylum seekers should not be relocated to Rwanda

Garden Court Chambers (with others) represented a number of claimants.

19 December 2022

Changes to the international protection regime under the Nationality & Borders Act – answers to eight burning questions

11 October 2022

Damages claims in immigration law - Part 1: European Union law and its legacy

In the first of three blogs on Damages claims in immigration law, Mark Symes and Eva Doerr, members of the Garden Court Immigration Team, and David Neale, our legal researcher, outline European Union law and its legacy.

18 July 2022

Garden Court Barristers secure injunctions from the Court of Appeal for last few asylum seekers on Rwanda Flight

The Garden Court team who secured consisted of Sonali Naik QC, Adrian Berry, Grace Brown, Mark Symes, Alex Grigg, Maha Sardar, Ella Gunn, Eva Doer, and Stephen Clark.

15 June 2022

Garden Court Immigration Team dedicate 10th Edition of Macdonald's Immigration Law & Practice to the life and legacy of Ian Macdonald QC

The General Editors, Stephanie Harrison QC, Ronan Toal & Sadat Sayeed, are leaders in the field & practice in the number one ranked Garden Court Immigration Team. David Neale is a legal researcher & former barrister

25 June 2021

Three FREE 90-minute seminars to celebrate launch of the Immigration Appeals and Remedies Handbook (2nd edition)

Mark Symes and Peter Jorro, of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team, are doing three FREE 90-minute seminars to celebrate the launch of their Second Edition Immigration Appeals and Remedies Handbook.

25 May 2021

The new third country inadmissibility regime for asylum claims

Blog post by Mark Symes and Miranda Butler of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team.

5 March 2021

Fairness in “conducive to the public good” exclusion decisions

Mark Symes of the Garden Court Immigration Team.

5 August 2020

Indefinite Leave to Remain victory for legacy cases granted “old style” Discretionary Leave to Remain

Mark Symes of the Garden Court Immigration Team was instructed by Joshi Advocates Ltd who brought this claim for judicial review.

9 July 2020

Business Immigration: Coronavirus and the Concession for Entrepreneurs

Mark Symes of the Garden Court Immigration Team.

5 June 2020

Implications for expulsions following the Supreme Court ruling of AM (Zimbabwe)

By Mark Symes and Miranda Butler of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team.

19 May 2020

Important Dublin 3 judicial review decision from Upper Tribunal

Mark Symes of Garden Court appeared for the Applicant in JR112832014 [2019] UKAITUR.

4 December 2019

15 members of Garden Court Chambers appointed to Equality and Human Rights Commission Panel of Counsel

Stephanie Harrison QC, Amanda Weston QC, Bethan Harris, Liz Davies, Grace Brown, Timothy Baldwin, Mark Symes, Joanne Cecil, Stephen Marsh, Anthony Vaughan, Shu Shin Luh, Connor Johnston, Gráinne Mellon, Tessa Buchanan and Miranda Butler.

16 May 2019

Supreme Court reasserts the role of medical experts in asylum claims by torture survivors

The appellant was represented by Ronan Toal and Michelle Brewer. Stephanie Harrison QC, Ali Bandegani and Mark Symes for the interveners.

6 March 2019

KV (Sri Lanka) v SSHD (Helen Bamber Foundation, Freedom from Torture, and Medical Justice Intervening) UKSC 2017/0124

Stephanie Harrison QC, Mark Symes and Ali Bandegani are instructed by Freshfields on behalf of all three intervenors.

30 November 2018

Court of Appeal - detention of asylum seekers unlawful under Article 28 Dublin III

In a majority decision, the Court of Appeal (Etherton and Peter Jackson LLJ; Sales LJ dissenting) delivered a significant judgment affecting the lawfulness of detention of asylum seekers subject to the Dublin III Regulation.

8 October 2018

Upper Tribunal finds Ukrainian prison conditions breach Article 3 ECHR in landmark country guideline case

Mark Symes of Garden Court Chambers represented both appellants.

22 March 2017

Tribunal’s refusal to grant asylum appeal to former child soldier successfully challenged

Mark Symes of Garden Court's Immigration Team represented the former child soldier.

4 January 2017

Garden Court and Stephanie Harrison QC shortlisted for Human Rights and Public Law awards

Garden Court has been shortlisted at the Chambers Bar Awards, whilst Stephanie and our Public Law Team are shortlisted at the Legal 500 Awards.

21 October 2016

Chambers UK Bar Guide ranks Garden Court in Band 1

Garden Court Chambers recognised as a leading set for immigration, social housing, civil liberties, police law, Court of Protection, crime and inquests and public inquiries.

30 October 2015

The Immigration Appeals and Remedies handbook now available to pre-order

Mark Symes and Peter Jorro launch new handbook on appeals and judicial review.

1 July 2015

Supreme Court issues landmark judgment regarding the protection of Article 3 rights of asylum seekers within the EU

The Supreme Court has reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal regarding the appropriate test for assessing whether reception conditions for asylum seekers in an EU Member State are so inadequate as to amount to a breach of Article 3. Mark Symes was i

21 February 2014

European Court of Human Rights to decide whether conditions for asylum seekers in Italy breach Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights

The Court will decide whether other Member States should take responsibility for asylum claims rather than returning asylum seekers to Italy. Mark Symes has been instructed by the intervenors.

14 February 2014

Court of Appeal allows the appeal in JS (Sudan)

JS was convicted of serious sexual offences against vulnerable girls, recommended for deportation and subject to automatic deportation. He was eventually released, after 15 months of immigration detention, after the expiry of his prison sentence, when the

12 November 2013

Garden Court Chambers ranked Band 1 in Chambers UK 2014

We are once again delighted to have been ranked as a leading set by Chambers and Partners in the Chambers UK 2014 directory.

31 October 2013

Foreign children can be entitled to remain in the UK to receive life-saving treatment

Stephen Knafler QC and Mark Symes appeared for the appellants in a landmark judgment handed down this morning.

22 October 2013

Garden Court Chambers recommended as Top Tier Set in Legal 500 2013

Garden Court Chambers is once again delighted to have been recommended as a Top Tier Set in this year's Legal 500. We are recommended in six areas of law as a set, with 11 silks and 27 junior barristers recognised individually.

25 September 2013

Mark Symes acting in removal of asylum seekers test case

Mark Symes is part of the legal team acting for the Appellants in EM (Eritrea) & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWCA Civ 1336, challenging the lawfulness of removing asylum seekers to inadequate reception conditions in another

20 March 2013

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Mark joined Garden Court Chambers in 2004, having formerly worked at the Refugee Legal Centre where he held numerous posts including Head of Tribunal Team in which he had responsibility at national level for legal strategy. Formerly a solicitor, he was Head of Advocacy at one of the country's leading legal aid firms in the early 2000s.


Co-author (with Peter Jorro, also of Garden Court) of Asylum Law and Practice (Bloomsbury, 2nd edition June 2010). Described as "encyclopaedic in its coverage ... pre-eminent" in the field by Lord Brown and as "indispensable in advocacy work for refugees and human rights", by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill

Principal legal consultant to the Electronic Immigration Network Consultant Editor of the Immigration and Nationality Law Reports

Editor of Atkins Court Forms and Encyclopedia of Forms and Precedents (Butterworths, 2006)

Sole editor of Statements of Principle of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, a 2,500-page guide to the jurisprudence of that tribunal published in September 1999 by the Refugee Legal Centre, with a foreword by former President of the Tribunal, His Honour Judge Pearl

Training and Seminars

Mark is well known for training and public speaking in the field of immigration and asylum law. He was appointed to write the new academic standards for the Law Society's Immigration Accreditation Exams. He is a co-founder of HJT Training (with David Jones, also of Garden Court), the leading private company specialising in training in immigration law. HJT has provided training to UNHCR, Liberty, the Legal Services Commission, Office for the Immigration Services Commissioner, the legal staff of the Immigration Tribunals and Royal Courts of Justice in the UK and judges of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal of Ireland, as well as most of the UK's leading immigration solicitors' firms.

Mark ran the immigration and asylum course at the Inns of Court School of Law. He was a lead trainer for the College of Law in their winter 2002 project for the Legal Services Commission to provide training on immigration appeals to new barrister practitioners in the field. He delivers professional training for the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), and occasionally runs advanced courses in refugee, human rights and appeals law for the ILPA.

He is regularly invited to speak domestically and abroad on refugee and human rights law issues.

Mark has, in the past, been part of the Consultation Group responsible for briefing the Lord Chancellor's Department on the content of the Immigration and Asylum Appeals (Procedure) Rules.


  • BA (Hons) (Oxon)
  • LPC
  • Formerly Solicitor of the Supreme Court

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