United Kingdom immigration law

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United Kingdom immigration law is the law that relates to who may enter, work in and remain in the United Kingdom. There are many reasons as to why people may migrate; the three main reasons being seeking asylum, because their home countries have become dangerous, people migrating for economic reasons and people migrating to be reunited with family members.


Comprehensive regulation of immigration is a modern area of law, which grew particularly during the late 20th century as ordinary people became more globally mobile, and the United Kingdom became an increasingly attractive place to live and work. The original inhabitants of the British Isles are thought to be Celtic, though for centuries people from surrounding countries had come to settle. Notably, the Roman conquest of 50BC brought many Latin settlers, the Viking expansion around Scandinavia brought many people of that origin from the 8th century to the 11th century, and the Norman conquest of England from 1066 established that the original monarchy from north France. After that, laws were sparse. The common law recognised a general distinction between aliens and citizens, and a citizen would be someone born in England, or a dominion. Soon, the Status of Children Born Abroad Act 1350 allowed children born abroad to two English parents to be English. Moreover, the British Nationality Act 1772 allowed people to be considered English if their father was, although born abroad. Others would generally need permission to migrate. One of the earliest statutes was the Egyptians Act 1530, which stated that "people calling themselves Egyptians", though actually gypsies were to be expelled because they had engaged in crafty trickery, by telling fortunes. Another piece of targeted legislation was the Jewish Naturalisation Act 1753, passed at the insistence of Whig members of Parliament to allow people of Jewish origin to settle in Britain in return for Jewish support against the Jacobite rising. It was, however, repealed a year later.

One of the first modern statutes was aimed at restricting Jewish immigration, following religious persecution in Russia. The Aliens Act 1905 required registration and placed general controls under the authority of the Home Secretary.

Migration by background[edit]

European Union / European Economic Area / Switzerland[edit]

Prior to the end of the Brexit implementation/transition period:

From the end of the Brexit implementation period:

Commonwealth and former members[edit]

Rest of the world[edit]

Permission to migrate[edit]

Work visas[edit]

Leave to remain[edit]



Illegal migration[edit]


Executive agencies[edit]

Tribunals and appeals[edit]

Criminal law[edit]


In 2007, net immigration to the UK was 237,000, a rise of 46,000 on 2006. In 2004 the number of people who became British citizens rose to 140,795, 12% on the previous year. In the 2001 Census, citizens from the Republic of Ireland were the largest foreign born group and have been for the last 200 years. This figure does not include those from Northern Ireland since it is part of the United Kingdom. Those of Irish ancestry number roughly 6 million from the first, second and third generations. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Asia (40%) and Africa (32%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia.

In 2011, an estimated 589,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at least a year, most of the migrants were people from Asia (particularly the Indian subcontinent) and Africa,[1] while 338,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year or more. Following Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 it was estimated that by the start of 2007, 375,000 Poles had registered to work in the UK, although the total Polish population in the UK was believed to be 500,000. Many Poles work in seasonal occupations and a large number are likely to move back and forth over time. Some migrants left after the world economic crisis of 2008. In 2011, citizens of the new EU member states made up 13% of immigrants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Migration Statistics Quarterly Report May 2012". Office for National Statistics. 24 May 2012.


  • G Clayton, Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law (7th edn 2016)
  • K Hailbronner, EU immigration and asylum law : commentary on EU regulations and directives (Hart 2010)
  • DC Jackson and A Berry, Immigration law and practice (4th edn Tottel 2008)

External links[edit]