1 An overview of UK provisions for immigration law
As you learnt in Session 1, immigration law is reserved to the UK Parliament. Although UK Government policy informs immigration law, the ultimate authority on immigration law is the UK Parliament. The UK Parliament creates the legal provisions and delegates powers to Government Ministers and other bodies to make the detailed regulations that govern immigration law and the immigration system in the UK.
But what is immigration law? The simplest definition is that it sets out:
- the rights of entry to the UK
- the right of non-UK nationals to remain in the UK.
Laws on immigration began to emerge in the 20th century; there is now a complex legal framework governing immigration and the right to asylum in the UK. Immigration controls apply to:
- migrants – someone who changes their country of usual residence
- asylum-seekers – according to the 1951 Refugee Convention, someone who changes their country of usual residence ‘from fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group, or political opinion’.
Figures on migration into the UK vary from year to year, and the UK Government’s decision to set migration targets has been contentious (GOV.UK, 2021a). To set the law in context, around 10% of the UK’s population has a non-UK nationality. Data on immigration is often contested, and the system for collecting data is not as robust as many would like.
Immigration laws and immigration control are maintained through a wide variety of sources and means, including:
- primary legislation of the UK Parliament
- secondary legislation of the UK Parliament
- Immigration Rules
- Home Office policy
- obligations under international conventions
- the discretion of the Secretary of State to admit a person who does not satisfy any of the above.
These sources are amended and updated regularly.
One of the skills that an immigration adviser develops is understanding which law should apply to the facts they have been given. Whilst in many cases it will be the current law, there are applications where the law applicable will be the law at the date of application, or the law at the date of entry into the UK.