History and sources of immigration law

Most of the publicly available guidance relating to asylum decision-making, immigration decision-making and enforcement is accessible on the UK Visas and Immigration website. This note gives a short guide to the UKVI website.

The UKVI front page https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration gives only a very broad list of its contents. It is possible to gain access through it to the main rules and policies but you can also use the direct links described below. As at 20 January 2021 the up to date immigration rules are also available on the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-rules. This is useful in that the page contains an index of parts of the rules, and then publishes each part on a separate link. Frequent reference to the rules will give you access to and understanding of the requirements of immigration law and will bolster your understanding and knowledge. Take time to become familiar with them.

 The statements of changes, linked near the top of the page, will give you each set of changes to the immigration rules in the form in which they were laid before Parliament and adopted. They go back to May 2003. This is useful if you want to see the actual changes made to the rules. It is not useful if you want to know what the rules were at a certain date, because the statement of changes only shows the changes made, not the whole body of the rules. The archive gives a very useful collection of the rules as they were at the dates given, working backwards in time. So if you want to know what the immigration rules were on e.g. 13th October 2013, you can find them through the archived rules, also linked in the introductory paragraph on this page.

To find Departmental instructions to immigration officers in carrying out their work, there are a number of relevant links from the Immigration Law and Operational Guidance link from the UKVI front page. In addition to the Immigration Rules, links include:

  • Asylum policy. This includes all the asylum decision-making guidance. In the textbook where references are to APIs (Asylum (Policy) Instructions) or APGs (Asylum Process Guidance) these are usually to be found under this link. A google search for a particular API directly (e.g. on Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim) will usually bring it up, but it is also useful to look at the higher level links to gain an awareness of the scope of asylum policy. There are many guidance notes under each main heading.
  • All the country-specific information and guidance is stored separately under https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/country-policy-and-information-notes.
  • Guidance on enforcement is now kept in a number of different places on the UKVI website. Seven guidance documents on arranging removal, including families, are linked at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/returns-preparation. However this is not a complete collection of guidance related to arranging removal. Aspects may be found on single links e.g. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/documents-for-enforced-removals. The previous collections of EIG (Enforcement Instructions and Guidance), is largely dismantled and the content distributed.  Some enforcement guidance is linked under four subject areas at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/enforcement-instructions-and-guidance. Note that much of the detention guidance is now found under ‘Offender Management’. Another collection is found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/criminality-and-detention-modernised-guidance.
  • Entry clearance guidance. This is not just generic guidance but includes guidance on requirements under specific rules for entry, e.g. maintenance and accommodation, family members etc. It is worth checking in relation to any subject where entry clearance is needed, although some subjects refer straight back to the immigration rules. You may also see updates on arrangements in particular ECO offices overseas. The Immigration Staff Guidance, often referred to in the Textbook, gives guidance on applying the immigration rules.
  • Modernised guidance The difficulty with Modernised Guidance is that it has no subject title, and there is no ready way to know whether a subject is covered by it or not, other than to check. Since there is a gradual move to modernise all guidance, for any subject, it is necessary to check whether there is modernised guidance which applies.

The Parliament website www.parliament.uk is another extremely useful source. You can obtain access to parliamentary debates including those in standing committee and the proceedings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The Electronic Immigration Network is an excellent source of legal materials and information. www.ein.org.uk. Their list of resources and bibliography are some of the most extensive and useful available.

The case law of the European Court of Human Rights can be read on its website: www.echr.coe.int. The site has a searchable case law database, HUDOC. To research or pursue human rights issues related to immigration and asylum law it is probably more effective on the whole to read websites focused on related issues such as race, asylum and the development of the European Union. See also for instance the website and newsletters issued by barristers chambers, e.g. Doughty Street Chambers: www.doughtystreet.co.uk/, Garden Court: http://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk and Garden Court North Chambers | People's rights through justice (gcnchambers.co.uk).