Personal Immigration

Changes to the Immigration Rules following the Supreme Court decision in Alvi

In R (on the application of Alvi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] UKSC 33 the Supreme Court held that the UK Border Agency cannot refuse immigration applications purely because of Policy Guidance that is not contained in the Immigration Rules.

The Immigration Rules set out the requirements that people have to meet in order to be granted a visa or further leave to remain. They have to be laid before Parliament before coming into force, which gives them legal authority. However, the UKBA has often issued Policy Guidance and other documents, particularly in relation to the Points Based System, that claims to introduce additional requirements that are not contained in the Immigration Rules. The Supreme Court has now said that the Policy Guidance does not have the status of law. This means that it would be wrong to refuse someone who did not meet a requirement in the Policy Guidance unless that requirement was also contained in the Immigration Rules.

For example, the applicant in Alvi had been refused leave to remain as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant because his job was not at the correct level in the UKBA's Codes of Practice. However, the Supreme Court said that he should not have been refused for this reason because the Codes of Practice were not in the Immigration Rules and therefore they were not part of the law.

This confirms the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Secretary of State for the Home Department v Pankina and others [2010] EWCA Civ 719.

In response to this, new changes have been made to the Immigration Rules. The UKBA have attempted to put all the requirements of the Policy Guidance and other documents such as the Codes of Practice into the Immigration Rules so that they are now able to refuse applications that do not comply with them. The changes mainly affect applications under the Points Based System and applications by family members.

This means that the Immigration Rules are now a lot more complicated, with several new appendices. It would therefore be very easy to miss some of the strict new requirements. You are advised to seek legal advice if you want to apply for a visa or for leave to remain in the UK.

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