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NAO Reports on UK Border and Immigration Reforms

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently published its report ‘Reforming the UK border and immigration system’, in which it says that the two new Home Office directorates that replaced the former UKBA have made progress in some areas but not across the whole business.

In March 2013, the Home Secretary abolished the remaining Agency and brought its work into the Department under two new directorates: UK Visas and Immigration; and Immigration Enforcement.

The NAO says that new service standards introduced by UK Visas and Immigration have given customers greater transparency regarding the time taken to complete different types of visa application. The Department has also prioritised clearing backlogs of cases, and made additional resource available to do so.

However, the report highlights that progress in clearing the backlogs varies. UK Visas and Immigration has cleared all straightforward cases in the areas of temporary and permanent migration but, as at March 2014, the Department had around 301,000 open cases. These comprise some 85,000 which are in hand and remain within the timescales for reaching a decision in the temporary and permanent migration area; and other specific backlogs, most notably over 25,000 claims for asylum.

According to the NAO, there is a risk that cases on hold are not dealt with in a reasonable time. These include asylum cases awaiting a decision and cases in the ‘migration refusal pool’, where the Department does not know whether those people who have been refused leave to remain have indeed left the country.

“The Home Office has started making significant changes since the Agency was broken up and has made progress in some areas,” commented Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office. “We would have expected greater progress by now though in tackling the problems we identified in 2012 in areas such as specific backlogs and IT.”

“Among our recommendations is that the Department prioritise outstanding backlogs and act to prevent the cases that it classifies as unworkable building up into backlogs.”

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