Legal framework for immigration ‘collapses’
The legal framework for UK immigration policy is in disarray following today’s Supreme Court ruling that UK Border Agency (UKBA) policies on corporate immigration are unlawful.
The court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that much of the UKBA’s practice and policies for corporate immigration are unlawful because they have never been laid before parliament for scrutiny as required by the Immigration Act 1971 for incorporation into the rules. Instead, they were simply set out in guidance and other documents, rendering them unlawful.
As a consequence, most current UKBA requirements for the points-based system, such as salary and skill levels, can no longer be relied upon. UKBA’s plans only to allow British citizens earning at least £18,600 a year to be joined by their foreign spouses are also now open to challenge.
Hina Majid, policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the lead party in the case, said: ‘We welcome the judgment of the Supreme Court today. This held that the UKBA’s requirements, as set out in the codes of practice and the standard occupational classification scheme (including salary levels and skill levels), cannot be relied upon for refusal of an employer’s application for a work permit, or for visa applications by employees.
‘The judgment, however, has wider implications given the heavy reliance of the points-based system on policy outside of the rules which has not been laid before parliament.’
Shahram Taghavi, deputy head of immigration at City firm Lewis Silkin, which acted for the JCWI, said: ‘Today’s ruling will have a profound impact upon the current corporate immigration system, and effectively represents a wholesale collapse of the legal framework for immigration policy in the UK.
‘This decision will no doubt reverberate loudly and widely, given the sheer number of cases on related matters winding their way through the courts at present. Had the Home Office and secretary of state elected to pursue changes to immigration in the proper way - through parliamentary review and scrutiny - it is clear that this chaotic situation could have been avoided.
‘At the very least, today’s ruling will hopefully send a clear message to the UKBA and Home Office that the corporate immigration system has become far too complex and unmanageable, representing a tremendous burden for employers and employees alike, and that their attempts to circumvent proper parliamentary oversight have been soundly rejected.
‘A wholesale revamp of the system is now the only way forward, incorporating all mandatory requirements into the Immigration Rules. Only then will both the clarity and legality of the UK’s immigration policies be assured.’