Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962
|Long title||An 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|
|Citation||10 & 11 Eliz. 2 c. 21|
|Royal assent||18 April 1962|
|Commencement||1 July 1962|
The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act entailed stringent restrictions on the entry of Commonwealth citizens into the United Kingdom. Only those with work permits (which were typically only for high-skilled workers, such as doctors) were permitted entry.
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.
There was widespread opposition to mass migration 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 thereto. 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".
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. A person was exempt from immigration control if the person was a Commonwealth citizen born in the UK; a Commonwealth citizen holding a passport issued by the UK government in either the UK or Republic of Ireland; a CUKC holding a passport issued by the UK Government (not including colonial governments) anywhere; and their family members. Exemptions also 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 1st July 1962.
According to Claudia Jones, a Trinidad-born Communist activist, the Act "established a second class citizenship status for West Indians and other Afro-Asian peoples in Britain." She predicted that if it passed, the Act "could be the death knell of the Commonwealth." Ambalavaner Sivanandan, an anti-racist activist, argued that the Act served to 'enshrine state racism in law', while Labour politician Barbara Castle labelled it 'a violation of the very idea of the Commonwealth.'
The Act cut 'racialised colony and Commonwealth entrants' from an estimated 136,400 in 1961 to 57,046 in 1963.
- 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".
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- Saima Nasar, 'Commonwealth Communities: Immigration and Racial Thinking in Twentieth-Century Britain', in Saul Dubow and Richard Drayton (eds.), Commonwealth History in the Twenty-First Century (Basingstoke, 2020), 111-113
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- Copy of the Act as originally passed archive.org