How do people become undocumented?


In this short video we will be looking at the question – How do people become undocumented?

Many people might have the image of men, women and children taking desperate journey’s to come to the UK either huddled up in a boat or hiding in the back of a lorry.

The truth is that the majority of undocumented people arrived in the UK by legitimate means, meaning, just like anyone else, they would have had the right to enter and/or remain in the UK at some point in their lives, most likely arriving by aeroplane and through passport control at any of the ports of entry in the UK. 

For example, perhaps someone came to pursue an undergraduate or masters degree on a student visa and prior to or after completion experiences difficulties maintaining or extending their permission (also known as leave) to remain in the UK; or

they were in love and came to start a family with their partner but the relationship breaks down and they lose their partner visa ; or 

they got sponsored to work for an employer initially, and they are unable to extend their stay here after the contract ends ; or 

as with some, they were born right here in the UK to undocumented parents or to immigrant parents with temporary leave to remain who find themselves unable to secure permission to stay for some or all of their children due to economic hardship

A smaller number of people do enter the UK by irregularised means and many of them, seeking safety and better lives, apply for asylum, with a small number who are refused ending up staying here either to appeal the decision or forced to live in the shadows, especially if the old home isn’t a favourable place to return to. 

Some are even trafficked from the origin country, en route, or after arriving here.

The truth is, there are many ways people end up in this situation and it is important to remember that, in most cases, however someone travelled to the UK, it is very rarely ever anyone’s plan to be undocumented for a long period of time, as people would much rather have safe and secure immigration status wherever they choose to live. 

However, the UK’s existing immigration rules make it impossible for most undocumented people to regularise their status, serving only to prolong the precarity of their situation.

For example, someone who came to the UK aged 19 and has been living here for 15 years would need to wait another 5 years before being eligible to regularise their immigration status and gain temporary leave to remain.

Instead, the situation for undocumented people could be easily addressed through a regularisation procedure that is accessible for anyone who finds themselves being made undocumented for whatever reason. 

Being able to regularise earlier would prevent some of the unnecessary hardships experienced by undocumented people.

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