Simplifying UK visa and immigration rules would save £70m

Sanwar Ali comment:

Complicated immigration rules make it more likely that mistakes are made leading to refusals.  Migrants then end up paying even more money in Government fees by applying again.  This puts off people coming to the UK and indirectly reduces levels of immigration to the UK. 

The biggest visa application costs are for migrants from outside the EU and EEA that have to pay Government visa-related fees that are the highest, or amongst the highest in the World.  Compared to Government visa fees, the £70 million cost to the Government due to overly complicated UK visa related regulations is not such a large amount of money.  Unfortunately, simplifying the immigration rules may not be that high a priority for the Boris Johnson Government.

According to the Law Commission, the UK government could save £70m over the next decade if ‘over complicated and unworkable’ UK visa and immigration rules were simplified. Since 2010, UK visa and immigration regulations have quadrupled in length and are ‘poorly drafted’ says the Law Commission, which has urged the government to update the rules.

In 1973, when UK visa and immigration rules were introduced, regulations totalled 40 pages. Now, they are 1,100 pages long. It was hoped that by extended visa and immigration rules, it would make them more transparent. However the Law Commission, among many others, claims that regulations have become harder to follow.

Public law commissioner, Nicholas Paines QC, said: “For both applicants and case workers, the drafting of the visa and immigration rules and frequent updates makes them too difficult to follow. This has resulted in mistakes that waste time and cost taxpayer money.”

Paines added that improvements to the drafting of the regulations, restructuring the layout and removing inconsistencies would mean that the Law Commission’s recommendations would make a real difference by saving money and increasing public confidence in the rules.

UK visa and immigration rules need more clarity

The UK visa and immigration process is considered one of the most cumbersome and confusing in the world, with the Law Commission urging the government to overhaul regulations to improve clarity. According to a Law Commission study, more and more UK visa and immigration applicants are underrepresented and struggle to understand the rules.

The Law Commission’s report highlights that UK immigration regulations have an impact on millions of lives every year, with many applicants denied UK entry because of discriminatory Home Office practices, poor decision-making and administrative mistakes.

The report states: “The structure of UK visa and immigration rules make them contradictory and confusing. 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.”

“It is a basic principle of the rule of law that applicants should understand the requirements they need to fulfil … For the Home Office, benefits include better and speedier decision-making,” the report adds.

Based on their assessment of UK visa and immigration rules, the Law Commission highlighted that by simplifying the regulations, there’s the potential to reduce administrative reviews, appeals and judicial reviews, which would make the system easier and cheaper to operate.

The Commission claims that reforms could lead to a potential saving of £70m. However, immigrant rights campaigners claim that the UK government has ‘no interest’ in reforming the rules, arguing that many visa refusals are deliberate, often forcing applicants to reapply at further expense and pocketing the government more money.

A report published by The Guardian back in 2017 claims that the Home Office was pocketing an 800% profit as a result of excessive fees, with many visa applications refused on ‘technicalities’, resulting in many applicants having to apply and pay again.

While the Law Commission’s report urges the government to redraft the rules by dividing them up by subject matter and limiting updates to twice a year, campaigners argue that the Home Office would not see this as acting in their best interests because it would affect profits.

UK visa applicants lack confidence in the system

The Law Commission was told that many UK visa applicants do not trust the system. The Commission’s report states: “Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Let Us Learn referred to a longstanding and historic distrust of the Home Office amongst their client group.”

Meanwhile, many young and vulnerable UK asylum seekers and migrants described feeling anxious about the Home Office decision-making process and the government agency’s tendency to look for reasons to refuse applications, rather than approve them.

However, the Law Commission’s study did refer to the high number of refusal cases that were overturned when appealed. In fact, in June 2019, Workpermit.com reported that 50 percent of UK visa and immigration decisions made by the Home Office are overturned on appeal.

Nevertheless, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) also expressed its feelings of distrust towards the culture inside the Home Office.

The JCWI claims that, despite denials from government ministers, that UK visa and immigration caseworkers often have ‘very little training, are usually short-term and under immense pressure to reject applications.’

In recent years, Home Office decision-making and integrity have been widely publicised and criticised. In July 2019, the Independent Chief Inspector of UK visas, immigration and borders, David Bolt said that problems inside the Home Office were rife, with the UK Visas and Immigration department suffering from staff shortages and a lack of accountability.

In September 2019, Workpermit.com reported on UK Visas and Immigration staff saying that levels of discrimination inside the Home Office were rising.

Another Guardian report in October 2019 highlighted that UK immigration is at the centre of nearly all Home Office misconduct investigations. Over a period of three years, 626 complaints filed concerning serious misconduct were in relation to immigration matters, 210 of the 626 allegations were corroborated.

Meanwhile, in the run up to the UK general election in December 2019, a number of members of the Green Party called for the UK Visas and Immigration department and the Home Office to be shutdown.

Green Party Co-Leader, Jonathan Bartley, said: “The Home Office is pernicious in its treatment of people, I want to see two new Ministries set up to replace the Home Office.”

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