News & Insights

The Nationality and Borders Act

The controversial Nationality and Borders Act has received Royal Assent. Head of Immigration Imelda Reddington considers the changes introduced by the Act and the impact they may have on the immigration process.

The Nationality and Borders Bill received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, becoming an Act of Parliament. The Act forms part of the UK Government’s New Plan for Immigration, by which they aim to deter illegal entry into the UK and remove those without permission to stay.

Some of the most notable changes introduced by the Act include:

  • ETA scheme: a US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme set to be operational by the end of 2024 will require all individuals, other than British and Irish citizens, to seek permission in advance of travelling to the UK.
  • Two-tier system for entrants: individuals who enter the UK by irregular means may receive less favourable treatment and support – particularly those who arrive on small boats via the British Channel.
  • Harsher penalties: people smugglers will now face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, with individuals who enter the UK illegally or overstay facing up to four years in prison.
  • Administrative changes: the act also removes the option to appeal in certain circumstances, and grants the Immigrational Tribunal powers to fine lawyers for improper, unreasonable or negligent conduct – part of an effort to stop what the Home Office refer to as the “merry-go-round of legal challenges”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has also promised to establish further agreements with “safe third countries” for the deportation of inadmissible asylum applicants, similar to the one made with Rwanda earlier this year. You can read more about that here.

The Bill suffered several defeats in the House of Lords, such that some of the provisions have been watered down or removed for the final version. However, the Act has still received fierce criticism from various corners. The UNHCR have claimed that the Act will “penalise most refugees seeking asylum in the [UK]” and the Refugee Council have called the Act “inhumane”. The Law Society also voiced its concerns that the penalties for refugees entering the UK via irregular means might be incompatible with the Refugee Convention 1951.