This article on ‘Laws Governing Immigrants in the UK: All You Need to Know’ was written by Ishika Agrawal, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Humans have been migrating from one place to another for a very long time. But in the present time, the word immigration means the movement of human beings from one city to another or from one country to another with the motive to settle there permanently. Such people are known as immigrants. However, it should be noted that tourists or short-term visitors are not considered immigrants.
Earlier, there were no or very few laws that would regulate the migration of the public in a country or nation, but as the number of immigrants increased, the need for their proper regulation was felt, and thus, new and stricter laws were enforced. In this article, we will be discussing the history of immigration laws in the UK and the current laws that are currently in force in the country.
History of Immigration Laws in the UK
Before the passing of the Aliens Act, 1095, entry into the territory of the UK was easy, which resulted in an increase in the foreign criminal population in the prisons of the UK. However, after the Aliens Act came into force, entry into the UK became discretionary. The Act provided that if an immigrant was found to fall on any of the four grounds, he would not be allowed to leave the country:
- If he cannot prove that he has money to support himself and his family,
- If he is mentally ill or has a disease that could cost him money in public rates,
- If he has been convicted of a crime in another country that is not political,
- If he has already been given an expulsion order,
Immigration laws during WW-I
During WWI, the Alien Registration Act, 1914 was introduced, which made it mandatory for every person to show proof of identity. The Alien Officers countersigned the passengers’ passports with a red stamp on arrival and a black stamp to cancel the departure.
After the First World War ended, the Alien Order,1920 made it mandatory for all alien persons entering the UK to register themselves with the local police.
Immigration laws during the Second World War
As there was a huge possibility of people entering the UK in disguise, all the refugees were interviewed by the immigration service staff, and then they were directed to special reception centres.
New laws and the European Union Membership
Due to the independence of Kenya, followed by Uganda and Tanzania, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act,1968 was passed in a hurry. These countries, after gaining independence, established minority populations of Indian origin with the only citizenship of either the UK or the colonies. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 stipulated that British citizens would be free from immigration control only if either they or at least one of their parents or grandparents had been born, adopted, registered, or naturalized in the UK.
The Immigration Act of 1971 permitted the right to live in the UK only if certain criteria were fulfilled. The British Nationality Act, which was introduced in 1981 to reinforce the citizenship tests, placed particular emphasis on married couples, particularly those who had submitted applications from the Indian sub-continent, as marriage was being utilized by certain categories of people to gain entry into the UK.
After this Act, certain other steps were also taken to provide more security and protection to the citizens of the UK.
Border and Immigration Agency
The Border and Immigration Agency was established on April 1, 2007 under the UK Borders Act 2007. The main responsibility of this agency was to consider applications for visas for entering the UK, permission to reside, citizenship, and asylum, to deliver an e-border programme proposed by the UK government, and to provide biometrically controlled identity documents for foreign passengers. However, on April 1, 2008, this agency was amalgamated with UKVisas to form the UK Border Agency. In 2012 and 2013, this agency was broken down into three sub-agencies.
Borders, Citizenship, and Immigration Act 2009
This document changed the rules for naturalization, making it necessary for people to have been living in the UK for a period of 8 years, have good English language and immigration skills, and not have been away from the UK for longer than 90 days. Just like the Act of 1905, which was written just over 100 years ago, there was a lot of emphasis on having good character.
Immigration Act 2016
The most recent version of the Immigration Act saw slight modifications in the immigration policy. Section 67 of the Act, commonly referred to as the Dubs Amendment, stipulates that the Secretary of State must arrange for relocations to the UK and provide assistance to a certain number of unaccompanied refugees from other European countries. This number is estimated to be 480, with 200 relocations taking place in 2016. Additionally, a public authority is required to ensure that any personnel working for them in a customer-facing role must possess fluent English.
Recently, prominent changes have been made to the immigration laws in the UK. The main changes have been made for student-dependent, student switching for work, EUSS, and skilled workers. These are discussed in detail below:
With immediate effect, holders of a student visa may only transition to a Work Visa Route, including the Skilled Worker (Senior or Specialist Worker), Global Business Mobility (Global Talent), Scale-up (Government Authorized Exchange), Creative Worker (Creative Worker), and Ancestry (Ancestry) routes, provided that the following criteria are met:
- The student has completed the degree or course for which they are being sponsored.
- The student is studying at a full-time level or higher with a HECI that has a record of compliance, and the sponsor’s certificate of sponsorship indicates a start date at least two years prior to the student’s completion of the course.
- The student is pursuing a full-time doctorate (Ph.D.) with an HECI whose record of compliance indicates a start date of no more than 24 months following the commencement of the doctoral course.
Changes made in the EUSS have taken effect as of August 2023, and the two most significant changes are: the automatic extension of pre-settled status, in which if individuals are already settled in the EUSS, their status will be extended by two years automatically, even if they have not done so.
If an applicant has submitted an EUSS application too late, they will need to provide a good explanation for why. This will be considered an application validity requirement rather than an eligibility requirement, so some applications will not get a full assessment if they do not explain why they were submitted too late.
Youth Mobility Scheme
New Zealanders currently residing in the UK on the YMS will be eligible to receive an additional one-year extension of their visa, enabling them to stay in the UK for an additional three years under the scheme.
Increase in the visa fees
The immigration health charge has been increased from 624 pounds to 1035 pounds per year, and the discounted rate for students, children, and YMS has been increased from 470 pounds to 776 pounds.
Increase in the visa fees
There has been a 15% increase in the visa fees for work and visit visas.
It is clear from the above discussion that there have been a lot of changes made to the laws relating to immigration in the UK in order to provide more protection, security, and safety in the procedure for the immigration of people from other nations. The recent changes made in the immigration process have made it clear that, with the increase in terror and danger, more security is required before letting someone enter one’s territory.
- ‘The History of British Immigration Policy (1905-2016)’, Square Space, available at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5748678dcf80a1ffcaf26975/t/5b27e23d8a922dfca10ddeb1/1529340490557/Immigration+Timeline.pdf
- ‘New immigration system: what you need to know’, UK Government, available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-immigration-system-what-you-need-to-know
- Thal Vasishta, ‘UK Immigration Rules Changes in 2023: What you need to know’, Paragon Law, available at: https://www.paragonlaw.co.uk/resources/uk-immigration-rules-changes-in-2023