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Home Office aims to completely rewrite “confusing” Immigration Rules by January 2021

Home Office aims to completely rewrite “confusing” Immigration Rules by January 2021

The Home Office has accepted the need to simplify the “complex and confusing” Immigration Rules and says that the work is already underway.

In an official response to the Law Commission’s recent report on the subject, the department says that “we have already begun the process of reviewing, simplifying and consolidating the Rules”.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster adds that the aim is to complete the overhaul by January 2021.

The Law Commission’s report, published in January 2020, made 41 recommendations for redrafting the “overly complex and unworkable” regulations at the heart of the UK immigration system. The Home Office says that it is accepting 24 of them and partially accepting the other 17.

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In terms of overall structure, the department’s proposal is broadly in line with the Law Commission’s. The simplified Rules would start with rules that apply across the board, such as how to make a valid visa application and the general grounds for refusal, followed by the rules specific to each visa.

The document includes some examples of how these route-specific rules could be drafted. The examples retain the much-derided system of “alphabet soup”, whereby the Rules are not numbered 1, 2, 3 etc but by letters indicating the section and then numbers:

Validity requirements for Parent of a Child Student

PC.1.1. An applicant seeking to come to the UK as the Parent of a Child Student must have obtained permission to do so before their arrival in the UK.

PC.1.2. An applicant who is in the UK at the date of application must have, or have last been granted, permission to come to or stay in the UK as the Parent of a Child Student.

This is despite the Home Office purporting to accept recommendation 14: “paragraphs should be numbered in a numerical sequence”.

The Law Commission also suggested, somewhat tentatively in the end, that there could also be separate “booklets” gathering together all the rules that apply to a particular visa. In other words, bringing together the general and specific rules into one document. The Home Office response to this is cool:

We will continue to explore the idea of a booklet for each category of application… We think that the booklet approach, alongside the consolidated Rules, may cause confusion and risks material becoming inconsistent.

The department has accepted the idea of a simplification committee. The external stakeholders to be invited are almost all lawyers.

“Our aim”, says Foster, “is to complete this overhaul by January 2021”.

He also writes in the foreword: “For far too long, users have struggled to understand the confusing and complex Immigration Rules”. The minister is to be commended for his candour, given that his party has been in charge of the Rules for almost a decade.

The Home Office’s proposed structure for the revamped Rules is as follows (from Annex C of today’s report):

Illustrative Structure

How to use these Rules guide




Applications for permission to travel to, enter or stay in the UK 

  • Valid applications
  • Withdrawal of an application
  • Varying an application


Suitability requirements for travel to, entry and stay in the UK.

  • Conduct /behaviour
  • Criminality
  • Immigration breaches
  • Deception/false representation
  • etc.


Requirements at the UK Border



  • Standard visit
  • Permitted Paid Engagements
  • Marriage/Civil Partnership visit
  • Transit 



  • Student
  • Short -term student (less than a year)
  • Child Student
  • Parent of a Child Student


  • Skilled Worker
  • Intra-Company Transfer
  • Representative of overseas business

Talent/High value

  • Global Talent
  • Start-up/Innovator
  • Investor
  • Highly skilled


  • Minister of Religion
  • Sportsperson
  • Creative worker
  • Seasonal Agricultural Worker
  • Youth Mobility Scheme
  • UK Ancestry
  • Frontier Worker
  • Overseas Domestic Worker
  • Private Servants in Diplomatic households
  • Overseas Government Employee
  • International organisations
  • Posted Workers


  • Crew members
  • Ground Staff of overseas airlines


  • Armed Forces family members
  • Ghurkhas


  • Partner of British Citizen, settled person, person with protection leave
  • Child of British Citizen, settled person, person with protection leave
  • Parent of child who is British Citizen, settled person, person with protection leave
  • Adoption
  • Domestic violence victim
  • Bereaved Partner
  • Adult Dependant Relative


  • Private life
  • Long residence


  • Asylum
  • Humanitarian Protection
  • Statelessness
  • Modern Slavery/Trafficking
  • Afghan Locally Engaged Staff
  • Transfer of Refugee Status
  • Family Reunion for protection applicants


  • Settlement
  • Returning Residents


  • EUSS (Appendix EU)
  • EUSS (Family Permit)
  • EUSS (Administrative Review)



  • Cancellation/revocation of permission
  • Removal
  • Deportation


  • English language
  • Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK
  • Proof of relationship
  • Proof of funds
  • Evidence of finances
  • Lists of Financial Institutions


  • Administrative Review
  • Service of Notice
  • Further representations


  1. Definitions
  2. Residual routes (no new applications but can extend)
  3. Transitional Provisions


  1. Shortage Occupation List
  2. Authorised Government Exchange Schemes
  3. Permit Free Festivals
  4. TB Screening
  5. Police Registration
  6. Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
CJ McKinney

CJ is Free Movement's deputy editor. He's here to make sure that the website is on top of everything that happens in the world of immigration law, whether by writing articles, commissioning them out or considering submissions. When not writing about immigration law, CJ covers wider legal affairs at the website Legal Cheek and on Twitter: follow him @mckinneytweets.

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