United Kingdom's Immigration Laws Timeline

  • United Kingdom

United Kingdom's Immigration Laws Timeline

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Alien Restriction Act

Implementation of a control system at point of entry.

Definition of undesirable immigrant

Men have to support the needs of his family. 

Alien Restriction Act

Product of executive power that allows it to exercice its full discretionnary power. This new act has more power than its predecessor of 1905 (Wray, 2006: 303; Cesarani, 1992: 35) and allows the implementation of internment camps and massive deportations.

This law creates controls on all foreigner's movement and forces them to register themselves at a police station.

British Nationality Act

The 1914 British Nationality Act declared that all inhabitants of the dominions and colonies owed allegiance to the crown and were, therefore, British Subjects; but not all British subjects had the right of entry into a particular dominion or colonly » (Cesarani, 1996: 63). 

Allowed a reformulation of British nationality and naturalization process in order to forbid foreigners from hostile countries as well as colonies to enter on British land to establish themselves.

1918 & 1922
Amended Acts on Nationality

Increase powers of minister to revoke naturalization certificats and forbid naturalization of foreigners from former hostile countries. 

Alien Act

Executif power used to have virtually illimited legal powers on foreigners.  « In 1919 the Aliens Restrictions (Amendment) Act retained much of the wartime control over aliens. The Act was passed as a temporary measure but was renewed every year until 1971 » (Bloch & Schuster, 2005: 494). Under the 1919 Law, foreigners needed to report themselves to the police. (Saunders, 2003: 32). 

Aliens Order

Further restrict the establishment of immigrants that do not have sufficiant means to support their needs and the needs of their family.

Contribute to the implementation of a migration control system which aims to regulate the entry of economic migrants by creating working permits. 

Special Restriction (Coloured Alien Seaman)

Objective: reduce the number of African and Asian marines to enter the country.

Black seamen now had to register with the police and carry identification papers; if challenged by the police they had to prove their nationality » (Cesarani, 1992: 39). « The Order was applied to all coloured seamen, initially in thirteen major ports but extended in 1926 to all ports, with the result that it became virtually impossible to be coloured and British at the same time ».

Defence Regulation

Internments could take place under Section 18B of the Defence Regulations of 1939, which allowed for 'hostile' persons to be interned. 

Under Article 12(6) of the Aliens Order of 1920 the Home Secretary could order deportations » (Saunders, 2003: 32).

Absolute power to detain foreigners.

British Nationality Act

Everyone who managed to prove that they were born within the British Empire (including the colonies), could get UK citizenship and all the benefits that it brought. 

They had a right to family reunification and could bring their families with them. 

Conferred the status of British citizen to all Commonwealth subjects and recognised their right to work and settle in the UK with their families.

The Commonwealth Immigration Act

Only those whose CUKC passports had been issued by the British government or by a representative of the government would be free from controls.

Now required that Commonwealth citizens should be subject to control in order to satisfy an immigration officer that they were entitled to enter on one of 3 specific grounds.

Commonwealth families were given priority. 

Implementation of work vouchers. 

Commonwealth Immigration Act

Confined the right of entry to those UK citizens who had a close ancestral links with the UK.

It extended control of those without a parent or grandparent who was born in or was a citizen of the UK.

Limits entry to children below 16 and whose parents were already settled or were about to become settled in the UK.

Immigration Appeals Act

Establishes a system of adjudicators and an Immigration Appeal Tribunal.

Also gives power to the Secretary of State to deport Commonwealth citizens who are in violation of their conditions of admissions (but those who had been resident for five years were exempted). 

Immigration Act

States that the husbands have to be able to support and accommodate their wife without recourse to public funds.

The admission for settlement of husbands and fiancés of Commonwealth citizens or aliens was dependant on the decision of the Home Secretary who had to be satisfied “that there were special considerations which rendered exclusion undesirable” or if, in the case of Commonwealth citizens, they had a grandparent born in the UK.

Implementation of work permits, allowing temporary residence.

Made deportation possible for both aliens and Commonwealth citizens in case they violated a condition or overstayed.

Preserved the rights of dependants to enter as secondary immigrants.

Discretionnary power given to immigration officers. 

Race Relations Act

Provisions with respect to discrimination on racial grounds and relations between people of different racial groups.

Creates the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE)

Primary Purpose Rule

Required would-be spousal migrants to demonstrate that the primary purpose of the marriage was not immigration.

British Nationality Act

Was intended to make new provisions about citizenship and nationality, and also amend the Immigration Act 1971 as far as the right of abode in the UK was concerned.

Resolve the problematic of United Kingdom and Colonies citizenship (CUKC) by replacing it with three different types of citizenship: British citizenship, Dependant territories citizenship and overseas territories citizenship. 

Immigration and Asylum Appeals Act

Maintains the right for asylum seekers to appeal a decision while setting strict time limits within which the authorities in this regard should decide

Immigration and Asylum Act

The category of people subject to being deported is enlarge to include people with expired visa, people that do not respect the conditions of their stay permit or people that made false declaration on their immigration forms. 

In line with Art. 24, the registrars had the obligation to report all suspect marriage to autorities, which officialises a current practice. Sham marriage is defined in the same article as a marriage contracted in order to avoid the effects of one or more dispositions of the law or policies of British immigration.

Immigration and Asylum Act

Everyone subject to immigration control (excluding individuals with unlimited residence permit or with fiancé/marriage visa) must obtain a certificate allowing him or her to marry in the UK. Otherwise, the person must exit the UK territories and apply for a visa to wed in the UK (temporary entry) or a fiancé visa (which allows the person to stay in the UK following the wedding).

The Immigration (Procedure for Marriage) Regulations

Restrictions for immigrants (No EEA national) subject to immigration control to legally wed in the UK. Marriages of people placed under this definition need the consent of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The consent takes the form of a certificate of approval or entry clearance.

R (on the application of Baiai and others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2006] EWHC 823

Partially revoked the restrictions on marriage for migrants subject to immigration control.

Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act

The court may make an order for the purposes of protecting—

(a) a person from being forced into a marriage or from any attempt to be forced into a marriage; or

(b)a person who has been forced into a marriage.


Minimum Age requirement for marriage

The need to have 21 years instead of 18 years of age to be legally married. 

Language requirements for UK nationals’ partners

UK nationals’ partners who apply for a visa to enter the UK have to demonstrate an elementary level of the English language (A1)

Immigration changes

After the Quila and Bibi v Secretary for the Home Department decision, the UK government put a marriage age from 21 years old to 18 years old

Immigration changes

a) The probationary period for non-EEA spouses: In July 2012, the UK increased the probationary period from two to five years before permanent residence (a.k.a “indefinite leave to remain” or “settlement”) can be granted to non-EEA spouses b) Minimum income requirement: If a British citizen wants to sponsor his spouse, his minimum income requirement has to be at least £18,600 c) English language test and life in the UK test: All applicants for indefinite leave are required to have at least an intermediate level of English (B1)

Immigration Act (IA 2014)

The standard notice period for marriages and civil partnerships is increased from 15 days to 28 days. If one party is a non-European citizen who is not exempt from immigration control, an automatic referral will be made by the registrar to the Home Office in order to verify if a marriage or a civil partnership was solely concluded for immigration purposes. The Immigration Act guidance to Courts mentions expressly that “little weight should be given to a private life and a relationship formed” with a British citizen

Anti-social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act

Criminalised forced marriage.

Immigration regulations

Britain cannot impose anymore a blanket visa requirement on family members originally from outside Europe but who have valid EU residence rights