The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q1 2016) Contents


1.The Home Office releases immigration statistics on a quarterly basis. The statistics provide an overview of the Home Office’s work on immigration control, entry clearance, asylum and enforcement, and provide a platform for us to assess the performance of the Department, and particularly the UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force directorates. In line with the timescale for publication of the statistics, we carry out this scrutiny on a quarterly basis. We do so by studying key indicators of performance across quarters as well as over longer periods. Those indicators include:

This Report covers Q1 2016 (January–March).

2.In addition to the release of Home Office immigration statistics, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes a Migration Statistics Quarterly Report. The latest ONS report (published in May 2016) showed that in the year ending December 2015 net long-term international migration (a period of at least a year in a country that is not a person’s usual residence) was 333,000, an increase of 20,000 from the year ending December 2014 and significantly above the Government’s target of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands. As shown in the table below, the net increase was the result of a decrease in emigration and immigration being at a similar level to the previous year. Immigration from Non-EU citizens continued to be higher than from EU citizens. However, the gap was much closer than in previous years.

Table 1: Long-term international migration: United Kingdom (thousands)1

Year ending 12/2014 000s

Year ending 12/2015 000s














EU Total







EU 15







EU 8







EU 2





















Source: Office for National Statistics, Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, May 2016

Figure 1: Long-term international migration: UK, 2005–2015 (YE December 2015)

Source: Office for National Statistics, Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, May 2016

3.In the Referendum held on 23 June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Implementing such a decision will have a huge impact on the work of the Immigration Directorates, both in the short-term, when more people might seek to move to the UK before any migration rule changes and in the longer term as new immigration arrangements are agreed and implemented.

4.The Government have guaranteed that while the UK remains part of the EU the rights of the 2.9 million EU citizens living in the UK will be unaffected but it has stopped short of guaranteeing those rights indefinitely. The Government’s position is that the rights of EU citizens settled in the UK will be considered in conjunction with the rights of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.2 In a statement published on 11 July 2016 the Government set out the position regarding a permanent right to reside in the UK:

EU nationals who have lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least 5 years automatically have a permanent right to reside. This means that they have a right to live in the UK permanently, in accordance with EU law. There is no requirement to register for documentation to confirm this status.

EU nationals who have lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least 6 years are eligible to apply for British citizenship if they would like to do so. 3

5.We questioned the Minister on what effect the UK leaving the EU would have on the five year rule on the right to permanent residence as it is based on EU law. The Minister explained that having established that right “as a matter of law it would be virtually impossible—through the ECHR, article 8 and anything else—to take that away from them.”4 The Minister also told us that for EU citizens “there is no requirement to register for documentation to confirm this status”.5

6.Moves to tighten immigration controls for non-UK citizens seeking to come to the UK, following the outcome of the EU Referendum, will have obvious implications for the work of the Immigration Directorates, whatever the final terms of the agreement with the EU are. Past experience has shown that previous attempts to tighten immigration rules have led to a spike in immigration prior to the rules coming into force. Much will depend on the negotiations between the UK and the EU and the details of any deal to retain or constrain the free movement of people and the rights of those EU/EEA citizens arriving in the UK and UK citizens living in the European Union. If changes to the system of immigration are to work, the Government must ensure that the relevant directorates, notably UK Visas & Immigration, are given the additional resources they will certainly need to deal with their increased workload effectively.

7.The outcome of the EU referendum has placed EU nationals living in the UK in a potentially very difficult and uncertain position. The key to resolving this is certainty. EU citizens living and working in the UK must be told where they stand in relation to the UK leaving the EU and they should not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations. There also has to be an effective cut-off date to avoid a surge in applications. The most obvious dates include the date of the Referendum, 23 June 2016, the date Article 50 is triggered or the date when the UK actually leaves the EU. EU citizens settled in the UK before the chosen date should be afforded the right to permanent residence. The challenge of successfully resolving the practicalities of the UK exit in relation to EU citizens must not be underestimated. A unit should be established in the Home Office to deal with this issue, in addition to the newly-established Department for Exiting the European Union headed by the newly-appointed Secretary of State, Rt Hon David Davis MP.

8.Establishing where EU citizens live and work is the first step in the process of clarifying their right to permanent residence in the UK. The first option may be registration, a second may be identification by National Insurance number. Whatever scheme the Government follows should be chosen as quickly as possible and be made as seamless as possible. If a system of registration is required then a pilot should be established with a local authority so that practical considerations can be further explored.

1 EU 2 comprises Bulgaria and Romania, EU 8 comprises the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, EU 15 comprises Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

2 Q174 [James Brokenshire MP, Minister for Immigration]

3, Status of EU nationals living in the UK, 11 July 2016

4 Q228

5 Q227

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25 July 2016