Personal Immigration

Plans to simplify ‘labyrinthine’ immigration rulebook

Highly prescriptive, too long, and difficult to follow. Those are the conclusions drawn by the Law Commission on the UK’s 1,100 pages of immigration rules. The UK’s legislative overseer has suggested the rulebook which governs the entry of people to the UK needs to be overhauled because it has become too complicated.

The commission which reviews and recommends changes to legislation has begun consulting on a range of proposals on the lengthy document which sets out the policy and practice on how the Home Office regulates immigration. Introduced in 1973, the rules originated as a 40 page document and have quadrupled in length in the last 10 years alone.

What does the Law Commission recommend? 

The Law Commission believe simpler rules will increase transparency both for applicants and immigration caseworkers and that this should enable quicker decision-making. The review is not intended to consider the principles which govern immigration but examine and simplify the processes which put them into practice.

The ‘labyrinthine’ rules have long been criticised by lawyers and senior judges for being repetitive and hard to navigate. The commission’s objective is to create a more logical structure so that the rules are accessible, clear to follow and organised in a logical manner.

Further proposals 

The proposals suggest rule changes should be limited to two set days per year to avoid piecemeal alterations complicating the document even further. An investigation by the Guardian last year found that Home Office officials had made nearly 6,000 changes to the rules since 2010 alone. The most recent of these took effect from 10th January, when a new system of visas impacting on entrepreneurs and investors was introduced.

The Law Commission also point out that standardisation and simplification must be maintained moving forward, which will mean improving the processes around reviewing the rules, how amendments are made and introducing an archiving system for earlier versions.

The proposals also include looking into how technology could be utilised to aid the process and to improve the experience of immigration applicants navigating the system. The consultation process runs to the 26th April.

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