Report: unprecedented changes to the UK immigration rules since 2010

1 September 2018

An exclusive report from the Guardian has revealed the full extent of immigration changes since 2010. It found that an astounding tally of more than 5,700 changes had been made. This has only further complicated the immigration process and it has made the UK visa system a nightmare to navigate. The immigration rules are currently compiled of around 375,000 words which is double the amount it was in 2010. Lord Justice Irwin has referred to these changes “something of a disgrace”. He is not the only one who is calling for a radical change to the system.

The Conservative administration has been largely responsible for these changes. The current prime minister, Theresa May made 1,300 changes in the year 2012 alone when she was foreign home secretary. Amber Rudd who succeeded May also had a similar approach. The new secretary, Sajid Javid made claims about changing this policy but has thus far not differentiated anything substantially. Some changes were introduced at lightning speed. This left no time for checks to be made and little consideration was given to the volume of changes that came. An example of this is a document that was published in 2014 with a total of 22 changes. However, this was replaced by an updated document only three days later which consisted of 250 changes. The total number of changes made since 2010 amounts to almost 600,000 words some of which directly affected partners and spouses of British Citizens. In relative terms that is a huge amount.

One vocal critic of the policy has been immigration and barrister lawyer Colin Yeo who stated that the complexity of the UK immigration rules has meant ordinary citizens are forced to use lawyers. This results in “astronomical” legal fees. He also spoke about how the rules have steadily got rid of any discretion which leaves out the human aspect of decisions and replaces them with a cold computational method. Yeo also stated how the frequency of changes means constantly having to remain up to date. “The changes are often hurried out, which means they can be badly written. They can be very difficult to understand, even for judges and lawyers. We’ve seen a number of errors in drafting that have to be corrected in later versions.”

One particular change that has been noted is the loss of appeal rights in some cases that was introduced in a 2014 Immigration act. It resulted in far less scrutiny to face for the Home Office. Judges are less inclined to look over decisions as a result and this has led to refusal rates skyrocketing since the changes were made. According to the Guardian, refusal rates for migrants applying for UK visas after suffering from domestic violence doubled between the time period of 2012 and 2016. Yeo has been very vocal in his sentiments for a substantial rewrite of the rules.

There has been some traction in making the rulers clearer and easier to understand. The law commission is working on simplifying the rules. A thorough review began in late 2017 and recommendations will be made by the commission on how the rules can be changed. A more transparent, coherent and simple set of rules is urgently required to produce fairer outcomes.

The analysis of these findings has shown that a fair amount of changes in the rules were focused on employment status and earnings in those who were applying to bring their foreign partner or spouse to the UK on a settlement visa. The Home Office have attempted to explain why the need for these vast amount of changes. However, it is clear that the current set of rules are changing far too much and in too short of a time. This has created a situation where there are overly complex rules which make it nearly impossible for an applicant to navigate through. There are encouraging words that give good reason for optimism in the future. It is clear that the commission’s findings will be significant in the shaping a future policy that is more clearer.

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