Home Office officials have made more than 5,700 changes to the immigration rules since 2010. More than 1,300 changes were made in 2012 alone.
A Guardian analysis has revealed it is making the visa system nearly impossible to navigate. The rules have more than doubled in length to almost 375,000 words, resulting in a complex system which has been called “something of a disgrace” by Lord Justice Irwin.
The analysis shows that at some points the Home Office introduced changes at dizzying speed, publishing new sets of changes a week apart or less on seven occasions. One document was published in March 2014 with 22 changes, only to be superseded three days later by a second version containing another 250 changes. The overall number of changes made to the rules since 2010 spans almost 600,000 words, running to a length greater than Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace.
The immigration and asylum barrister Colin Yeo said that “the rules are so precise” it has become essential to use a lawyer, forcing applicants to pay “astronomical” legal fees. Attempts to eliminate discretion from the rules since 2012 have instead “removed any human element, humane judgments. It’s a ‘computer says no’ exercise.
“The frequency of the changes mean it’s very difficult to keep on top of them,” Yeo said. “You have to read everything that’s coming out and it’s very hard to be certain you’ve captured every single change that might be relevant to your clients. The changes are often hurried out, which means they can be badly written. They can be very difficult to understand, even for judges and lawyers. We’ve seen a number of errors in drafting that have to be corrected in later versions.”