Immigration Act 2016: Key Changes and Concerns

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On 12th May 2016 the highly controversial and contested Immigration Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Immigration Act 2016. Ministers have openly expressed their intention to make Britain a 'hostile environment' for undocumented migrants and the new act builds on prior provisions in an effort to achieve this.

UK immigration laws have been shaken up

Ashley Stothard is an Immigration Paralegal who provides advice on wide-ranging immigration issues. Ashley explains the new key provisions in the new Act and the impact they may have.

Immigration Act 2016 Key Provisions

Illegal Working

The offence of 'illegal working' now has harsher punishments. Employers of illegal migrants who had 'reasonable cause to believe' they are working illegally can now receive a custodial sentence of up 5 years – an increase from 2 years. Reducing the threshold from 'knowing' to 'reasonable cause to believe' may mean that we see more convictions. The new offence can also see the earnings of workers seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Access to Services Restricted Further

  • Private Renting - In further efforts to prevent undocumented migrants from accessing services, civil fines in the private rental sector have been extended and now include criminal offences. The previous maximum fine of £3,000 has been extended to an unlimited fine or a sentence of up to 5 years.
  • Driving – It is now an offence to drive in the UK without valid leave to remain. The Home Office will also be able to search and seize driving licenses of those who do not have leave to remain.
  • Bank Accounts – It's now illegal for people without valid leave to remain to have a bank account. Banks will be required to make regular immigration status checks and people without valid leave may have their bank accounts frozen or be required to report to the Home Office.
Ashley comments:

"Whilst it is unknown whether these provisions will ever be put into practice, there are strong concerns that discriminatory treatment will increase as a result of these changes. With an onus now on landlords, letting agents, the police, and even banks to make immigration checks, there is an increased opportunity for misuse and discriminatory practises."

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