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Immigration Law Definition
Global movement is on the rise, with living, working, and studying abroad now more the norm than the exception. As one of the world’s most popular destinations, the UK must balance effective immigration control against attracting inward talent and investment.
The Home Office governs immigration to the UK, through UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The UKVI supports the Home Office’s priorities of securing the UK’s borders, controlling entry, cutting crime, and protecting UK citizens from terrorism, through close scrutiny of applications and through their exercise of powers to refuse applicants deemed unsuitable for entry.
With the exception of some short-term visitors who can seek entry to the UK on arrival at a UK port, most non-EU nationals seeking to visit, study, work, join family, invest, or establish a business in the UK will be required to apply for leave to enter the UK through the UKVI before travelling to the UK. Lawyers assist clients with demonstrating that they meet the requirements of published (and oft revised) rules.
Immigration law can be viewed in five categories, with much crossover:
(1) Corporate and business-related immigration applications, including applications by businesses to be granted ‘Sponsor’ status (with stringent compliance obligations) to obtain employment permission for new hires and overseas employees or to establish sole representatives in the UK
(2) Personal immigration, including visitors; Tier 1 Investors; Entrepreneurs and the Exceptionally Talented; Tier 4 Students; and Tier 5 schemes
(3) Family-related immigration for family members of UK citizens, including partners and children
(4) Those seeking refugee status or humanitarian protection
(5) EU rights of free movement and establishment in the UK, which can extend to non-EU family members of EU nationals
UK practitioners tend to either focus solely on immigration or on immigration as part of a broader employment practice. Immigration is recognised as a specialised area of law due to the complexity of related legislation and policies. Potential bans on entry create a strong burden on the individual or business to get applications right the first time, as refusals carry reputational risk and create practical hardship. Obligations continue once in the UK, and failure to comply with the terms on which leave is granted can lead to civil, criminal, and financial penalties for businesses and individuals alike.
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