UK Immigration: Explained

19th March 2015 By ,   5 Comments

Stop moaning about immigration and tell me how it works by Mollie Malone.

As IPSOS Mori tells us, immigration is up there with the NHS and the economy as things the British public is most concerned about. We wondered whether anyone had done an explainer on how immigration actually works in this country, there’s not much that’s easy to chew on, but here goes…

Britain is worried (surprise!)

Issues facing Britain March

Immigration: Immigration happens when an individual or a family move to a new country from their country of origin with due formalities at the embassy. Immigration means people entering a particular country, from the perspective of the country receiving them.

Emigration: leaving the country.

Migration: the act of moving.

Net Migration: the amount by which the number of immigrants (people arriving) is larger than the number of emigrants (the people leaving). You might hear people say ‘Net Immigration’ – but that’s not a thing, because you need to factor in people leaving the country to get a proper figure.

In recent months David Cameron’s immigration policy has not been given an easy ride. We want to understand why everyone has been kicking up a fuss about immigration. So here’s every argument and counterargument you will ever hear about immigration, in one infinite infographic.



How Does Our Current Immigration System Actually Work?

“Look at Australia, whose points-based system we now operate in Britain” (David Cameron: November 2014.)

So, according to the Prime Minister’s speech in November, the UK’s immigration procedure operates in line with a points based system. This is only for non-EU immigrants, though Nigel Farage and UKIP would like to see this extended to include EU immigrants too.

Rewind What’s A Points Based System?

A points based system is the criteria that the UK government uses to select which migrants are allowed to come here. It only applies to non – EU migrants. This system was introduced in February 2008 by the previous Labour government, but has since been adopted by the Coalition, who have made changes. There are four different tiers, and each tier offers its own allocation of ‘points’ based on different attributes.

Be warned: it does seem very much like a cherry picking exercise….

uk points system.001

Each tier has its own specific allocation of points for certain characteristics. For example, in tier one, a person would earn points according to their;

  • English language ability
  • Ability to support themselves financially
  • Age

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough…

The immigration rules also state that anyone planning to stay in the UK longer than six months should have a medical check up, which they have to pay for. This is predominately to check that they’re not of medical danger to anyone else in the UK.

By the way, the immigration debate is totally rigged, because the government doesn’t actually want to reduce immigration as much as it says it does. Here’s a theory that tells you why.

But all the parties have their own idea about how to address the immigration system. But hey, that’s Politics. Take a look at our quick fire round if you’re interested in where the parties stand on this.

So, We Have A Points Based System For Non-EU Migrants. Where Does That Leave Our European Pals?

Free movement means that a citizen of an EU Member state can:

1. Travel to another Member state using their passport without needing permission to enter.

2. Work in another Member State without the need for a work permit.

3. Set up a business in another Member State.

4. Study in another Member State.

5. Live in retirement in another Member state.

EU law does NOT allow people to move to another Member State and claim social security benefits straight away. As of July 2014, EU job seekers (EU migrants unemployed and looking for work) arriving in the UK will need to have lived in the country for three months minimum to be able to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. After the three months, they will also need to demonstrate that they meet the normal eligibility rules before they claim the benefit.

So What In God’s Sweet Name Is An Asylum Seeker Or A Refugee?


The terms asylum seeker and refugee are quite often confused. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for asylum (applied to BE a refugee) and is waiting for a court decision as to whether or not they have been granted refugee status. You must apply for asylum if you want to stay in the UK as a refugee. An asylum seeker should apply when they arrive in the UK or as soon as they think it’s unsafe to return to their own country. But it’s a bit of a slow burner… it’s usually a 6 month wait to find out the decision made about the application.

Explore: The dangers of making too much of the difference between migrants and refugees.

…And I should probably have mentioned – it is NOT possible to apply for asylum outside of the UK. To be eligible the seeker must have left their country and be unable to go back for genuine reasons…

To be eligible to apply as a refugee, the person must:

  • Be unable to go back to their own country due to fear of persecution
  • Be unable to live safely in any part of their own country
  • Have failed to get protection from authorities in their own country.

The persecution must be because of one of the following factors: race, religion, nationality, political opinion and/or membership of a particular social group that puts them at risk because of the political, social, religious or cultural situation in that country.

Explore: People have been confused about the hench young lads with iPads claiming asylum, what does a refugee actually look like? 

The asylum claim is made at a ‘screening’. This is a meeting with a UK immigration officer where you tell them about your case. The screening takes place at the UK border force. I t doesn’t end here either… there’s at least another five steps. Task and a half if you ask me. To find out more, click here Claim asylum in the UK.

What Happens To People Who Aren’t Granted refugee Status?

You get put into a detention centre until you are either granted asylum once you have proved that you cannot return to your country, you get deported back to where you came from or best case scenario, you have your visa extended.

Detention centres also known as ‘immigration removal centres’ are secured like a prison but we can’t call them that. A few have been recently headlining the news for degrading treatment, suicides and self-harm and sexual harassment of women, we’ll leave it there and let you make your own minds up about them. A list of the centres are here Find an immigration removal centre.



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