The Right to Vote: Exclusion of Millions in the UK Due to Immigration Status

On Friday, the UK has woken up to a seismic shift in the British political landscape, with the Labour Party’s victory in the UK Parliamentary Election. However, this result has been reached without the participation of more than five million people living in the UK who were unable to vote due to their immigration status (as per research by the Migrant Democracy Project).

Wales and Scotland allow anyone who is legally resident to vote in elections for the Senedd Cymru and the Scottish Parliament, as well as some local elections. Meanwhile, in England and Northern Ireland, Commonwealth citizens and some European Union passport holders can vote in local elections. In the UK-wide general elections, however, it is only UK and commonwealth citizens that are eligible to vote.

Immigration has been a hugely significant factor in this election, but, as result of this exclusion, the voices of migrants themselves are often absent from these public discussions, even in cases where they have been resident in the UK for decades. For people who hold EU passports and have settled status in the UK, this inability to vote can be very demoralising – they can live, study, work, and pay taxes in the UK, but are excluded from voting.

This can be seen starkly in the NHS – almost half of all registered doctors in Britain earned their medical qualifications outside the country, which would suggest that huge portions of the industry are not able to have a say in national matters.

The high cost of citizenship is likely to be a significant barrier for many migrants. According to estimates by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, an individual skilled worker in the UK with a family of four will pay over £40,000 in immigration charges over the course of several years before they can become eligible for UK citizenship.

If you would like to receive advice regarding your immigration status and right to vote in the UK, please feel free to get in touch with our immigration lawyers on 0203 146 3549 or by email.


All of our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.

– Luke Hollway

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