In an attempt to crack down on net migration figures and to reduce the number of irregular migrants in the United Kingdom the government has introduced a number of immigration checks to help control the borders. Since July 2016, the government has introduced immigration checks such as the right to work check, right to rent check and the right to bank check. There have been suggestions that these checks were intentionally introduced to create a “hostile environment” for those who are staying in the United Kingdom unlawfully. The government has denied these controversial accusations claiming that immigration checks were introduced to maintain a functional immigration system that encourages irregular migrants to regularise their status in the United Kingdom.
Immigration check number one – the right to work check
The right to work checks were introduced under the Immigration Act 2014 and further amended by the Immigration Act 2016. Under the Immigration Act 2016, employers are now required to conduct document checks on potential employees before employing them to make sure they are allowed to work. Employers must ask to see the Applicants visa documents in their original form and check that the documents are valid. It is advised that copies are taken by the Human Resources department and are readily available if they are needed. The new rules have amended the offence from employing someone ‘knowingly’ to employing a person by the employer who has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the employee does not have a right to work because of their immigration status. This means that it is even easier to find an employer liable for this offence.
The onus is on businesses and employers to ensure there is no illegal working in their business. The Home Office has made it clear that employers who fail to carry out the necessary right to work checks will be punished. If you are found in contempt of the right to work checks you may be liable for:
- a civil penalty of £20,000 per illegal worker;
- a possible custodial sentence of up to 6 months and/or be made to pay an unlimited fine; and
- Immigration Enforcement Officers will have the power to close premises for up to 48 hours if illegal migrants are employed.
In order to avoid disruption at your workplace we recommend, employers contact our specialist Immigration law firm if you are unsure whether you are compliant with the Home Office right to work checks and avoid being penalised. We are regularly instructed to conduct audit and compliance checks for businesses that are unsure whether their immigration checks are satisfactory.
Immigration check number two – the right to rent check
The second immigration check, the right to rent check, was also introduced under the Immigration Act 2014 and similarly to the right to work it was also amended further by the Immigration Act 2016. Letting agents and landlords must now check the visa status of potential tenants before issuing a tenancy agreement. The right to rent check must also be carried out for anyone who will be living in the property regardless of whether their name is not the tenancy agreement.
The right to rent check is extremely controversial and it has received heavy criticism from landlords and letting agents because it appears the Home Office is asking laypeople to police illegal migration in the United Kingdom. Landlords and letting agents are worried that simple mistakes could cost them their freedom and could result in heavy fines. It is argued that the onus should be on the Home Office to carry out the right to rent checks and warn the landlords before issuing such life-changing fines and sentences. Under the Immigration Act 2016, the level of punishment has increased, it could now result in criminal convictions. Whilst there is no strict way on how to carry out the right to rent checks, the Home Office guidance recommends that landlords comply with the following:
- Establish how many adults intend on residing at the property;
- Landlords must ensure that their tenants have permission to be in the UK lawfully. This can be done by checking visa stamps in passports or requesting for Biometric Residence Permits (BRP’s);
- Landlords/agents should make copies of all documents, as it is likely these will be required at a later date of the tenancy; and
- Landlords should ensure all documents are up-to-date and valid, where there are discrepancies within the documents such as different names being used on different documents, landlords/agents should be extra cautious. Supporting documents may be requested to help clarify any discrepancies.
Landlords and letting agents who fail to carry out right to rent checks can be fined up to £3000 per illegal migrant tenant. However, there could also be an issue of criminal liability under Section 33 of the Immigration act 2016. It is of paramount importance both landlords and agents conduct the mandatory Right to Rent Check otherwise they may be liable to face criminal proceedings. As a landlord or an agent, you may have a defence available to you if you can prove you have taken reasonable steps within a reasonable time frame to terminate the residential tenancy agreement once it was in your knowledge that your tenant no longer qualifies to rent in the UK.
Immigration check number three – the right to bank check
Following the success of the right to work and right to rent checks, the government went a step further and introduced the right to bank check. The right to bank check was introduced on 30 October 2017 and requires all banks to conduct checks on the immigration status of existing and new bank account holders. Banks and building societies are now required to conduct quarterly periodic checks on the immigration status of account holders and those who fail to comply with Right to Bank checks will be held accountable by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). As soon as a bank identifies an account holder as someone without valid immigration status, the bank is required to inform the Home Office.
Using Legal Representation to understand and conduct a UK Visas and immigration check
Legal representatives, such as our specialist immigration and visa law firm, are qualified to advise you on the law and your immigration matter. You can instruct one of our immigration and visa legal representatives to successfully assist you in conducting immigration checks. Our solicitors and Barristers will help you comply with the Home Office’s requirements and meet the Immigration Rules.
Caseworkers at the Home Office are trained to reject applications which are improperly prepared, for example by failing to provide the correct supporting evidence. In order to ensure your immigration checks are done correctly, our solicitors and barristers will ensure all specified documents must be provided.
The UK Immigration Rules are complex and a legal representative can help ensure that your application meets the Immigration Rules.
Successfully Apply for UK Visas and immigration check
Our team of solicitors and barristers bear in mind the paramount duty of all legal representatives to act in your best interest whilst complying with the strict letter of the law. Our team of specialists can be distinguished from other law firms with our client-tailored approach and scrutiny of options available to you from the outset. We will be able to advise you in respect of the merits of your immigration checks by providing you with advice from our leading team of solicitors before your matter even reaches the Home Office. We can assist you with the preparation of your immigration checks and ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.
If you wish to consider your options, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your matter and if necessary advise you of the next steps you should take in a consultation.
We are based in the legal epicentre of London, just across the road from the Royal Courts of Justice in order to ensure we get the best results for our clients. We are minutes away from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, the Royal Courts of Justice and other central London courts.
If you need professional legal advice about conducting UK Visas and Immigration checks, please contact us for a case assessment on 02071830570. You can also reach us via our contact form.