Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership

Immigration Legislation


Although immigration legislation itself is a reserved matter for Westminster, managed and enforced by the Home Office, it is binding on all areas of the UK.  While not directly responsible for the development of immigration legislation, the Northern Ireland Assembly has responsibility for legislating in areas which will be impacted by its implementation, such as housing, health, education and policing.  It is therefore important for Northern Ireland politicians, policy makers and service providers to be aware of immigration legislation passing through parliament and to participate actively in the consultation process.

 Key UK immigration legislation includes: 

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002

This Act includes a number of provisions about the way in which those in the asylum system are supported. It introduces citizenship ceremonies and measures against sham marriages.

Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004

Among its provisions, this Act introduced a single form of appeal and established the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal to consider all appeals against immigration and asylum decisions. It withdrew support for refused asylum seekers with children who did failed to take reasonable steps to leave the UK voluntarily.

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006

Among the provisions, this act introduced a system of fines payable by employers for each illegal employee. It also granted powers to the home secretary to remove British citizenship from dual nationals if deemed conducive to the public good.

UK Borders Act 2007

This act provided immigration officers with police-like powers, including increased detention, entry, search and seizure powers. It also brought in the power to impose compulsory biometric identity cards for non-EU migrants.

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009

This act amended the rules on naturalisation so that those seeking citizenship need to have had residential status for eight years before being eligible. For those seeking naturalisation through marriage or civil partnership, a period of five years’ residential status was required. The act also allowed imposed a duty on the home secretary to safeguard and promote the welfare of children during the discharge of functions relating to immigration, asylum or nationality.

Immigration Act 2014

Among its provisions, this act covers new powers to regulate migrants’ access to services. In general, landlords will be liable to a civil penalty if they rent out premises to migrants who are not lawfully present in the UK. This scheme has been piloted in the West Midlands and has not yet been rolled out to Northern Ireland. Migrants with time-limited immigration status, such as certain categories of workers and students, can be required to make a contribution to the NHS via a charge payable when applying for entry clearance or an extension of their leave to enter or remain. Banks will be required to undertake an immigration status check before opening a current account and will be prohibited from opening new accounts for those who are known to be unlawfully in the UK. Provision is also made for the enforcement of civil penalties against employers of persons without a right to work in the UK.


Northern Ireland Equality Legislation


The Northern Ireland Act (1998) developed a framework of statutory responsibilities and detailed safeguards for equality under Section 75 which identifies a ‘statutory duty on public promote equality of opportunity between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation.’

Public bodies need robust information to monitor inequalities, develop evidence-based policy and to plan service delivery.  In 2011 the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister published Guidance for Monitoring Racial Equality to assist public bodies in improving service delivery and equality for minority ethnic and migrant groups living in Northern Ireland.  The guidance presents a standardised monitoring framework for the collection of data.  

The Equality Commission has a number of publications which provide guidance to public authorities and registered employers (those with 11 or more full-time employees) on meeting their obligations under equality legislation: 


Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership