World, Europe

UK immigration rules condemned as confusing, costly

Law Commission urges simplification of immigration rules that could also save £70 million

Karim El-Bar   | 14.01.2020
UK immigration rules condemned as confusing, costly


The U.K.’s Law Commission said Tuesday the country’s immigration rules were confusing, hard to follow and overly expensive.

“For both applicants and case workers, the drafting of the Immigration Rules and frequent updates makes them too difficult to follow. This has resulted in mistakes that waste time and cost taxpayer money,” said Public Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC in a statement.

“By improving the drafting, restructuring the layout and removing inconsistencies, our recommendations will make a real difference by saving money and increasing public confidence in the rules,” he said.

The Law Commission is an independent commission set up by the U.K. Parliament to view and recommend reforms to laws. Immigration is a hot topic in Britain, particularly following Brexit.

The commission’s report said improving the way immigration rules were written would make them easier to follow for applicants. The government would also save almost £70 million over 10 years “from fewer mistakes and speedier decision-making, a resulting potential reduction in administrative reviews, appeals and judicial reviews, and from a system which is easier to maintain.”

The report does not comment on the content of immigration rules but had tough observations about the way they have been written and implemented.

The commission said: “Following their introduction in 1973, they have grown from 40 pages to over 1,100 pages in 2019. In the last ten years, the Rules have almost quadrupled in length.”

It said the poor drafting of the rules made “it difficult for applicants to correctly follow the Rules.” The commission recommended “a more flexible approach” to the evidence required from applicants and “making it easier for applicants to find everything that is relevant to their application.” It also recommended “limiting the number of updates to the Rules to twice a year.”

“The overly-detailed approach has led to an increasing number of amendments to the Rules, making them more difficult to follow. By reducing the level of detail and prescription, there is a reduced need for frequent amendment,” the statement said.

The report said the most vulnerable in the system, including asylum seekers and migrants, were suffering from anxiety due to “the decision-making process and the perception that the Home Office tries to refuse applications rather than looking to allow them. They referred to the high success rate in tribunal appeals.”

“The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants expressed distrust of the culture within the Home Office, and the pressure under which caseworkers operate, saying that ‘caseworkers have very little training, are often very short term, and are under clear pressure, even if denied by ministers, to refuse applications’,” the report said.

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