8 The Law Commission’s 2019 report
Thousands of decisions are made annually under the Immigration Rules: decisions that can be life-changing for anyone seeking entry or leave to remain in the UK and their families.
The Rules are often criticised for being complex and difficult to use. In 2019, the Rules totalled more than 1100 pages. The frequency of changes adds to the complexity and drafting issues: at the time of writing, the Immigration Rules relating to Tier 4 (General) has been amended 27 times; the Tier 4 (Child) Immigration Rules, 23 times.
The Law Commission conducted a review into the structure and complexity of the Immigration Rules in September 2018 and publishedin 2019 (Law Commission, 2019). The UK Government responded in 2020. Although there may be change in the future, the legislative provisions outlined above remain in place.
- 1.1 The Immigration Rules regulate the entry into and stay in the UK of people who are subject to immigration control. They impact on millions of people each year. Yet it is widely acknowledged that the Rules have become overly complex and unworkable. They have quadrupled in length in the last ten years. They have been comprehensively criticised for being poorly drafted, including by senior judges. Their structure is confusing and numbering inconsistent. Provisions overlap with identical or near identical wording. The drafting style, often including multiple cross-references, can be impenetrable. The frequency of change fuels complexity.
- 1.2 It is a basic principle of the rule of law that applicants should understand the requirements they need to fulfil. The law “must be accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable”. Simplified and more easily accessible Rules offer increased legal certainty and transparency for applicants. For the Home Office, benefits include better and speedier decision-making. This leads to a potential reduction in Administrative Reviews, appeals and Judicial Reviews, and to a system which is easier and cheaper to maintain. A simpler and more accessible immigration system builds trust, increases public confidence and brings reputational benefit to the UK internationally.