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Simplification of the Immigration Rules consultation - Law Society response

13 May 2019

The proposals

The Law Commission was sponsored by the Home Office to review the UK Immigration Rules (“the rules”) with a view to making them simpler and more accessible to the user.

Having begun in 2017, the consultation paper on simplifying the immigration rules was published on 21 January 2019.

The UK Immigration Rules are widely acknowledged to be long, complex and difficult to use. On 31 December 2018, the rules totalled 1,133 pages in length.

This is problematic as they are an important statutory source of legal requirements in relation to the exercise of immigration control and provide for vital parliamentary oversight of wide-ranging executive power.

Hundreds of thousands of lifechanging decisions are made annually under the rules and they must be fit for purpose.

The consultation paper contains analysis of the ad-hoc development of the Immigration Rules and the challenges they present, along with preliminary proposals for improvement.

Various options for reforming the rules are presented, with questions posed around different issues ranging from the desirability of prescription in the rules to discretionary powers for caseworkers.

Our view

We welcomed the consultation paper and opportunity to engage on this complex and much needed task.

We are in complete agreement that the Immigration Rules must be reformed, to be intelligible and to deliver fairness and predictability for applicants.

It is our opinion that the rules have become so complex to understand that they are inaccessible to many applicants and confuse even expert legal practitioners.

This poses significant challenges to all those who go to the rules for authoritative guidance and a definitive statement of the criteria for the determination of immigration applications and status.

We agree that a fundamental review and redrafting of the rules is required to reassert their status as the primary framework under which all immigration applications are made.

Rational, clear and coherent rules will contribute to a system that is legally sound rather than one that may be heading for judicial intervention in the near future.

With the assistance of the Immigration Law Committee, we provided opinions on matters such as prescription, discretion and formatting, evidenced by real-life case scenarios of our members.

We communicated our members’ concerns within the response and provided clear examples where the complexity of the rules has led to anomalies in applications, resulting in rejections.

We also provided feedback on the technological developments and the problems such developments can cause in relation to the application of the rules.

What this means for solicitors

The simplification and review of the Immigration Rules will result in much more efficient working conditions for immigration solicitors, who will be able to advise their clients much better with regards to improved predictability and process.

The rules will be made fit for purpose and provide improved accessibility to the law and authoritative guidance in relation to immigration applications.

Clear, consistent and coherent rules will result in a legally sound system that is improved for all, from solicitors to clients.

Next steps

The Law Commission will analyse the results of the consultation and deliver recommendations in a final report later in 2019.

Read the consultation on the Law Commission website

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