New checks introduced to stop illegal migrants opening bank accounts

For the first time banks and building societies will be barred from opening a current account for immigration offenders who are on the anti-fraud CIFAS database. Where the CIFAS checks identify that the applicant has no leave to enter or remain in the UK, the firm must refuse to open the account. If firms do not comply, the FCA will be able to levy financial penalties, restrict a firm’s deposit-taking permissions, or even bring forward criminal sanctions.

These measures will make it more difficult for illegal migrants to gain access to credit cards

Preventing illegal migrants from opening current accounts will make it more difficult for them to subsequently gain access to credit cards, mortgages or loans.

Bank accounts are important for establishing an identity in the UK

Bank accounts are important pieces of identification which make it easier for illegal migrants to access benefits and services they are not entitled to and therefore allow them to establish a more viable life in the UK.

Immigration and Security Minister, James Brokenshire said:

For too long it has been too easy for people to live in Britain despite having no right to be here.

These changes, as part of the Immigration Act, will make Britain a less attractive place for those who come here for the wrong reasons, and allow us to remove more people when they have no right to remain.

These reforms are helping us to build and deliver what we have always promised — an immigration system that truly works in the national interest.

The immigration “windfall” for the Treasury

The controversy over immigration is about more than money – though what often sparks furious debate is the frequently levelled charge that immigrants, especially those from Eastern Europe, are a burden on taxpayers.

But the opposite is true, according to a new report, by University College London’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration.

It calculates that immigrants from the so-called new Europe, those 10 countries which joined the EU in 2004, contributed £4.96bn more in taxes up to 2011 than they took out in benefits and use of public services.

In other words, and according to the report’s authors, Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini, they were a boon to the state and the public finances, not a burden.

And this calculation may understate the net fiscal benefit to the Treasury: the calculation includes immigrants’ proportionate share of all public service costs, those that increase when the population increases, such as health and education, and those that don’t, such as the armed forces and defence.

If the fixed costs are excluded, the net benefit of immigration from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic et al to the Exchequer would more than double to £10.5bn.

And to put these numbers into perspective, the rest of us – the indigenous population – were a massive drain on the state over the same period, to the tune of £617bn, based on allocating to immigrants a share of all public spending costs, or £679bn if fixed costs are heaped exclusively on natives.

By the way, there is some logic to attributing all the fixed costs to the native population, because we would have to pay them, whether or not the immigrants were here.

Anyway, the big point is that without the immigrants, our taxes or public sector borrowing would be measurably higher. Which, at a time when the government is failing to reduce the UK’s unsustainably large public sector deficit at the speed it would like, seems of some relevance.

And, by the way, the net benefits of immigration from the rest of the European Union (the richer more developed countries) was £15bn, with full costs allocated, and £18bn without.

As for immigrants from the rest of the world, they contributed £5bn or £20.5bn on the same basis.

Now for the avoidance of doubt, these calculations include all out-of-work and in-work benefits, including tax credits and child benefit.

The importance of this analysis is that for the first time it calculates the net costs or benefits of immigrants from the accession countries – in that the critique of earlier work by the same authors, from Migration Watch, was that any benefits came from old Europe immigrants, not from Poles, Czechs and so on.

But, there are some costs of immigration that are ignored here.

For example, there is evidence that immigration drives down the pay of the indigenous population, especially among the lowest paid. So in-work benefits to natives may be increased by immigration.

Prof Dustmann – who is the author not only of the current report but an earlier widely cited one on how immigration reduces the pay of those who earn least – says these increased costs of benefits paid to natives would nowhere near wipe out the fiscal contribution of the immigrants.

A couple of other points are worth making.

The immigrants are disproportionately young.

And if they stay in the UK, their contribution may actually rise – if they become more skilled – up until their retirement, when they would become a net drain. That said, they may well return home long before retirement.

Finally, and corroborating an argument made by proponents of immigration, Dustmann and Frattini point out that the immigrants tend to be better educated than native Brits, and they calculate that the value of the education they received, paid for by their home countries and not us, was £6.8bn, again up to 2011.

However, there may be good reasons for curbing immigration, to do with social cohesion, sense of community, culture and happiness. But this report suggests one argument that isn’t compelling is the one that alleges immigrants are a big cost to the state.

Immigration Act commencement and statement of changes in Immigration Rules

The reforms to the immigration appeals system in the Immigration Act 2014 are being phased in from 20 October. These provisions contain important measures to make it easier to deport foreign criminals and build upon the significant reforms we have already made.

In July we introduced new powers to stop criminals using family life arguments to delay their deportation. This has been successful, enabling the Home Office to deport over 100 criminals since July pending any appeal.

From Monday criminals will also no longer be able to appeal against a decision that their deportation is conducive to the public good. This is the most significant change to deportation appeals since 1971. Criminals will be deported and will not be able to appeal beforehand unless they face a real risk of serious irreversible harm. For those that do have an appeal right, they will only be able to appeal once.

From Monday the new Act will also reform the appeals system for students. For those with meritorious appeals the old system was a costly and time-consuming way to correct simple case work errors which could be resolved by a request to the Home Office to review the decision. New immigration rules provide a system of administrative review through which case work errors will be corrected within 28 days rather than 12 weeks, supporting our policy of attracting immigrants who benefit the United Kingdom’s businesses and universities. For non-compliant students the new appeals reforms, combined with the new single power of removal, will make removal quicker and more legally straightforward.

On 3 September I announced that the West Midlands would be the location for the first phase of the implementation of new restrictions on illegal immigrants accessing rented housing. I have now made the order to bring into force the necessary powers in the Immigration Act to allow the scheme to start from 1 December. This will allow further secondary legislation to be laid before Parliament shortly.

Further measures in the new Act are also being brought into force to limit the ability of immigration detainees to make repeat bail applications and to extend the powers of the Immigration Services Commissioner to combat rogue immigration advisers. Finally, powers are being brought into force to enable us in due course to lay before Parliament the secondary legislation needed to implement the NHS health surcharge and to implement the changes to the process for giving notice of marriage or civil partnership to combat sham marriages and civil partnerships.

Reforms are also being made to strengthen the regime and further enhance security. Technical changes are being implemented across the Immigration Rules to tackle abuse while enhancing the United Kingdom’s status as an excellent place to do business. In particular, the Tier 1 (Investor) route is being reformed following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee. The minimum investment threshold will be raised from £1m to £2m. The government will also consult further on what sort of investment the route should encourage in order to deliver real economic benefits, and other improvements to the route. A consultation document will be published in due course.

Leaving the EU wouldn’t solve our immigration problem

How do you define a great country? Tony Blair once offered a decent test: ask if people are trying to get into it, or leave it. On this basis, David Cameron’s government has been a roaring success – people have been settling in Britain at the rate of 1,200 a day since he took office. For the first time in years, there are problems in Calais because people who have crossed half the globe don’t want to stop at France. And while this can be a nuisance, it’s hard to fault their logic: if you’ve come so far, why compromise?

The Prime Minister could visit Calais and point out there is no greater compliment. Here are people who have come from places as far away as Eritrea and Sudan, willing to take incredible risks to start at the bottom in Britain rather than France. It makes sense, given that more jobs are created each day in Britain than the rest of the continent put together. And that’s just the legal jobs: our thriving black market is the greater draw for those migrants who know they’d never qualify for welfare. For those who do make the crossing to Britain, there is little realistic chance of deportation.

And this is where it all starts to unravel. If Britain was appealing for immigrants, as China does, then Cameron could take a bow. But in a moment of madness, he pledged to reduce net migration from almost a quarter of a million each year to “tens of thousands.” It was a foolish pledge, which has ended in complete failure.

It could have been a complete success. On her appointment as Home Secretary, Theresa May took advice from Sir Andrew Green, the founder of MigrationWatch, and soon tightened things up.

Those applying for visas from countries like India and Pakistan were far more likely to be called to interview in Delhi or Lahore, which made it harder to play the system. The rules for student visas were tightened. Just two years into Mrs May’s tenure, migration had been reduced from 255,000 a year to 154,000 – and suddenly, the “tens of thousands” target didn’t look so daft after all.

At the Tory party conference last year, “immigration down” was listed as one of the Government’s main achievements. But when the jobs recovery started, the Italians, Portuguese and Spanish came in their thousands, and progress was wiped out. Realistically, there was nothing Mrs May could do if the unemployed of Milan knew that a well-paying job was just a £35 easyJet ticket away. So one government success crushed the other: Iain Duncan Smith’s jobs miracle has, in effect, eaten Mrs May’s immigration miracle.

At last month’s Tory conference, the Home Secretary’s boast had been changed: “immigration down (since its peak under Labour)”. It was a less embarrassing way of admitting: “immigration up”. But the part she actually controls – that from outside the EU – has fallen to lows not seen for 15 years, which is an extraordinary achievement. And it would have been recognised as such, had the Prime Minister restricted himself to promises he was actually able to keep. His “tens of thousands” pledge was a sign of how little thought had gone into the politics of immigration – from all the main parties.

Ipsos Mori this week released its annual “Index of Ignorance,” a rather snotty exercise that seeks to show how stupid people are by asking them to guess percentages for social metrics. The answers are usually wrong, because normal people don’t think in statistics. Brits guessed that 24 per cent of the population are foreign-born; the correct answer is 13 per cent.

But the ignorance that we should be worried about is among politicians, who are paid to know the answers. When John Hutton was Labour’s business secretary, he once insisted to me that just 2.5 per cent of British employees were immigrants. The real figure was 12 per cent, yet this otherwise intelligent Cabinet minister had no idea. Now and again, conspiracy theorists suggest that Labour plotted to fill Britain with immigrants. The truth is far less edifying: they genuinely didn’t know what was going on.

The same, alas, was true for the opposition. During the televised leadership debates in the 2010 election campaign, Nick Clegg challenged David Cameron to say whether he was “right or wrong that 80 per cent of people who come here come from the European Union”. The Lib Dem leader was wrong, laughably so: the real figure was 35 per cent (as anyone who had vaguely studied the subject would know). But worse, neither Cameron nor Gordon Brown were able to correct him. This short exchange summed up the situation perfectly: Britain’s immigration policy was set by a party that knew little, fighting rivals who knew less.

You can blame Enoch Powell. Since his “Rivers of Blood” speech 46 years ago, it has become almost impossible to debate immigration sensibly in Britain. Even now, the debate is polarised – those in favour of it will not accept that there are any drawbacks, and those against will not admit to any advantages. So voters actually living in a neighbourhood transformed by immigration struggle to find any politician with whom to have a sensible conversation – which creates space for parties like Ukip. And if the Tories respond by visible signs of panic, Ukip support grows stronger still (as the coming Rochester and Strood by-election is likely to demonstrate).

The Prime Minister’s response to Ukip seems to alternate between ignoring them and aping them. It’s seldom edifying, and never successful. He reaches for sticking plasters, which always fall off at the wrong moments. The “tens of thousands” pledge got him through the last election, but stands to embarrass him in the next one. His latest panicked idea, a pledge to announce a way of controlling EU migration by Christmas, will get him past the Rochester and Strood by-election. But he’ll look daft, again, when he falls short of this unachievable promise.

Instead of being pulled on to Ukip’s territory, he should fight on his own. The complex truth is that the mass movement of workers affects every nation, which is why even non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway have greater immigration levels than Britain. The United States controls its own borders (in theory) yet illegal workers remain a huge political issue. Immigration will always be a problem for any rich country – the more important question is how you handle it. And here, the Conservatives have a strong story to tell.

Remarkably, Britain does have enough jobs to go around. Cameron has so far overseen more job creation than any prime minister in postwar history, sending unemployment plunging. Earlier this week, it emerged that fewer children now live in workless households than any point in the Labour boom years: another extraordinary achievement. Part of the reason that Cameron’s net migration target won’t be met is that Brits aren’t emigrating as rapidly as they did under Labour. The Prime Minister can be very much blamed for making this country more attractive, to natives and foreigners alike.

If there were people lined up at Dover, desperate to get to Calais, it would be time to panic – our problems are, in no small part, the problems of success. Leaving the EU will not make these problems go away. And if Cameron wants to start beating Ukip, he should be brave enough to say so.

Labour must have courage on immigration – Byrne

The former Home Office minister said Labour must not be “afraid” of the argument and had a moral responsibility to talk about immigration reform.

He also said UKIP voters were “darkly pessimistic” about their lives, whereas progressive politics was optimistic.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed on the issue this week – with both attacking the other party’s record.

Official figures published in August showed UK net migration – the difference between those entering and leaving – increased by more than 38% to 243,000 in 2013-14. EU citizens accounted for two-thirds of the growth.

The Labour leader has promised to bring in an immigration bill creating “clear, credible and concrete changes” within months, if Labour wins next year’s general election.

‘Be honest’

Mr Byrne – Labour’s universities spokesman who was immigration minister in the last Labour government – told Total Politics magazinethe party “can win an argument on this, but we have got to have the courage to put it at the top of our list of things we talk about”.

“And we have got be honest about the realities,” he said.

“Start Quote

Perhaps there are some colleagues who feel nervous talking about immigration. I certainly don’t”

Mary CreaghShadow transport secretary

And he cautioned politicians against ignoring voters’ concerns: “If people then sense that politicians are trying to duck the issue or avoid it or not confront it they are just not prepared to have that – and frankly, why should they?”

He expressed confidence that voters backed his proposal to exempt students from migration targets: “People know that students are good for Britain, not bad for Britain, they know that they are critical for our future influence in the world.”

The Birmingham Hodge Hill MP said Mr Miliband had to offer a positive vision to voters who had been attracted to the UK Independence Party: “The curious thing about UKIP voters is that they have one big thing in common: they are darkly pessimistic about themselves and their lives and if you want people to vote for progressive politics, you need people that are optimistic.”

Meanwhile his colleague, shadow transport Sscretary Mary Creagh told The House magazine Labour “needs to acknowledge the strain on schools, public services and the fact that people want to feel that people have put into a society before they start taking something out”.

“We are the Labour Party, we do like talking about the NHS and we are right to talk about the NHS. But perhaps there are some colleagues who feel nervous talking about immigration. I certainly don’t.”

Mr Cameron’s Conservative Party is facing a difficult by-election in Rochester and Strood, Kent, called after one of its MPs, Mark Reckless, defected to UKIP, which campaigns for the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The prime minister has said action is needed to curb EU immigration and has pledged to have “one last go” at negotiating a better deal for the UK in Europe.

There have been reports that the coalition could seek an “emergency brake” to stop EU migration after it reached a certain level or to limit the number of National Insurance numbers issued to new arrivals from the EU.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has appeared to rule this out, saying there could not be “tampering” with the EU principle of free movement of people.

UKVI new online application service

What is the UKVI Online Application Service?The new UKVI Online Application Service is improving the process for customers in the UK and abroad who are applying to enter or remain in the UK. The new service is accessed via GOV.UK and offers a more intuitive online application form, and payment process.The new Service is being delivered in parallel to both in-country and out-of-country customers.

In-country:

  • In February 2014, the Service was launched as an alternative to the paper form for Tier 2 Priority Service customers applying for an extension of their Leave to Remain (for main applicants). It was extended to dependant joiners applying separately in May.
  • Since October Priority Service customers have been able to use the new Service to switch to Tier 2 or to switch Tier 2 employers.

Out-of-country:

  • Since June 2014, customers in China have been able to use the Service as an alternative to the Visa4UK website to apply for a general, business or child Visit visa.

To date, over 24,000 applications have been submitted through the new UKVI Online Application Service and customer feedback has been extremely positive.

Who will be next to use the new Online Application Service?From Autumn 2014, the new Service will be extended to Tier 2 customers (main applicants and family groups) applying via the Standard 8-week Route. Customers and their legal representatives will be able to apply for, or switch to, Tier 2 Leave to Remain online via the GOV.UK website rather than using a paper form.The new Service will be available to the following Tier 2 customers:

  • Single applicants, dependant joiners and family groups
  • Priority Service customers (most applicants receive a decision within 10 working days)
  • Standard route customers (most applicants receive a decision within 8 weeks)
  • Customers in the Premium Sponsor scheme.

The Service will be released in phases:

  • Monday 6th October: Priority Service customers already able to use the new Service (i.e. in country main applicants and dependant joiners applying separately) can now use the new service to switch to Tier 2 or to switch Tier 2 employers
  • October:
  • December: Tier 2 customers applying as a family group will be able to use the Service
    • Customers in the Premium Sponsor scheme will be able to use the Service
    • Tier 2 Standard (8-week) Route customers will also be able to use the Service

 

It should be noted that the new UKVI Online Application Service will be offered in parallel with existing application routes (e.g. the paper application form).  Customers will be encouraged to use the new Online Service where possible.

Future improvements

The UKVI Online Application Service will continue to be rolled-out to all customers in- and out-of-country.

In the near future (timescales to be confirmed), the new Service will become available to Tier 5 dependant joiners applying separately. It will also become available to Premium Service customers. With Premium Service, most applicants receive a decision on the same day.

What does it mean for Customers, Legal Representatives and Sponsors?Customers and their legal representatives are encouraged to use the new Service as it will deliver a number of benefits.The in country Tier 2 application process will be simpler and more user-friendly, including:

  • Applying online instead of using a paper form
  • Fewer, more intuitive questions logically ordered based on customer feedback
  • Payment integrated into the online application process
  • A single online application form for family groups
  • The ability to save and return to complete the application at a later date
  • Date of application is the date submitted online.

The new Service is expected to improve service levels thanks to:

  • System validation, meaning customer errors and omissions are less likely
  • Electronic (instant) delivery of the application form to UKVI instead of postal delivery
  • Shorter, more logically ordered application form.

 

Applications can always be done on a same day basis. Contact us to find out how: 0203695 4626

Transit Visa Reform

Transit visas are being reformed, closing a loophole that allowed abuse. Other technical changes are also being implemented across the rules to tackle abuse while enhancing the United Kingdom’s status as an excellent place to do business. In particular, the Tier 1 (investor) route is being reformed following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee. The minimum investment threshold will be raised from £1m to £2m.  The Government will also consult further on what sort of investment the route should encourage in order to deliver real economic benefits, and other improvements to the route.  A consultation document will be published in due course.

For full details of the changes please see the Statement of Changes and Explanatory Memorandum at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statement-of-changes-to-the-immigration-rules-hc693-16-october-2014

Britain’s immigration system in chaos

Evidence of waste and poor management within Britain’s immigration system has been laid bare by a parliamentary report which reveals that failed IT systems are to cost up to £1bn while officials cannot find 50,000 rejected asylum seekers.

The Commons public accounts committee (PAC) also discloses that 11,000 asylum seekers in the UK have been waiting for at least seven years to hear whether they can stay and that officials have still not resolved 29,000 asylum applications dating back to at least 2007.

The highly critical MPs’ report, published a few hours after the Home Office defended its decision to end British support for search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, will increase pressure on David Cameron and his party over the handling of migration.

The Tories are being accused by Ukip of failing to curb immigration and face the possibility of losing the Rochester and Strood byelection in Kent next month to the insurgent Eurosceptic party as the issue dominates political debate.

The centre-right mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, added to Cameron’s woes when she told the home affairs select committee that the British government had done nothing to tell potential migrants that there was no “El Dorado” for them in the UK.

She said that there were 2,500 migrants in the French port who were “willing to die” to come to Britain.

Commenting on the report, Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, said MPs have found that the Home Office is struggling to contain major problems across the entire immigration system.

“The Home Office must put in place skilled, incentivised staff and sort out its data so it can crack the backlog and move people through the system,” she said.

“The pressure is on, and the Home Office must take urgent steps to sort out this immigration mess.”

The Home Office scrapped the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in March 2013 in part because its performance in dealing with backlog cases was not good enough. Operations were passed on to three directorates – UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force – which were due to spend £1.8bn a year, the PAC report says.

The failure of two major IT projects, the Immigration Case Work programme and the e-Borders IT programme, has hampered the Home Office’s ability to track people through the immigration system. Costs could grow to £1bn, the committee warns.

MPs also examined the government’s 2012 decision to set up an Older Live Cases Unit to deal with 400,000 asylum and migration claims dating back to before March 2007. The report says the number of unresolved cases now stands at 29,000 with a “worrying” backlog of 11,000 where no initial decision has been reached.

Turning to this year, the committee found that officials were struggling with fresh asylum claims, which is creating a new backlog of cases.

The number of claims awaiting an initial decision increased by 70% to 16,273 in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same period last year.

This is partly as a result of a “botched” attempt by the UK Borders Agency to downgrade staff that resulted in 120 experienced caseworkers leaving, the report says, as asylum caseworkers were in effect demoted from higher executive officers to executive officers, which led to the mass exodus.

The report also addresses the “migration refusal pool” – where people are recorded as having no permission to be in the UK, but officials do not know if they have left or have stayed without authorisation, which has just over 175,000 people awaiting removal from the UK, it says.

But Capita, the private company contracted by the Home Office, found that 50,000 people who had not been given permission to stay could not be contacted, the MPs found.

“The department [the Home Office] admitted that they did not know where these 50,000 people were,” the report says.

Home Office officials said the report is wrong to say there are 11,000 historical cases still awaiting an initial decision, because many of these cases have been assessed but await further submissions.

James Brokenshire, the immigration and security minister, said the coalition inherited a dysfunctional system incapable of the task.

“This is why we split it up into three separate divisions to improve focus on their specific roles in delivering a controlled immigration system and bring them under the direct supervision of ministers. Turning around years of mismanagement has taken time, but it is now well under way,” he said.

But Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the committee had exposed failings that could not be blamed on past administrations.

“Theresa May was very quick to blame the UKBA, but since she took direct control of the border force and immigration system we have seen backlogs increase sharply,” she said.

The Refugee Council’s head of advocacy, Lisa Doyle, said it was worrying that so many people were still waiting for a decision on their asylum claim. “Behind these statistics are individuals, many of whom will have suffered extreme trauma, forced to live day to day in uncertainty while they await the outcome of what could be a life or death decision,” she said.