The complexities of immigration law

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June 22nd 2019 marked the first ever UK Windrush Day, which commemorates the first people who arrived from the Caribbean in 1948. Windrush Day is designed to celebrate the contribution made to British society by the Caribbean community and highlights the benefits to the UK of solid immigration policy and good race relations.

However, the rules of UK immigration have repeatedly been criticised for being too long. As of December 2018, the Law Commission reported that the rules are too complicated and were tasked with redrafting them in order to make them more accessible.

UK Immigration Law has its foundations in the Immigration Act 1971, however amendments through Acts of Parliament are made by the Secretary of State where they see fit. The original HC395, also known as the Immigration Rules, began in 1994, and was only 80 pages long. According to the Guardian, there have been over 5,700 changes to UK immigration rules since 2010, accounting for the now lengthy document which runs to over 2,000 pages. And while the original versions of previous legislation are readily available through the government website, the amendments are not, which make understanding the law very difficult.

The Points Based System, just one of the many visa routes available, was introduced in 2008 in order to create a more efficient and transparent application process. It consists of five tiers, each with their own mandatory criteria, which must be satisfied for eligibility. Other routes include those for family members, students and asylum seekers. But many categories are represented across more than one route, meaning that most applicants must be made aware of criteria for all routes.

The laws are designed to regulate the entry and stay of people who are not British citizens, and they affect workers, students, family members, asylum seekers and visitors. One of the main criticisms of the Rules is that they are not sequential, meaning that someone would need to know exactly where to look to find out how the law affects them, they employees or their family members. And the consequences for getting it wrong is harsh, being deemed an overstayer could mean deportation, separation of families and refusal of citizenship. In addition, the cost of applications can run into thousands of pounds, so getting it right is essential.

With immigration at the forefront of many people’s minds, and Brexit forcing further changes to legislation, migrants, citizens and their families will welcome a new, more simple system. However, how and when this might happen remains to be seen. In the meantime, applicants and employers are advised to get expert help, through immigration lawyers and specialist pre-employment consultants, in order to comply with current rules.