Migrants no longer subject to police registration requirement

By Amer Zaman

on September 26, 2022

Read Time: 7 Minutes

On Friday 5th August 2022, it emerged that the UK Government had decided to put an end to the long-established Police Registration Scheme for migrants to the country, with immediate effect.

This tightening of the rules took effect from 4th June 2020. The old system was open to problems with the way it was applied, and the new rules would make the process of trying to get approved for this visa even more difficult, not least by increasing the evidential burden on the sole representative.

It has been nearly two years since the updated application process was implemented. What have the changes done to the difficulty of applying for a Sole Representative visa, and what else does a would-be applicant need to know about the process now? Below, we have explored the key questions.

What was the Police Registration Scheme?

The Police Registration Scheme was a long-lived set of arrangements whereby certain foreign nationals were required to register with the police on their arrival in the UK.

The first version of the scheme was put in place more than a century ago, the Aliens Restriction Act 1914 – passed, according to The National Archives, the day after the UK declared war on Germany – having required all “aliens” to register with the police. The term “aliens” referred to foreign nationals who were not British subjects, and if they failed to comply, they risked being deported.

At the time, it was thought that the legislation was of a mere temporary nature in response to the emergency circumstances at the time. However, the police registration requirement remained in place after the cessation of hostilities in 1918, and it kept on providing a basis for the regulation of aliens’ entry into the UK until the Immigration Act 1971 took effect.

What were migrants required to do under the Police Registration Scheme?

With the introduction of the new rules, there has been an increase in the burden of proof for not only overseas organisations, but Sole Representatives as well.

The Aliens Restriction Act and the associated Aliens Orders provided a loose basis for what eventually became today’s Immigration Rules. It was these rules that set out the migrants who remained subject to the police registration requirement in recent years.

In these more recent times, migrants affected under the scheme were specified nationals of the more than 40 countries listed under Appendix 2 of the Immigration Rules, or those who satisfied the conditions of paragraphs 325 and 326 of the Immigration Rules. The latter included stateless persons and migrants who held non-national travel documents.

The countries or territories in question under Appendix 2 were:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Argentina
  • Argentina
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Belarus
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Georgia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Moldova
  • Morocco
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Palestine
  • Peru
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan
  • Uzbekistan

It was expected that migrants subject to the requirements of the scheme would register with the police as a condition of their permission to enter or permission to stay in the UK.

Such individuals were obliged to pay a visit to the Overseas Visitors Registration Office at a local police station, within seven days of their entry into the UK. The migrant would then be issued with a police registration certificate, and they were expected to keep it updated for the duration of their time in the UK.

What has the Home Office said about its “new deal with Nigeria”?

This is where the matter becomes somewhat confusing. The Metropolitan Police website was quietly updated with a notice stating that the scheme had been immediately abolished on 4th August 2022. The notice originally said that affected migrants would require a new visa, which isn’t actually the case. Some Home Office stakeholders were also privately informed that the scheme had been suspended with immediate effect.

Eventually, the Home Office website was updated with information on the development. It stated that migrants who were previously subject to the requirement “no longer need to register with the police”, adding that the GOV.UK page previously explaining the scheme was “currently out of date”. While still available to read on GOV.UK, guidance for immigration staff on the scheme was declared “withdrawn” as of 4th August 2022.

Why has the Home Office abolished the scheme?

An announcement on the end of the scheme sent to numerous stakeholders provided insight into the Government’s thinking on the matter.

It stated that the requirement for certain migrants to register with the police had been abolished because the scheme “in its current form is outdated and no longer provides any public protection benefit to either the Home Office or the police.

“The data a migrant provides to the police on registration is already captured by the Home Office at the visa application stage, and is available to the police on request via Immigration Enforcement, so there is no need for it to be provided twice.”

The statement added that the wider immigration system had undergone changes since the scheme’s introduction that meant greater numbers of people were screened prior to travelling to the UK, thereby giving the Home Office earlier opportunities to identify “those of concern”.

Putting aside the Home Office’s own words, it had been clear for some time that the police registration requirement had become an onerous one for all parties involved. It was a requirement that felt increasingly pointless and inconvenient for migrants who had already supplied plentiful information about themselves at the visa application stage, while it also sapped the time and energy of police forces and an overrun and understaffed Home Office.

Has the Police Registration System been abolished?

For practical purposes from the perspective of a migrant who was or would have been subject to the Police Registration Scheme, yes, the requirement to register with the police can now be considered abolished. The Home Office has conveyed through multiple channels that this is the case, including the public-facing sections covering the scheme on the GOV.UK website.

However, it is also worth acknowledging that the scheme still exists as a matter of law. This is because the outgoing version of the scheme was effectively brought into being by a combination of the Immigration (Registration with Police) Regulations 1972 (as amended) and the Immigration Rules (specifically, Part 10: registering with the police, and Appendix 2: police registration).

At the time of typing, the aforementioned legal provisions were still in place; the Government having circulated an announcement and updated GOV.UK does not, in itself, change the legal requirement. This means that in theory, an affected migrant failing to register with the police or to notify the police of a change of details would constitute a breach of their conditions, with the risk of prosecution.

Indeed, Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 sets out that a failure to comply with immigration conditions is a criminal offence, potentially attracting a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment.

However, following the Home Office’s announcement that the scheme will end, there would seem to our immigration experts to be an exceptionally low likelihood of anyone still being prosecuted in relation to any failure to keep on registering with the police. We presume that the relevant law will soon be repealed, and that it will not be enforced until then.

If you are an affected migrant, what should you do now?

While, at the time of typing, the Police Registration Scheme still exists as a matter of UK law, the advice of our immigration specialists here at Cranbrook Legal is that if you are a prospective or current migrant to the UK who is or would have been subject to the police registration requirement, you can rely on the Home Office’s own announcement that the scheme has been abolished. Presumably, the actual law setting out the requirement will be repealed in due course.

As we explained above, the Home Office has circulated the news of the scheme’s abolition to stakeholders, and has made it clear on the relevant pages of GOV.UK that there is no longer a requirement for migrants to register with the police.

In the words of the Home Office in its previously circulated announcement: “Migrants who have been issued with a visa with the requirement to register on it do not need to go to a police station to register. If a migrant has previously registered with the police, they do not need to do anything.”

So, even if you are a foreign national who has already arranged an appointment with the police for the purposes of complying with this requirement, you will no longer be obliged to attend. And if you have already registered, you will no longer need to let the police know about any future change of circumstances.

While the news of the police registration requirement’s demise is certainly welcome in the much-changed circumstances of the 2020s, the haphazard way in which the change was announced and implemented is regrettable. It has, and is sure to continue causing confusion among many migrants who may be under the impression that they still need to register with the police, and to update them on any changes.

If you are a current or would-be migrant who may be impacted by this change, you are welcome to contact the Cranbrook Legal team today, by calling 0208 215 0053, for further advice and guidance. You can also enquire to our immigration lawyers by completing and submitting our online contact form to request a free consultation.

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