Are the Immigration Rules too difficult to understand?

Yes, is the resounding answer provided by the Law Commission in its report on the simplification of the Immigration Rules, which describes the current Rules as ‘unworkable’.  

Services
Immigration
Type
Updates

The Immigration Rules detail the criteria for granting or refusing permission to enter and remain in the United Kingdom. Since being introduced in 1973, the Rules have grown from 40 pages to over 1,100 pages. They have almost quadrupled in length over the last decade. The existing Immigration Rules and the accompanying guidance pages have proven to be a source of frustration for applicants, lawyers and judges in interpreting and applying them to individual cases.

The Law Commission’s report proposes the first complete re-draft of the Immigration Rules in over 25 years. The Commission’s recommendations focus on simplifying the structure and presentation of the Immigration Rules rather than making any substantive policy changes. This would include:

  • Arranging the Rules more clearly by subject matter, making it easier to find the Rules for a particular application;
  • Using a more logical sequenced numbering system;
  • Including hyperlinks to sections over the use of cross-referencing; and
  • Restricting the number of changes made to the Rules to two a year.

There are also further recommendations on the use of evidence, including a more flexible approach whereby non-exhaustive lists of examples are provided rather than the current specified documents. Supporting guidance should be limited to a single document for both applicants and decision makers per subject matter. Decision workers should also be given the opportunity to request additional documents or further information from applicants before a decision is made.

The report also suggests that such a change would benefit the reputation of the Home Office by building much needed public trust, as well as saving £70 million over a ten year period by way of reducing the Home Office’s casework costs. This would be done through avoiding mistakes, making faster decisions and processing fewer appeals.

As yet, there has been no formal response from the Home Office on the Law Commission’s report. The Home Office is currently working on new post-Brexit ‘Australian style’ immigration system to take effect at the start of 2021, which is to apply equally to EEA and non-EEA citizens. It will be interesting to see if they use this as the opportunity to completely overhaul the Immigration Rules in line with the Law Commission’s recommendations, or whether the undertaking is just too great and the opportunity missed.

We will keep you updated as more details are announced.


This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of January 16, 2020.