9 The role of the Home Office
The Home Office website notes that the Home Office ‘plays a fundamental role in the security and economic prosperity of the United Kingdom’. Its responsibilities are wide-ranging, and include:
- securing the UK border and controlling immigration
- considering applications to enter and stay in the UK
- issuing passports and visas.
Their goals include:
- protecting vulnerable people and communities
- reducing terrorism
- controlling migration.
The Home Office administers Government immigration policies and represents the Government in the UK’s immigration appeal system. It also works in close liaison with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC):
[A]n independent, non-statutory, non-time limited, non-departmental public body that advises the Government on migration issues. Our sponsoring department is the Home Office.
The MAC has a UK wide remit and works across Government, providing transparent, independent and evidence-based advice. Our work is primarily led by commissions from Home Secretary. However, 2020 will be the first year that the MAC publishes an annual report, with a subsequent expansion of more committee led analysis, to sit alongside the commissions.
The MAC bases all recommendations on what it sees as being in the interests of the resident population, taking account that migration has different effects on different groups.
The committee is supported by a permanent civil service secretariat of around 20 people. The secretariat is staffed by economists, social researchers, statisticians and policy/ communication staff.
Within the Home Office, Government immigration officials operate in the following departments:
- UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
- Immigration Enforcement (also called ‘Home Office Immigration Enforcement’)
- Border Force.
UKVI ‘is responsible for making millions of decisions every year about who has the right to visit or stay in the country, with a firm emphasis on national security and a culture of customer satisfaction for people who come here legally’ (UKVI, n.d.). It is an integral part of the Home Office, reporting directly to Ministers. It largely covers immigration and consular processing, as well as enforcing immigration law. It makes most immigration and nationality decisions.
British Consulates are primarily administered by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), but immigration decisions within British Consulates are taken by either Home Office or FCDO officials known as Entry Clearance Officers.
A Strategic Oversight Board has been created for all of the immigration system’s constituent organisations, which includes immigration policy, the Passport Service and the UK’s Border Force. This Board is chaired by the Home Office Permanent Secretary.
The Home Office publishes the guidance it provides to its Immigration Officers on how the Immigration Rules and other provisions should be interpreted and applied. These policy documents also contain concessions, outlining circumstances when discretion might be exercised, exceptionally, to grant leave outside the Immigration Rules.
At the time of writing, the Operational Guidance (previously referred to as staff instructions) includes:
- asylum policy (Asylum Policy Instructions, APIs)
- business and commercial caseworker guidance
- enforcement (formerly Enforcement Instructions and Guidance (EIG))
- Entry Clearance Guidance (ECG)
- fees and forms
- Immigration Rules
- immigration staff guidance (includes guidance on most visa categories)
- nationality guidance (formerly Nationality Instructions (NIs))
- non-compliance with the biometric registration regulations
- rights and responsibilities
- stateless guidance
- Windrush scheme casework guidance.