New Immigration Bill
As some of you will be aware, the latest Immigration Act 2014, which has just been fully implemented in April 2015, brought with it numerous changes, including the right of appeals for Point Based applications, as well as an attempt to define the application of human rights by the Court. The Government seems to be very impressed by the outcome of the changes in the last bill, so much so that they have decided to go even further with the new Immigration Bill, which is currently in the House of Commons. As a UK Immigration Solicitor specialized in Human Rights many of my clients are affected by this, therefore I wish to highlight some of the changes that should expected if the new Bill becomes an Act.
The Immigration Bill was presented to the House of Commons on the 17th of September 2015. Following the MPs debate on the main principles of the Bill at the Second Reading at the House of Commons, this was presented to a Public Bill Committee. At this stage, MPs will examine the Bill in more detail and will be able to make amendments to it.
Do you have particular interest or expertise in this topic? You can suggest amendments to the Bill to the Committee. However, be aware that they will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage on Tuesday the 17th of November.
Here are the changes introduced by the Immigration Bill that might affect you:
Human Rights Appeals
As we saw in the last Immigration Act 2014, all in-country right to appeal are reserved only for asylum and human rights applications (see my previous article on – Curtailment of Appeal rights ). This new act seems to go even further, implementing Teresa May’s, famous “Deport First, Appeal Later” which has already been implemented in the case of people with criminal convictions.
Under this Bill, if your human rights claim based on Article 8 has been failed, you could only appeal from outside the UK, unless you will suffer “serious irreversible harm” abroad, according to Part 4 of the new Immigration Bill. Please note that this would now apply to both people being deported due to criminal convictions and to people being removed with no criminal convictions.
This change would affect human rights appeals brought under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to private and family life.
Let’s see an example:
If you are the spouse of a UK national and you seek to remain in the UK on the basis of your family life, but your application is refused e.g. because you still do not meet the income requirement threshold (Appendix FM) or you did not submit the application on time, you would have to leave the country in order to be able to appeal against the negative decision of your application.
The effect of the Bill would be that people who may in fact end up being granted the right to stay in the UK would be forced to leave the country, and separate from their families for an indeterminate period, while their appeals are pending. This makes it even harder for families to challenge the Secretary of the State, especially given that at the present time, it takes about one year for such an appeal to get to Court, during which time you would be separated from your family.
Access to Services
Part 2 of the Immigration Bill follows the theme of the previous Act which deprived access to services to people without legal status in the UK, and seeks to tackle irregular migration, by ensuring that irregular migrants living in the UK do not have legal access to UK bank accounts, driving licenses and rental accommodation.
If you are an irregular migrant living in the UK, these new measures will certainly impact your daily life, as you will be subject to more checks on your immigration status documents or passports. Unfortunately, as you have seen since the implementation of the previous Act, these changes do not only impact on unlawful migrants but also lawful migrants and even British citizens who are ethnic minority, as we will see below.
Let’s explore together the new measures proposed by the new Immigration Bill:
- Criminal offence to landlords/landladies who rent accommodation to irregular migrants: While the last Immigration Act imposed a criminal penalty of £3000 to landlords/landladies, this new Bill goes further and dishes out a maximum five year prison sentence for those landlords/landladies who know or have reasonable grounds to believe that their properties are rented to irregular migrants. Immigration enforcement officers will have new powers to search individuals and properties. This measure seeks to stop landlords/landladies renting their properties to migrants without legal status in the UK. It also makes it easier for landlords/landladies to evict them from their properties.
Unfortunately, the government seems to be ignoring some of the impact that the previous Act has had, which include making it more difficult for ethnic minorities to rent accommodation, as landlords/landladies are less willing to take the risk of renting their properties to persons that they assume are migrants. In some cases, this has meant that a person enquiring about a house viewing in London with the name ‘John Smith’ is more likely to be successful than ‘Emmanuel Okadigbo’, even if both hold British Passport (see news article on this ).
- Jail to irregular migrants for driving: The Immigration Act 2014 made it impossible for the DVLA to issue driving licenses to illegal migrants. Beyond that, the new Bill seeks to impose a maximum of a six month prison sentence and an unlimited fine in England and Wales. This measure seeks to give police and immigration officers the power to search for and seize driving licenses. It also enables enforcement officers to confiscate migrants’ vehicles. This seems to be targeted to those persons who may have already obtained a driving license prior of the implementation of the new Act.
- Periodic checks by banks and building societies: These entities will have the power to regularly check the status of their account holders. In addition to that, they will be required to notify the Home Office if a person does not have a legal status to stay in the UK.
Immigration Skills Charge
One of the government’s recent bright ideas is to introduce, in Part 8 of the Bill, a new immigration skills charge, which will be applied to most employers that are sponsoring workers from outside the European Union who come to the UK under Tier 2 of the Points-Based System. According to the government, the money raised would be used to fund apprenticeships in the UK.
If you are planning to come to the UK to work, it will now be even more difficult for you to get a sponsor. Indeed, this requirement introduced by the new Immigration Bill will be likely to dissuade employers from recruiting talented foreign nationals, as the cost to do so will be higher. They will have to pay for a Tier 2 Sponsorship License, apply for a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship and apply for a Tier 2 visa. This is in addition to employees (sponsored Tier 2 (General) migrants) already being required to pay £200 per year following the new Immigration Health Surcharge, as well as then facing the inability to settle due to the “one year cooling-off period” and the £35.000 income threshold.
Illegal Migrant Workers
Some of the minor changes basically reflect the position as it is under the Immigration Rules. If you are an irregular migrant working in the UK, be aware that:
- Now it is a criminal offence to work illegally, with a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months and/or a fine of the statutory maximum (unlimited in England and Wales)
- Immigration offices will have new power to search and seize e.g. your pay-slips in order to get evidence that you are an “illegal worker”.
- Your employer will be prosecuted and the penalties imposed on him/her will be higher than before: The new bill has increased the maximum two year prison sentence to a maximum five years prison sentence. It also doubles the maximum civil penalty to £20,000 per illegal worker.
The new Immigration Bill promises to deliver quite a blow to migrants and migrant families’ human rights, to punish British employers and migrant workers as well as to include the possibility of discrimination against minorities in the UK.
As a UK Immigration Solicitor and a migrant myself, I can appreciate the government’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented migrants, however I am not so keen on them being so determined to make life more difficult for illegal migrants in general that they are willing to sacrifice the rights of legal migrants and ethnic minority British nationals in a bid to achieve this objective.
As a UK Human Rights solicitor I strongly believe that there should be a distinction between migrants and criminals. The proposed appeal system treats them as one and the same thing and is going to erode their basic human rights as protected under the European Convention of Human Rights and implemented by the British Human Rights Act.
Tito Mbariti is a solicitor specialising in UK immigration and Human Rights law at Cross Border Legal in Leicester, he has been practising immigration law for several years with clients from various parts of the globe. He is a strong advocate of Human Rights for all, passionate about voicing important issues affecting migrants and their families in the UK. Tito is the founder and editor of Cross Border Legal, a UK Immigration and Human Right law blog.