Changes to the Immigration Rules

The Law Commission has published its final report into Simplifying the Immigration Rules, on 14/01/2020. This project was initially commissioned when Amber Rudd was Home Secretary, further to extensive criticism by stakeholders (including the judiciary) as to the complexity of the Rules, which are a primary source of law in UK immigration law. Underlying immigration policy is outside scope of the project. The Immigration Rules have grown substantially in recent years both in length and complexity (including following the Supreme Court’s decision in R (Alvi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department) [2012] UKSC 33) making it increasingly difficult for applicants, lawyers and judges to understand the requirements for entry and stay, and relevant procedures.

In its consultation paper, published in January 2019, the Commission set out what it considered to be the underlying causes of this complexity, and made proposals for how the Rules could be simplified and made more accessible. These causes included excessive length, poor drafting, and structuring issues.

Main recommendations

In its final report, which takes account of the numerous detailed responses it received, the Law Commission describe the current Rules as ‘unworkable’, and has called for them to be fully overhauled, with a comprehensive list of proposals as to how this should be effected. The Commission considers that having clear and easily understandable Immigration Rules is a Rule of Law issue, and that the overhaul it recommends could have significant costs savings to government (it estimates £70m) in terms of appeals and judicial reviews that would otherwise have been undertaken. The Law Commission also recommends that the Home Office adopt a drafting guide (at Appendix 6 of the report) which sets out best practice to caseworkers when drafting the new Rules.

The Law Commission advises that the Rules should be re-written and underpinned with the following key principles:

  1. suitability for non-expert user
  2. comprehensiveness
  3. accuracy
  4. clarity and accessibility
  5. consistency
  6. durability (a resilient structure that accommodates any amendments), and
  7. capacity for presentation in a digital form (online)

The Rules should be self-standing, easy to understand and should clearly state what they intend to achieve. Cross referencing to other parts should be avoided where possible.

Source: LexisNexis

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