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Introduction to UK immigration law and becoming an immigration advisor
Introduction to UK immigration law and becoming an immigration advisor

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3 Primary UK immigration legislation

Acts of Parliament are the primary source of UK immigration law. There are a great number of these; what follows is an introduction.

The British Nationality Act 1981 sets out the law on the acquisition of British nationality by birth, adoption, descent, registration and naturalisation. Being born in the UK does not necessarily qualify as having British nationality. (The term ‘British nationality’ is used to cover the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.)

Primary legislation passed in the UK Parliament over the past 50 years includes:

  • Immigration Act 1971
  • Immigration Act 1988
  • Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993
  • Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997
  • Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
  • Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004
  • Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006
  • UK Borders Act 2007
  • Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007
  • Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008
  • Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009
  • Immigration Act 2014
  • Immigration Act 2016.

The remainder of this section provides an opportunity to explore some of this legislation and the skills of finding and summarising legislation.

Note that this session covers UK immigration law; Session 3 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   builds on what you will learn here and covers the Human Rights Act 1998 and non-UK relevant provisions, including:

  • European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
  • 1951 Refugee Convention
  • Citizen’s Directive (as known as the EEA Free Movement Directive)
  • Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 and 2016.

The law on immigration changes regularly, so being able to find the law and understand how primary legislation is set out and amended are important skills. Activity 1 is designed to develop your understanding of how Acts are structured and how they are amended.

Activity 1: How is an Act of Parliament structured?

Timing: Allow around 20 minutes.

Watch Video 1, which explains the structure of the Immigration Act 1971. You can also explore the Act in detail on (1971).

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Video 1 Understanding the structure of primary legislation.
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What do you think about the structure of the Act? For example, is it logical or clear? Are the amendments set out clearly? Note down your thoughts in the space below.

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The purpose of this activity was to introduce you to the layout and structure of an Act of Parliament, and for you to explore the website.

Understanding how an Act is structured and referred to are important skills for an immigration adviser. However, it can take some time to become familiar with the language used or the amendments that are made, which can make it challenging to identify the current law.

If there is a word in an Act that you are unfamiliar with, note that some Acts have a definition section; if they don’t, a good dictionary can be helpful. Part of an immigration adviser’s training involves more detailed study of the law, and becoming familiar with Acts relevant to immigration law and how they are applied.

We have summarised the key pieces of primary legislation, capturing an overview of the content of each act. Being able to summarise key points of legislation is an important skill, especially for anyone who needs to explain the law to other people. (Of course, you can look at these Acts in detail on