UK Immigration Bill: Harsher Penalties & Tier 2 Sponsor Charge

On 17 September 2015 the UK Government published the latest Immigration Bill which has made further policies to crack down on illegal migration. The Immigration Bill which is 139 pages long can be viewed here. Here, we will explore the new provisions and what effects they may have on migrants and UK businesses (Tier 2 Sponsors).

Aims of UK Immigration Bill

The purpose of the changes is threefold:

  • To crack down on the exploitation of low-skilled workers, by introducing a harsher penalties for employing illegal migrants, and toughening sanctions for working illegally. Employers can find themselves with a criminal sanction of 5 years this is an increase from the previous two year sanction imposed. Illegal migrants may find themselves sentenced to 51 weeks and/or a fine.
  • To ensure that people who are living in the UK unlawfully cannot access UK bank accounts and rental accommodation and revoking driving licences where people are found to be in possession of a licence and without lawful leave.
  • To make removal of illegal migrants easier.

New Provisions for Immigration Rules

  • Banks must now carry out immigration checks in relation to current accounts. If the outcome reveals that a bank account has been opened by an illegal migrant; the Home Office is alerted and the account may then be frozen or closed. The regularity of such checks is currently unknown and provision is to be made in the Regulations.
  • This may come as a blow to those unable to establish their right to remain in the UK, often data held by the Home Office or other bodies has not been updated to reflect the circumstances of a migrant seeking to regularise their stay.
  • The police now have the power to seize driving licences and vehicles, and to detain if they are investigating illegal migrants. This new sanction which can be termed ‘driving whilst illegal’ can impose a 51 week sentence of imprisonment and/or a fine.

Requirements for Landlords Renting to “Illegal” Migrants

Recently, Rt Hon Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) stated:

“Landlords will be required to ensure that the people they rent their properties to are legally entitled to be in the country.”

Landlords and estate agents in the UK are now prosecuted for this new offence and will face up to five years in prison and/or a fine for non-compliance.

This has created stringent responsibilities for landlords and estate agents to ensure they are complying with the UK’s Immigration Rules. Those who do not comply may find themselves on ‘a blacklist of “rogue landlords” and letting agents who are repeat offenders and may be banned indefinitely’.

This has made it harder for estate agents and landlords to rent to immigrants who live in the UK illegally or who hold precarious status. The numbers speak clearly: nearly 36,000 immigration offenders were removed from the UK in 2014 by the Home Office.

Measures in the forthcoming Immigration Bill will force landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants, by giving them the power to end a tenancy when a person’s leave to remain in the UK ends – in some circumstances without a court order. This leaves immigrants with temporary or precarious status in limbo between their applications.

Tier 2 Sponsor’s May Face Charge

Worst of all for Sponsors, the Home Office may now impose a charge on all Sponsors of Tier 2 migrants known as the ‘immigration skills charge’. This area is currently under review by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). There is no provision as yet of the exact charge being introduced, one thing is for sure Tier 2 sponsors will soon find themselves paying this extra cost.

UK Immigration Legal Advice for businesses and landlords

Landlords renting to migrants with precarious or illegal status must ensure that they adhere to the stringent checks introduced by the Home Office before letting their properties. If the Home Office has contacted you in relation to carrying out a compliance visit at your business or property, contact us for legal advice. You can also contact us if you have been issued with a Civil Penalty Notice and feel you have grounds to appeal against it.

Illegal migrants with strong Human Rights arguments ought to take legal advice and regularise their stay in the UK as soon as possible and before it is too late. Contact us to discuss your immigration situation and we will assess your case.

Our team of experienced and professionally qualified solicitors and barristers are ready to provide you with effective solutions to your business  immigration needs. Our expert immigration solicitors based in London, provide business clients with a tailored service and are on hand to expedite the sponsor licence process. We ensure that we help you achieve and maintain an A rated sponsor licence and provide ongoing compliance checks to ensure you are aware of your duties as a Home Office registered sponsor.

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