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Home Secretary Amber Rudd announces review of Immigration Rules


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The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has announced that the Law Commission will conduct a review of the Immigration Rules. The review came to light in Rudd’s oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 17 October but Law Commission staff had already begun meetings before then, including with me.

At question 84, Rudd was asked about the complexity of the rules. She replied:

I have already requested the Law Commission to review our immigration laws with a view to simplifying them. There were 20,000 different pieces of regulation for non-EU regulations and we have now got them down to 4,000. It is incredibly important—I share your frustration—and this is a personal mission of mine to make sure that we simplify the immigration so that your constituents and mine can use it in a more user-friendly way and that it can just be clearer for people where they can and where they can’t apply.

She was later asked specifically about family immigration rules — those in Appendix FM. Her answer revealed that the review is not of the content of the rules, merely of the way they are structured and written:

The non-EU family reunion legislation is reasonable. I accept that we need to make it simpler and that is why I have commissioned the Law Commission to look at that, to see what we can do about it, but I think the regulations and the policy in place for non-EU family reunion is correct and is well supported.

The Law Commission itself confirms that it has not been asked to consider substantive immigration policy. It says that staff have begun “preliminary work around a project to simplify the Immigration Rules” with a view to including it in the 13th Programme of Law Reform. Nicholas Paines QC will be the lead commissioner, assuming the project is signed off by the Lord Chancellor, as technically it still must be.

This project would

review the Immigration Rules to identify principles under which they could be redrafted to make them simpler and more accessible to the user, and for that clarity to be maintained in the years to come.

The Commission points to “excessive length and complexity in the rules”. This is something of an understatement. The Immigration Rules, this edition of which was first published in 1994, are a mess.

HC395, to give the rules their formal title, have been amended thousands of times and are now burdened with multiple appendices and large stretches of rules with non-sequential “numbering”. As I’ve previously written, the idea of sequential rules goes back to at least the Ten Commandments, but it seems that someone at the Home Office thought they could come up with a better system than God:

The authors appear to have obtained PhDs in Illogicality from the University of Illogistan and then undertaken extensive vocational and professional training in the Art of Demented Bureaucracy. Either that or the UK Border Agency want to make immigration law so incomprehensible to the public, lawyers and even to UKBA staff that no-one will ever be admitted to this country ever again.

There have been many, many calls for reform. This is something we took a detailed look at back in August.

While tackling the form of the rules is in itself an almost Herculean task, many of us believe that the primary legislation needs a fundamental review as well.

Nevertheless, for most ordinary people, including lawyers and Home Office staff, the Immigration Rules are the most important single legal document governing immigration status.

The Law Commission has its work cut out for it. We wish Nicholas Paines and all involved with the project well.

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