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What are your rights?

what are your rights

PLEASE NOTE: we're in the process of reviewing this page. Contact THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 for a referral to an immigration solicitor who will be able to advise you.

  1. Your Rights
  2. Border control
  3. Detention
  4. Visas
  5. Commonwealth

Your Rights

Things to be aware of:

  • Your immigration rights will vary depending on where you were born.
  • If you’re a non-visa national (a national of a country whose citizens don't need visas to enter the UK), then you won’t need a visa, but you may still be refused entry on arrival if you don’t have a genuine reason for coming to the UK.
  • If you’re a visa national you’ll require a visa before you come to the UK - this is called entry clearance, which means that a visa officer will look into your application and possibly interview you to find out your reasons for coming to the UK.

There are other categories under the immigration rules which means you may not need a visa and you will be able to gain entry without permission on arrival.

For further information on visas and extensions, you can visit the UK Visas and Immigration section of the UK Home Office website.

Border control

Can an immigration officer or UK Border Official discriminate against certain groups?

Discrimination by the Government against a national or ethnic group is specifically authorised where evidence shows that a group tends to breach immigration laws.

If you belong to such a group, you may be subjected to more rigorous examination by an immigration officer. You may also be detained, refused permission to enter and remain pending a decision on your case or have a condition or restriction imposed on your permission to enter the UK.


Detention on arrival to the UK

You might be detained on arrival or after you have already entered the UK.

The power to detain people can be exercised by immigration officers. An immigration officer also has the power to grant temporary admission or release from detention.

Immigration officers can detain the following groups of people:

  • People who need to be examined before they can be granted leave to enter the UK.
  • People who were granted leave to enter before they arrived in the UK, but who have been examined since arrival in the UK and who have had their leave to enter suspended. During detention a decision is made about whether to cancel their leave to enter.
  • Illegal entrants and people reasonably suspected of being illegal entrants, while a decision is made about whether to issue removal directions, or until they are removed. 
  • People who had limited leave to enter or remain in the UK and who have broken a condition attached to their leave, for example a prohibition on working.
  • People who obtained leave to enter the UK through deception.
  • The family members of a person who has been given removal directions.
  • Members of the crew of a ship, aircraft or train who failed to leave the UK and rejoin their ship, aircraft or train, or who abscond after having lawfully entered the UK without leave to enter.

Temporary admission to the UK

Rather than be detained, you may be temporarily admitted to the UK. In this case you may be required to meet reporting conditions. This means that you are temporarily admitted with certain restrictions placed eg, on where you stay.

For more information about alternatives to detention consult the UK Visas and Immigration.

Immigration officers can still detain you if you're:

  • found guilty of criminal charges and the court has recommended you for deportation
  • given notice of a decision to make a deportation order
  • due to be deported
  • certified by the Secretary of State as being a risk to national security.


A visa is the entry clearance given to a person from a visa national country (known as a visa national).

A visa national will always require a visa each time they enter the UK.

For more information about visas please visit the UK Visas and Immigration website.

What’s the difference between ‘entry clearance’ and ‘leave to enter’ in the UK?

Whatever type of entry clearance you have, you must travel to the UK within the time stated on the entry clearance - this is normally 6 months. If you wish to travel later than this, you should apply to the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to have the date by which you should have travelled changed.

If you have joint entry clearance and leave to enter, you can legally stay in the UK for the time stated on the entry clearance. If you arrive in the UK after the 'valid from' date on your Visa, you should still leave by the 'valid until' date, even if this results in a shorter stay than desired.

You can, however, apply in the UK to extend your stay.


Commonwealth citizens and the right of abode

Right of abode is a technical term that applies only to British citizens and some Commonwealth citizens.

Commonwealth citizens with right of abode have the same rights in the UK as British citizens. They’re free from immigration control. A list of Commonwealth countries is available on the Commonwealth website.

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen, you’ll have right of abode if you were born before 1 January 1983 and:

  • At the time of your birth, your mother was a Citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) born in the UK (which included Eire before 31 March 1922). If your father was born in the UK, you may be a British citizen.
  • You’re a woman who was, at any time before 1 January 1983, married to a man with right of abode (which includes a man who is a British citizen).

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen with right of abode who wishes to enter the UK, you must prove that you have right of abode by producing a Certificate of Entitlement. You should apply for this at your nearest British Embassy or High Commission before travelling to the UK. The Certificate of Entitlement is valid for the same period as your current passport. It can be revoked if you produce evidence that you have become a British citizen, or a British subject with right of abode.

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen (or British citizen) with right of abode, you have the right to stay in the UK with no conditions and to come and go as you please. Unlike people with indefinite leave to remain, if you have right of abode, you can re-enter the UK without restrictions even after absences of more than two years.

The main situation with immigration control that may affect you is if you wish to bring a spouse, civil partner or dependent relative into the UK. However, spouses and civil partners of EU nationals shouldn’t be affected as long as they can prove their identity and their relationship to an EU national.

If you’re in one of the categories described above, you’ll generally be able to:

  • move freely in and out of the UK
  • work in the UK
  • claim Social Security benefits - there may sometimes be problems over entitlement eg, you may not pass the Habitual Residence Test.

These rights may be restricted in some circumstances. Sometimes, some immigration control may apply. For example, most settled people can’t leave the UK for more than two years without the risk of losing their settled status.

‹‹ Next: Immigration and healthcare


The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 19/9/2014 by C. Berry

Date due for the next review: 19/9/2017

Content Author: J. Font

Current Owner: D. Anyanwu

More information:

Citizen's Advice, Advisernet - Getting entry clearance and leave to enter