Three consultations relating to immigration have been published by the Home Office in the last week as part of the government’s aim to increase votes in the run up to the next general election. The government is unlikely to be able to reach its target of reducing net migration to fewer than 100,000 by then. This is because, in order to do so, further significant reductions would be needed across Tiers 1, 2 and 4 of the Points Based System but that would risk causing serious detriment to the UK economy.
New proposals and requirements, including those outlined in the consultation documents, a system of bonds for visitors and student credibility interviewing (which is already underway), are therefore targeted towards preventing certain migrants from coming to the UK and deterring those from staying who are, or who are believed to be, in the UK unlawfully. In the hope that this will balance off its inability to reduce net migration to under 100,000, the government no doubt intends to produce a range of statistics in the run up to the election that highlight an increase in removals and the success of other measures targeted at thwarting ‘illegal migration’.
This firm is concerned that many of the measures announced will adversely affect individuals, businesses and education providers who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner. Legitimate migrants and those who sponsor them are likely to be faced with a barrage of further rules and regulations, vulnerable migrants are likely to be too scared to seek assistance and those who set out to deliberately flout the rules are never likely to be deterred by blunt policies aimed towards the headlines.
We are recommending to our clients, including universities, private education providers, businesses and individuals, that they respond to these proposals if possible and outline the actual and potential flaws. Strong arguments supported by solid evidence can lead to change. If you have any questions about any of the legal issues raised in the consultation documents, please contact us.
Tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation
Of most concern are the proposals relating to ‘landlord checks’. These have already attracted scrutiny in the media and have triggered concerns amongst many charities. Whilst the proposals will not impact accommodation provided to employees by employers, or international students who are residing in university or school owned premises, the education sector remains concerned about the potential impact on international students in privately rented accommodation.
Under the proposals landlords or letting agents would face fines rising from £1,000 per illegal adult migrant found residing in their premises, to £3,000 where a previous notice of liability has been served.
The Home Office states that landlords or letting agents will be required to follow a similar system for checking immigration status to that currently followed by employers under the prevention of illegal working rules.
Its position is that many landlords already perform checks and that the new system should not create significant difficulties. However, Carter Thomas advises a number of businesses on the rules relating to the employment of migrants, including conducting checks on status, and it is often extremely difficult for an employer to be able to obtain evidence from a migrant who is, for instance, in the midst of extending their stay or who has permission based on human rights or asylum legislation or the rules relating to discretionary leave or the Worker Registration Scheme.
The current checks performed by landlords and letting agents are, on the whole, much simpler than those performed by employers and relate primarily to establishing the identity and financial status of the individual rather than their immigration status. The new proposals require checks to be made on every adult who will live in the house, not typically performed at the moment.
We are concerned that rather than spending time to check the status of individuals who have complicated documentation or situations, landlords will simply refuse to rent accommodation to them. We are also concerned that this policy may interfere with the right of individuals to private life and may leave many migrants in potentially vulnerable situations. In addition, landlords and letting agents who refuse accommodation due to a protected characteristic (these include race, nationality and citizenship) would risk claims against them under the Equality Act 2010 and, as a consequence of this policy, would be advised to ensure that all decisions not to rent property to individuals, both migrants and non-migrants, are carefully documented. Checks will also need to be made on all adults regardless of nationality or immigration status to comply with Equality Act legislation.
The consultation closes on 21 August 2013.
Strengthening and simplifying the civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal working
This consultation relates to the civil penalty scheme for employers who employ individuals who do not have appropriate permission to work.
Proposals being considered include:
- an increase in the maximum penalty to £20,000 per illegal worker, targeted at those employers who repeatedly break the rules,
- simplifying the way civil penalties are calculated,
- simplifying the way unpaid penalties can be enforced in the civil courts, and
- measures to allow recovery of a civil penalty from directors and partners of limited liability businesses following failure to pay by the business.
These proposals are likely to adversely impact legitimate businesses that carry out stringent checks. At the same time, however, the government states that is has unveiled a number of proposals to help legitimate businesses including:
- reducing the number of documents an employer needs to check to establish
- a right to work,
- replacing annual follow-up checks for non-EEA nationals with ones to
- coincide with the expiry of permission to be in the country,
- simplifying the operation of the scheme and the guidance for employers, and
- helping prevent undercutting by rogue employers.
The consultation closes on 20 August 2013.
Controlling Immigration – Regulating Migrant Access to Health Services in the UK
The key proposals mean that non-EEA migrants would be unable to access the NHS and other publicly funded health services unless they hold indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
A levy is being proposed which, when paid, would mean that migrants with temporary leave could access health services and an alternative proposal is to require migrants to have health insurance.
This is the first time that proposals have been put forward that restrict access to the health services such a manner. The consultation closes on 28 August 2013.