The Law on Immigration | Key Topics


Immigration law is nowadays to be found mainly in a large number of Acts of Parliament passed between 1971 and 2016 and subordinate legislation. There is a pressing need to simplify access to the law by consolidating all these Acts into one, but the government does not appear at the present to be intent on this and indeed has only this year passed another Act on the subject, on the subject of consolidation generally, see here.

Current primary and secondary legislation is contained in a Handbook of Immigration Law published by Oxford University Press which in its current edition runs to almost 2000 pages which do not include the Immigration Act 2016. An updated edition of the Handbook is promised for late 2017 Apart from this, there is now a considerable and growing volume of case law consisting of decisions by the Immigration and Asylum Chamber given by specialist immigration judges as well as other decisions by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court on appeals from decisions of the Chamber. There is also a considerable number of cases arising out of judicial review applications relating to immigration law, which go in the first instance to the Administrative Court, part of the High Court, and often go on subsequently to the Court of Appeal and sometimes on to the Supreme Court.

Apart from Acts of Parliament which include the word “immigration” in their titles there are other Acts which are important in the context of immigration and asylum, notably the following:

British Nationality Act 1981

Human Rights Act 1998 – makes the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights justiciable in the courts of the United Kingdom. This has been particularly significant since the Act came into force in 2000 in the large number of cases under Article 8 of the Convention, which confers the right to respect for private and family life and has frequently been invoked to prevent deportation of convicted foreign criminals.

UK Borders Act 2007 – sets out powers of immigration officers and makes provision for deportation of foreign criminals.

Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2008 - establishes the Asylum and Immigration Chamber within the overall tribunal structure.

Detailed provisions on the practice for permitting entry into and stay in the United Kingdom of persons who are subject to immigration control, i.e. are required by law to have leave to enter or remain, are contained in the Immigration Rules, which are made by the Home Secretary under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. The Immigration Rules run to over 600 pages, set out in considerable detail all the relevant provisions and are frequently amended. Rules must be laid before both Houses of Parliament and may be disapproved by either House. If a disapproving resolution is passed by either House within 40 days of laying (excluding days on which Parliament is not sitting), the Home Secretary must make such changes as may appear to be required so that the statement of those changes is laid before Parliament within 40 days of the passing of the resolution (again excluding days on which Parliament is not sitting.

There is a statutory right of appeal against adverse decisions by the Home Office or by entry clearance officers abroad to the First Tier of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, appeals normally being heard by a single Immigration Judge. There is a right of further appeal on a point of law to the Tribunal’s Upper Tier. By the operation of section 15 of the Immigration Act 2014 this right is now restricted since July 2014 to appeals against adverse decisions on protection claims, defined as decisions refusing claims for asylum under the Human Rights Convention, claims for grants of humanitarian protection or to claims under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Entry into the United Kingdom by citizens of other Member States of the EEA is not subject to the Immigration Rules, but is regulated in general terms by rights arising under EU Treaties and by Directives and Regulations made by the Council of the European Union. In general there is freedom of movement of nationals of Member States within the EEA and also freedom to take up employment. In 2016 the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. The government has indicated that immigration from the EU will be controlled after the United Kingdom has left the European Union. The form which such control will take will be a matter for negotiation with the other Member States of the European Union.

Asylum is the subject of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and of a separate key topic paper (see here). The Migration Watch UK website has a section of legal briefing papers dealing with many aspects of immigration and asylum law and as far as possible keeping users of the website updated on important current issues, notably new legislation and decided cases. Your attention is drawn to a legal briefing paper which is a glossary of statutory definitions of words and expressions regularly used and necessary for an understanding of the law.

Updated November 2016

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