Why do Immigration Rules change?

31 May 2024, 07 mins ago

Immigration Rules are a powerful tool wielded by the Home Secretary with the capacity to impact business, family life and even studying. Given this power, it is natural to wonder, how are new immigration rules decided, and who makes the decision?

Recent changes to the Immigration Rules include announced a three stage change to the financial thresholds for family visas, moving from £18,600.00 to £38,700.00 by 2025.

Given concerns about the potential for financial discrimination for families of more limited means, many people may be wondering who changes Immigration Rules, and how they are held to account?

What are Immigration Rules?

The regulatory framework which governs immigration in the UK is a patchwork of statutory law, secondary legislation (statutory instruments), administrative policy and legally enforceable rules. The Immigration Rules are a distillation of this framework as they apply to people who want to travel, work and live in the UK.

Who’s in charge?

The primary person who exercises administration and control over immigration is the Secretary of State for the Home Department, more commonly known as the home secretary. As a result of the Immigration Act 1971, the Government has the power to implement and amend Immigration Rules.

Through the 1971 Act, specifically, section 1(2) and section 1(4), the Home Secretary can regulate the immigration of people without the right of abode to the UK (as provided in the 1971 Act) according to rules outlined by the Home Secretary.

Immigration Rules are amended, added to and subtracted from in ‘Statements of Changes in Immigration Rules’. These are then put before Parliament and take effect.

Various bodies, including UK Border Force, the NCA, and other agencies are responsible for implementing these.

How are changes to Immigration Rules scrutinised?


Typically, Parliament is the seat of scrutiny for changes in legislation, this role is also affirmed in section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. The method for scrutiny is through the Negative Resolution Procedure, which means that if a statement of change regarding the Immigration Rules is made, the House of Lords or Commons has 40 days to disapprove the changes via resolution.

From this point, the Secretary of State has another 40 days to introduce an amended statement, however, Parliament cannot amend these statements and the disapproved statement of changes will remain effective until an amended version is introduced by the Home Secretary.

In any event, there is no requirement for a vote on any changes as outlined in a statement brought to Parliament by the Home Secretary, even if MPs table a motion to debate changes.

House of Lords

The main body responsible for a deep examination of any changes outlined by the Home Secretary Is the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. This body in the House of Lords can produce reports that critique the flaws in changes announced by the Home Secretary.

A key study in this process would be the recently announced changes to Immigration Rules on family visas. Changes to family visa financial thresholds were announced in Statement of changes HC 590 on 14 March 2024. In the impact assessment released by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, the changes were criticised for failing to disclose a full impact assessment of the changes, for a lack of consultation, for a lack of equalities impact assessment and the potential for ballooning Article 8 claims if changes persist unamended.

How Gherson can assist

Gherson’s Immigration Team are highly experienced in advising on UK visa matters. If you have any questions arising from this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, or send us an e-mail. Don’t forget to follow us on XFacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

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