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What is Immigration Control?

Immigration Control

Immigration control is about how and why people from countries outside the UK are allowed to come to the UK and how long they can stay. It is also about what they are allowed to do when they are in the UK, for example, whether they can work, whether relatives can come to the UK to join them afterwards, and whether they can use the National Health Service or claim benefits.

The rules about immigration control (which are law) are complicated by the fact that they overlap with nationality law - that is, the law about who is or is not a British citizen, and the rights of the different types of British citizen.

The system of immigration control in the UK splits people into two broad categories: those who have 'right of abode' in the UK and who can live, work and move in and out of the country as they wish, and those who require permission in order to enter and remain here.

There are certain groups of people who do not fit easily into these two categories and who do not have to get leave to 'enter and remain' even though they do not have 'right of abode'. Included in this group are people who can benefit from European rights of free movement.

Where people do need leave to enter the UK, immigration rules set out various ways in which it can be granted. Some examples of different immigration categories are: 'visitor', 'spouse' and 'student'. In each category, the rules indicate different requirements that must be satisfied before someone will be granted leave to come and stay. For example, students must show that they will follow a full time course of study. The rules require that most of the categories of people coming to the UK will be able to support themselves without relying on public funds.

The immigration rules also specify how long leave to remain in the UK should be granted for. Leave to remain can be either 'limited' or 'indefinite.' Limited leave is granted to people who are coming to the UK for 'temporary' reasons, for example, as students. Other people applying for leave to remain may be eligible for 'indefinite' leave, with the possibility of being able to apply for UK citizenship.

People in most 'temporary' categories, such as visitors, will also need to show that they intend to leave the country when the purpose of their stay is over.

People who require leave to enter the UK will usually need to get 'entry clearance' to show that they are entitled to enter the UK under the immigration rules. There are detailed rules about how to qualify for entry clearance within each category of applicant coming to the UK. Some groups, such as refugees and asylum seekers do not require entry clearance, but most do.

In the rest of this information, you can find a list of some of the immigration problems which you may need advice on, as well as a list of organisations which may be able to help. You should bear in mind that immigration laws are strictly enforced in the UK and the consequences of misunderstanding your right to be here can be very serious. It can include the risk of deportation. It is therefore essential to consult a specialist adviser if you are unsure about your position, or the position of family and friends.

There is also information about immigration queries on the GOV.UK website at If you want to apply to become a British citizen there is information about this at If you are not sure what immigration form you need to use you will find all the current immigration forms for coming to the UK, extending a stay, or settling in the UK on the GOV.UK website at

This article was published by the Citizens Advice Website

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