Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962

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Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962[1]
Long titleAn Act to make temporary provision for controlling the immigration into the United Kingdom of Commonwealth citizens; to authorise the deportation from the United Kingdom of certain Commonwealth citizens convicted of offences and recommended by the court for deportation; to amend the qualifications required of Commonwealth citizens applying for citizenship under the British Nationality Act, 1948; to make corresponding provisions in respect of British protected persons and citizens of the Republic of Ireland; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid
Citation10 & 11 Eliz. 2 c. 21
Royal assent18 April 1962
Commencement1 July 1962

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[2][3] The Act entailed stringent restrictions on the entry of Commonwealth citizens into Britain.[4] Only those with work permits (which were typically only for high-skilled workers, such as doctors) were permitted entry.[4]


Before the Act was passed, citizens of Commonwealth countries had extensive rights to migrate to the UK. For instance, in the sparsely populated frontier area of San Tin in Hong Kong, 85–90 percent of the able-bodied males left for the United Kingdom between 1955 and 1962 to work in British factories, foundries, railways, buses, hotels, and restaurants.[5]

There was widespread opposition to immigration in Britain from a variety of political groups, including the Conservative Monday Club, whose Members of Parliament were very active and vocal in their opposition to mass immigration. In response to a perceived heavy influx of immigrants, the Conservative Party government tightened the regulations, permitting only those with government-issued employment vouchers, limited in number, to settle. The leader of the opposition in Parliament at the time, Hugh Gaitskell of the Labour Party, called the act "cruel and brutal anti-colour legislation".[6]

The Act[edit]

The Act specified that all Commonwealth citizens, including citizens of the UK and Colonies (CUKCs), without a relevant connection to the UK were subject to immigration control. Commonwealth citizens who were born in the UK or who held a passport issued by the UK government in the UK or Ireland, CUKCs holding a passport issued by the UK Government (not including colonial governments) anywhere, and family members included in their passports were immune from control. Exemptions applied to Commonwealth citizens who were ordinarily resident in the UK at any point from 1960 to 1962, as well as wives and children under 16 accompanying a family member resident in the UK.

The Act went into effect on 1 July 1962.[5]

According to Claudia Jones, the Act "established a second class citizenship status for West Indians and other Afro-Asian peoples in Britain."[2] She predicted that if it passed, the Act "could be the death knell of the Commonwealth."[7]


The Act was amended by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 and was superseded by another new Act, Immigration Act 1971, which came into force in 1971.


  1. ^ Short title as conferred by s. 21 of the Act; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the comma after the word "Act".
  2. ^ a b Jones, Claudio (1962). "The Caribbean Community in Britain". Black British Culture and Society: A Text Reader.
  3. ^ Webster, Wendy (2007-11-28), "Immigration and Racism", A Companion to Contemporary Britain 1939-2000, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. 93–109, doi:10.1002/9780470996195.ch7, ISBN 978-0-470-99619-5, retrieved 2021-04-26
  4. ^ a b "BBC - Family History Research Timeline: Migration". Retrieved 2021-04-26.
  5. ^ a b Watson, James L. (2004). "Presidential Address: Virtual Kinship, Real Estate, and Diaspora Formation: The Man Lineage Revisited". The Journal of Asian Studies. 63 (4): 893–910. CiteSeerX doi:10.1017/S0021911804002359.
  6. ^ Younge, Gary (10 January 2020). "In these bleak times, imagine a world where you can thrive". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Jones, Claudia (July 2016). "Butler's colour-bar bill mocks Commonwealth". Race & Class. 58 (1): 118–121. doi:10.1177/0306396816643226. ISSN 0306-3968.

External links[edit]