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Immigration solicitor Anne Morris questions how the Home Office will deliver complete UK immigration reform when it is already struggling under the current status quo.

By January 2021, the UK will have a new immigration system in place. New rules, different rights, revised processes. It will be the biggest shake-up in our immigration regime since joining the European Union.

But how will the Home Office, with its difficult and flawed track record in visa processing and decision-making, cope with developing and implementing the infrastructure critical to the new system?

Mounting caseload ahead

Reform will follow outline proposals made by the Government in its 2018 White Paper on immigration. Fundamentally, preferences on the basis of nationality will be removed and replaced with a skills-based approach.

The end of EU free movement will see EU citizens become subject to the full reach and force of the UK immigration rules. Any EEA nationals wanting to come to the UK under the new regime will have to apply for and secure the relevant permission.

The operational implications for the Home Office cannot be understated. Not only will it be responsible for handling and issuing all visas to EU citizens entering the UK, immigration enforcement and border control will also need to be adapted to meet an expanded remit.

The Home Office is also responsible for ensuring that all 3 million EU citizens already in the UK have registered for the new settlement scheme by 30 June 2021 if we leave the EU with a deal, or 31 December 2020 in the increasingly likely event of a no deal Brexit.

Fewer than 700,000 applications for settled status have so far been made, indicating there is some way to go. The problem this raises for the Home Office is that those who don’t register their status will be left undocumented and illegal after Brexit, risking yet another Windrush scandal. Read more

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