Saturday, 8 June 2013

The New Immigration Bill - Its Impact on Migrants

In the Queen’s speech on 8 May 2013 marking the beginning of the new parliamentary session, the UK Coalition Government laid out the key pieces of legislation that it intends to create over the next year.

One of the key legislation announced in the Queen’s speech is the Immigration Bill.
The new Immigration Bill is meant to stop foreigners coming to the UK from benefitting from the NHS and other public services.

The Coalition Government disclosed that the Bill will:
a.      Regulate migrants’ access to the NHS
b.      Require landlords to carry out “Right to Occupy” checks on tenants to ensure they are legal migrants
c.      Introduce tighter checks on people obtaining UK Drivers Licence.

Another aspect of the Bill is geared towards making it easier to remove or deport foreigners from the UK through limiting their Rights of Appeal as well as their rights under the Human Rights Act. 

Regulating Migrants’ Access to the NHS

This is meant to stop foreigners coming to the UK benefitting from free access to the NHS.

One of the proposals put forward to regulate Migrants’ access to the NHS is to make foreigners pay medical insurance.

“Right to Occupy” Checks by Landlords

This “Right to Occupy” checks will require landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, to ensure that tenants occupying their property are not living in the UK illegally. It is meant to stop illegal immigrants from being able to rent accommodation in the UK. In order words, the Coalition Government does not want illegal immigrants to have a place of shelter.

How this legislation will operate is not yet spelt out but, if we have to go by antecedents, I have a feeling that it is likely to run parallel to the “Right to Work” checks placed upon employers to undertake prior to engaging new staff or the regular checks employed to further ascertain the continuous immigration status of employees.

Apart from the uncertainty on how the legislation will operate, another point of note here is what enforcement measure will be put in place by the Coalition Government to police the new legislation?

We know that presently there are penalties against Employers who employ illegal immigrants without carrying out the required document checks prior to the offer of employment to such illegal immigrants.
Such penalties range from heavy fines (up to £10,000 for each illegal immigrants found employed by them), criminal charges and ultimately, prison sentence. The question now is will the same penalties be meted out to Landlords found to rent their property to illegal immigrants?

This legislation, even though it is yet to become operational, it is already creating waves as some landlords, in their quest to safeguard themselves from the likely consequence of a breach of this legislation, have started asking their tenants for their immigration status documents.

I have clients whose landlords have demanded for their status documents and are now faced with the prospect of losing their accommodation in the event that the UKBA does not decide on their pending application on time.    

Only time will tell how this piece of legislation will impact on both landlords and tenants alike. A piece of advice for landlords is to be on the look out for further announcement on this piece of legislation to ensure they are not caught out when it finally becomes operational.

The other aspect of the Bill will involve the introduction of stringent measures which will make it virtually impossible for illegal migrants to obtain UK Drivers Licence.

Another aspect of the Bill also involves limiting the rights of appeal against removal or deportation by introducing an “extraordinary circumstances” threshold for foreigners convicted of serious crimes in the UK.  This is about making it easier to remove or deport illegal immigrants from the UK, especially those with serious criminal conviction.