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Immigration Act 2014 - a hostile environment?

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The Immigration Act 2014 received its Royal Assent on 14 May.  Immigration continues to dominate the news and was high on the campaign agenda in the recent elections to the European Parliament.

This article will look at the Act’s main effects on individual immigration applicants: a later article will look at the effects on businesses and landlords.


The Act has been heavily promoted by the Government as “reducing the number of immigration appeals from 17 to 4”.  This basically means that the only grounds of appeal to the Tribunal will be in asylum and human rights cases.

This could be welcome news for the First Tier Tribunal, which is currently so burdened with cases that it is taking new appeals over 6 months to be heard.

On the other hand, the preservation of appeal rights in human rights cases could lead to many more applications being made on these grounds.  Theresa May could be looking at a lot more ‘cat’ cases! [1]

Instead of allowing applicants to appeal to the Tribunal when the Home Office has made a legal mistake, a system of ‘administrative review’ is proposed instead.  It is worth noting that according to recent figures 44% of appeals heard by a First Tier Tribunal judge are successful [2] , compared to around 18% of cases under the existing administrative review system [3] .  Perhaps it should not be surprising that the Home Office is only half as likely as an independent judge to find that they have made a mistake.

Where an administrative review is unsuccessful, applicants may also elect to apply for a Judicial Review of their case.  Immigration Judicial Reviews are currently heard in the Upper Tribunal, so the new Act could see the Upper Tribunal becoming much busier.  However, applying for a Judicial Review is a more legally complex and expensive route.  Coupled with the removal of legal aid funding for most immigration cases, this is likely to deter many people with otherwise sound cases.

Access to services

The Act allows for a ‘health surcharge’ to be made for visa applications longer than 6 months, and for the NHS to charge for services to people who do not have settled status in the UK (changing the previous entitlement to free treatment for those who are ‘ordinarily resident’ here).  Doctors’ organisations have questioned the effect this may have on public health, if migrants are afraid to attend a surgery or hospital, or cannot afford treatment for themselves or their children.

The Act also restricts people from obtaining private rented accommodation, banking services and driving licences if they do not have immigration permission.  This will be enforced by the threat of fines to banks and landlords: it remains to be seen how this will affect individual migrants, but the Government’s insistence that the rules for checking status will be ‘simple’ causes concern, mainly because many people’s immigration status is not simple.

Finally, amendments to the notice periods for marriage are likely to affect people coming to the end of their leave to remain in the UK.  The measures are intended to prevent sham marriages, but are likely to cause distress to partners who have to separate so that one of them can apply for a fiancé visa.

Human rights

The much maligned Article 8 right to family and private life suffers yet again under the Act, which tries to bring into primary legislation the considerations that should apply to any examination of the ‘public interest’ in immigration cases.

However, the Human Rights Act 1998 continues to apply, and the Courts and Tribunals will therefore still have to pick their way through the facts of each case.  

Deprivation of citizenship

Finally, the Act introduces a mechanism to allow the Home Office to deprive a person of their British citizenship even if that step would render them stateless.

This introduces a sort of ranking between different types of British citizen: particularly between those who have been naturalised compared to those who acquire their citizenship at birth.  It is particularly relevant to people whose birth countries do not allow dual nationality, and where naturalisation as British automatically results in losing their birth nationality.

If you are concerned about how the Immigration Act 2014 might affect you or your family, or if you have any other questions about immigration law, please contact Kitty Falls in our immigration team for further information.

[1] In case it needs repeating, it was of course not the cat that was responsible for the success of the appellant’s human rights claim in the “Catgate” case!

[2] Tribunals Statistics Quarterly October to December 2013 (13 March 2014)

[3] Freedom of Information request 29305 28 October 2013