SQE for foreign lawyers (Step by step guide)

You may be a foreign lawyer wanting to qualify as a lawyer in England and Wales and improve your job prospects. Welcome aboard! The law of England and Wales is widely recognised internationally because it’s flexible, predictable, and stable. This step-by-step guide will help you find the best course of action to achieve this. Become a dual-qualified lawyer.


First check with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) whether the service you want to offer as a foreign lawyer or a Registered Foreign Lawyer in the UK gives you exemptions from the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) (please see Step 4 for possible exemptions). However, even if you get exemptions from SQE1 and SQE2, you will still have to follow the other steps outlined in this article. If you can’t get exemptions, please continue to the next step below.


Get recognition for your overseas degree. You can hold a degree in any subject or have an equivalent qualification (such as an apprenticeship) or work experience. The SRA states that your degree should be equivalent to at least a UK Level 6 qualification. You can get a pre-assessment statement of qualification comparability from Enic on your own, but SRA will carry out this assessment when you register with SRA. There are separate costs for checking your degree with Enic. In addition, the SRA uses Atlantic Data to check and validate your qualification. The SRA’s fee for validating a non-UK degree (or equivalent level 6 qualification) is £39. There will also be an awarding institute who may charge an additional fee for validating your qualification.

To start the process with Atlantic Data, you will need to create a mySRA account. Look into “Start new applications” on the Home page. The application is called ‘Apply to check that your qualification or work experience is equivalent to a degree’. Afterwards the application will be pending under your profile tab.

This validation can happen at any step in the overall qualification process to be a UK solicitor.


Get your work experience signed and vouched for by a UK solicitor recognised by the SRA. This is only applicable to foreign lawyers who were not able to secure SQE exemption. You need to have two years’ Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) under your belt. This means working as a Lawyer abroad. It can be working for foreign or international law firms, for governments as a lawyer, independently or as a volunteer lawyer. With the QWE you should demonstrate that you have the skills, knowledge and behaviours that you will require as a qualified UK solicitor. It’s all about obtaining practical experience in providing legal services.


If the service you want to offer as a Foreign Lawyer or Registered Foreign Lawyer is not approved by the SRA then sit for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) – SQE1 and SQE2 exams. They are the same exams as taken by UK solicitors locally. They are a single, final, centralised qualification exam. SQE1 consists of two parts – Functional Legal Knowledge 1 (FLK1) and Functional Legal Knowledge 2 (FLK2). There are 360 multiple-choice questions covering 12 practice areas. It is a two-day exam, with Day 1 focusing on FLK1 and Day 2 focusing on FLK2. SQE2 consists of written and oral assessments. Oral assessments take place over two and a half days.

SQE1 and the written assessments of SQE2 can be taken abroad. There is a range of test centres internationally. However, the oral part of SQE2 assessments can currently only be taken in England and Wales. You will need to book a visit to England for your assessments.

As a lawyer qualified in your home jurisdiction, you might get exemptions from either or both exams – please check this with the SRA once again. You’ll need to show that your professional qualification or experience is equivalent to the whole part of the assessment you wish to be exempt from.

You may also have to prove your English or Welsh language competence if exempt from the oral part of the SQE2. Please get the proof that you speak and write English to the required level, with knowledge of legal terminology. It is no longer enough that you earned your degree in an institution where English was the medium of instruction.


The SRA will then test your character suitability by carrying out criminal record checks and other checks. There is first a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service which costs £34. Your character and suitability to be a solicitor are treated as seriously as your knowledge and skills. You will need to disclose all matters in that assessment process. They will also need to find out if you have had county court judgements or bankruptcy. It is important to divulge information that may relate to issues including (but not limited to):

  • Criminal conduct
  • Behaviour which has a bearing on your integrity and independence
  • Education assessment offences
  • Financial conduct and events
  • Regulatory or disciplinary findings
  • Health conditions.

If you decide to inform the SRA about an issue, you will have to supply any evidence if required. The nature of the issue will dictate what you need to give them. The whole assessment process might take 2 months or more. We recommend you to check your character and suitability at the early stage of the qualification process if you have any concerns.


Once you pass the character suitability test and you complete all the steps you can apply for admission as a solicitor with the SRA. When you apply for admission you need to go to your MySRA account. Look for the admission form and choose the “Solicitors Qualifying Examination” route on the form. You will find a personalised SQE checklist to track your progress to admission. The next steps will be highlighted on the form. The admission fee is £100. The SRA aims to admit you within 30 days unless there is a character and suitability issue.


You need to apply for a practice certificate. You will have to go into your MySRA account and the application form can be found under “Start a new application” and in “Available applications”. It is called “Apply for a practising certificate” and will be at the top of the list. You will in fact be applying for your first practising certificate once you are admitted as a solicitor. It is mandatory that you renew your certificate each year before it expires on 31 October. You will use the same form to renew your certificate each year.

You will need to show each year that you meet the essential competence requirements and that nothing adverse has affected your character and suitability to be a solicitor.

The SRA processes 95% of applications within 30 days. They will send you an email confirmation once your application has been processed. You will then be able to download your certificates from mySRA. There are no hard copy certificates. Once you get your practising certificate you can practise law in England and Wales.

Well done and welcome to the roll of UK solicitors!