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Fundamental Changes to Immigration System Enacted

Royal Assent has now been received for the controversial Immigration Act 2014. The Act contains 77 clauses that fundamentally change key elements of the immigration system in order to make it more difficult for migrants to enter and stay in the UK illegally.

Many aspects of the legislation have been heavily criticised by migrant rights advocates for its potential to encourage discrimination and exploitation towards migrants, many of whom are already vulnerable. Other agencies have also argued that treating migrants in this way could also foster racism and hate crime towards minority ethnic communities.

The legislation aims to introduce a more stringent system for migrant access to housing and services, targeting those who have no right to remain in the UK. This includes compulsory immigration status checks for access to private rented accommodation, driving licences, and bank accounts.

Duties on private landlords

Housing Rights Service has voiced concerns that, in particular, giving private landlords the authority to check the immigration status of tenants could result in migrants being treated in a potentially discriminatory manner leading to more individuals (whether migrants or not) being threatened with homelessness. In our response (with the Law Centre NI) to the government plans, in August 2013, we warned that prospective tenants, who are perceived to be foreign nationals, may be discriminated against by private landlords fearful of being prosecuted under this legislation.

Reforms to immigration system

The new law will also implement a number of reforms to the immigration system, from clamping down on sham marriages and civil partnerships, to reducing the numbers of visa application appeals. Additional powers are also available for the Home Office to limit repeat bail applications and revoke the driving licences of immigration offenders.

Furthermore, in a landmark move, the courts have been instructed to consider the public interest above and beyond Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) – the right to family life – which is often exercised by migrants wishing to join family members who are already in the UK.

In another pervasive development, the Home Office can now take away the UK citizenship of naturalized immigrants if they are found to be “seriously prejudicial to the interests of the UK”, although the power can only be used if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe an individual can become a citizen elsewhere. Temporary migrants with time-limited visas will also be subject to fees when using the NHS.

Overview of the Act

  • The main provisions of the legislation include:
  • Reducing the number of immigration decisions that can be appealed from 17 to 4 while preserving appeals for those asserting fundamental rights.
  • Making it harder for those who try to gain an immigration advantage by entering into a sham marriage or civil partnership.
  • Requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, which will be implemented on a phased basis in one geographical area first.
  • Introducing a new requirement that temporary migrants must make a financial contribution to the National Health Service.
  • Making it easier for the Home Office to recover unpaid civil penalties.
  • Requiring banks to check against a database of known immigration offenders before opening bank accounts.
  • Introducing new powers to check driving licence applicants' immigration status before issuing a licence and revoking licences where immigrants are found to have overstayed in the UK.

 

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Private Tenancies, Landlord, Legal