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UK Immigration – The New Focus is Illegal Working and EU Reform

The Queen’s speech, which announces the Government’s agenda for the next 5 years would not be the same without some proposals on immigration reform. We were not let down and the plan of attack will be a new Immigration Bill which will focus on illegal workers, overstayers and rogue employers. 

The specific proposals are as follows:

 

  • Further reforms to student visas (details to be announced); and

 

  • There will be further emphasis on others policing the immigration system on behalf of the Government:

 

  • Landlords and Agents

 

The scheme which is being piloted in the West Midlands requiring immigration checks on prospective tenants will be introduced Nationwide.  See here for more information.

     

  • Employers

 

There will be a new offence of illegal working, meaning that employees who are working in the UK illegally or working as overstayers could see their wages being confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.Whilst this measure is clearly targeting unscrupulous employers taking advantage of cheap illegal migrant labour, all employers should take note and ensure that you have rigorous checking procedures of “right to work” documents to prevent employees becoming overstayers or working illegally.

 

There will be a new Labour Market Enforcement Agency set up to police illegal working and again employers should take note.There will be in my view an increase in unannounced visits and audits by the Home Office of your migrant activity as an employer, particularly if you are Sponsor Licence holder.Civil penalties for employing people without the right to work (currently £20,000) are more likely to be enforced as are suspensions or revocations of the sponsor licence if you are not meeting your sponsorship duties.

 

The Bill will also make it illegal for employment agencies to recruit solely from abroad without advertising those jobs in Britain and in English.

 

A consultation will be carried out on funding apprenticeship schemes for British and EU workers by implementing a new visa levy on businesses that use foreign labour.There is also a proposal that those employers that recruit “Shortage Occupations” will not be able to do so without providing a plan for skills development in their organisation.

  • Banks

Banks will be required to carry out rigorous checks on bank accounts of people in the UK illegally; and

Immigration appeals to be phased out in-country with the principle of “deport first, appeal later” from criminal cases to apply to all immigration cases (exceptions being asylum cases and where it can be proven that it will cause serious harm to deport someone whilst their immigration appeal is pending).

 

 

These measures will be supported with the commencement of negotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU before the country votes on the “in/out” referendum in 2016/17.

   

With EU migration reaching a high of 268,000 in 2014 (201,000 the previous year – see further key migration figures here) the negotiations will focus on curbing immigration to the UK from the EU.  The UK is keen to curb access to Social Security benefits to EU migrants such as time limits before EU migrants are able to access benefits.  Current proposals include that a EU migrant must have worked in the UK for 6 months before being entitled to Job Seekers Allowance and barring access to tax credits for at least 4 years.  Whilst other European countries may be sympathetic to this, however any direct attempt to curb free movement from within the EU will not receive the same support as free movement of capital, business and people are seen as the foundations of The Union.  The government will nonetheless through legislation make it tougher for non-EU spouses to join EU citizens living in the UK through introducing stronger English language tests and maintenance requirements.

 

For further information please contact either Thalej Vasishta - thalejv@paragonlaw.co.uk  or Kirin Abbas - kirina@paragonlaw.co.uk on 0115 9644 123.