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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Time to revise UK immigration rules

A Law Commission report has confirmed what many of us have known for some time, that immigration rules are “overly complex and unworkable”. As the Guardian reports, the Commission believe that simplifying them in would save the government £70m over the next decade. It may also save many immigrants a huge amount of grief and heartache.

The Law Commission point out that the regulations have quadrupled in length since 2010 and are “comprehensively criticised for being poorly drafted”. When introduced in 1973, immigration rules ran to 40 pages; they now extend across 1,100. The report observes that making them more prescriptive was intended to produce more transparent outcomes but instead rendered them harder to follow:

Nicholas Paines QC, the public law commissioner, said: “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.

“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.”

The need for clarity has become more acute, the Law Commission heard in evidence it received, because more and more applicants are unrepresented and struggle to understand proceedings.

Immigration regulations have an impact on millions of lives every year, the report accepts. “Their structure is confusing and numbering inconsistent. Provisions overlap with identical or near identical wording. The drafting style, often including multiple cross-references, can be impenetrable. The frequency of change fuels complexity.”

The report adds: “It is a basic principle of the rule of law that applicants should understand the requirements they need to fulfil … For the Home Office, benefits include better and speedier decision-making.

“This leads to a potential reduction in administrative reviews, appeals and judicial reviews, and to a system which is easier and cheaper to maintain.” Reforms could result in savings of almost £70m over the next 10 years.

It is little wonder that so few people have any confidence in the current system. Let's hope that government listens to these recommendation.
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