Earlier this month, in her speech to open the 2013-14 session of Parliament, the Queen announced that a new Immigration Bill would be introduced to reform the current UK Immigration Rules. The details of this Bill had been outlined in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s immigration speech on the 25th March 2013 and we have been following reaction to the news which has provoked considerable debate amongst critics and supporters of the coalition Government.
The plans have also caused concerns amongst foreign nationals who are currently working and living in the UK and who are worried that they will be adversely affected. We will therefore analyse key changes which are to be contained in the Bill and we hope that our readers will share their views in the comments section below. However, it is important to note that we are dealing with proposals only at this stage and we do not necessarily know when or in what final form they will take effect.
The Bill – Three main goals…
According to a Home Office briefing, the three main aims of the Bill are;
“stopping immigrants accessing services they are not entitled to; making it easier to remove people from the UK and harder for people to prolong their stay with spurious appeals; and specifying that foreign nationals who commit serious crimes shall, except in extraordinary circumstances, be deported.”
It is clear that the chief priorities in the planned policy will include; restricting foreign nationals’ rights to benefits and social housing, limiting the rght to appeal and limiting the use of Article 8 by migrants facing removal or deportation.
Further, the Queen specifically stated that the purpose of the Bill was to; “ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deter those who will not.” This reflects the Government’s plans of reducing net migration, which we have discussed in detail in previous posts.
However, paradoxically, the Bill will deal with the rights which migrants are entitled to once they have entered the UK and therefore it is difficult to see how it can significantly limit net migration to the UK, other than by acting as a deterrent.
We will now explore the ways in which foreign nationals who are residing in the UK could be affected by the proposed Bill.
Private landlords will be required to check immigration status of tenants
One the most contentious aspects of the Bill is the plan to make private landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants, with repercussions for those who fail to do so.
Organisations including the housing charity Shelter have criticised the requirement, stating that it could lead to discrimination by landlords against migrants in general, people of certain backgrounds, and people with limited use of English, regardless of whether they have the right to live and work here. They argue that landlords may be dissuaded to rent to foreign nationals in general, if they have to worry about checking tenants’ visas.
In addition, it has been pointed out by various parties that enforcement of this rule will be extremely difficult. Private landlords have no relationship with the Home Office and it would be inappropriate to make landlords an extension of Border Control.
When skilled foreign nationals apply for UK entry clearance, as part of the requirements for a visa they must prove sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependents, or the sponsoring company will confirm this on their behalf. It seems unfair to subject these individuals and their families to further scrutiny once they have already proven that they meet the accommodation requirements and in any case it is arguable that the only affect this rule will have is to increase the likelihood for vulnerable people to become homeless.
Increased penalties for employing illegal workers
The Bill will increase fines for businesses that are found to employ unauthorised foreign workers, and more fines will be issued directly to migrants working illegally. However, employers already face heavy fines for employing illegal workers and should already be aware of the requirement to check migrant worker’s right to work documents.
An increase in fines, according to the Migrants’ Rights Network, will only serve to further discrimination against minority workers and may even lead to workforce division.
We would remind all employers to ensure that they continue carrying out right to work checks, which include ensuring that a foreign employee holds a valid visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
Regulating foreign nationals’ access to the NHS
The Government has also indicated that under the new Bill, NHS treatment for foreign nationals should be restricted.
It appears that an EEA national who uses the NHS, will need to either pay for their treatment or their government must. Stricter charging or a requirement for private health insurance to cover the costs of NHS care will be applied to non-EEA nationals.
Again, we find ourselves asking how this requirement will be enforced. It seems impractical for doctors to demand to see passports before seeing a patient and what will happen when a patient admitted to A&E in serious ill health does not possess evidence of Health Insurance?
It remains to be seen how the proposals in the Bill translate into legislation but we hope that this has proven a useful summary of the key points which we expect to see included in the Immigration Bill. Please feel free to include your own views on the proposals below or contact us if you have a specific query.