Category: New Government Policies

Immigration Health Surcharge paid by migrants to double

Charges paid by temporary migrants in the UK to use the NHS are to double, the government has announced. Ministers said the move would raise around £220m a year for the health service while ensuring that migrants made a “fair contribution” towards its costs.

The increase to the immigration health surcharge – payable by people from outside the European Economic Area staying in the UK for six months or longer – means the main rate will rise from £200 to £400 a year. The discounted rate for students and those on the youth mobility scheme will go up from £150 to £300.

A surcharge was brought in by the government in 2015 in a clampdown on so-called “health tourism”. It has been questioned by some doctors, who have voiced concern that the policy could be discriminatory and result in racial profiling to identify chargeable patients.

Banks begin immigration checks on millions of accounts

The new scheme, which will be rolled out this month, requires banks and building societies to check all current account holders against a list of people liable for deportation or wanted by immigration enforcement. If an account holder is found to be in the UK illegally the bank must inform the Home Office, which will instruct on action that may include closing the account.

“These new measures are part of our commitment to make it more difficult for people with no right to live or work in the UK to remain here.  Banks and building societies have been required to check a person’s immigration status before they open a current account since 2014, and a 2016 investigation found 10% of those denied an account after such checks had been refused wrongly.

In a statement, the Home Office said only the details of people who were “liable for removal” or who had “absconded from immigration control” would be shared, and that asylum seekers and others whose applications were being processed would not be affected.

Money will be returned to the account holders unless evidence of criminality is found, in which case an account could be frozen, the Home Office said. Current measures against illegal migrants includes preventing people from working, renting accommodation or getting driving licences, and have seen demands for immigration checks implemented in hospitals and schools.

Immigration Act puts further obligations on banks to check the Immigration status of customers.

The Immigration Act 2014 prohibited firms from opening current accounts for people who don’t have leave to remain in or enter into the UK. The Immigration Act 2014 has been amended by the Immigration Act 2016 and these amendments come into force on 30 October 2017.

There will be a number of additional requirements on firms including a requirement to carry out periodic checks of the immigration status of existing current account customers. This will include accounts opened before the 2014 Act prohibition came into force and will encompass situations where accounts may have been opened during a period of lawful stay but where the migrant has remained in the UK after their leave has expired.

The first immigration check is required to be carried out for the quarter beginning on 1 January 2018. Firms will be checking for accounts operated by a disqualified person (i.e. a person who is in the UK but who does not have the required leave to enter or remain in the UK).

The firm must then inform the Home Office if any account is identified and the Home Office will then carry out a check. The Home Office will have a range of options including requiring firms to close the account as soon as possible and power to apply to the Court to freeze an account until the individual leaves the UK.

The Immigration Act 2014 (Bank Accounts) Regulations will be amended to extend the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) duty to monitor and enforce compliance with the new requirements. The FCA is currently consulting on its approach to the amended Immigration Act and regulations including reporting, monitoring and enforcement.

What do you need to know?

New accounts

Where the check identifies that the applicant is a disqualified person, firms must refuse to open the account. This prohibition includes:

  • opening joint current accounts for any disqualified persons
  • opening a current account where the disqualified person is a signatory or is identified as a beneficiary
  • adding any disqualified person as a current account holder, signatory or identified beneficiary in relation to an existing current account

Where firms refuse to open a current account due to concerns the person is a disqualified person, the firm must tell that person the reason for the refusal (as long as doing so does not conflict with obligations under other legislation e.g. Anti-Money Laundering legislation). Particular wording has been prepared by the Home Office which can be used where firms have refused an account.

Existing accounts

In terms of existing accounts, from 1 January 2018, firms will also be required to carry out quarterly immigration checks and any accounts found to be operated by a disqualified person must likewise be reported to the Home Office.

What do firms need to do?

  • make arrangements to comply with the Immigration Act 2016 and ensure that the relevant checks are put in place and employees are aware of the obligations and receive the necessary training;
  • put in place record-keeping procedures so that they can demonstrate compliance with the Immigration Act 2016 to the FCA. Firms will need to keep these records for at least 5 years. Firms will also need to confirm to the FCA each year that they are complying with their obligations under the Immigration Act;
  • terms and conditions will need to be updated in order to take account of the new quarterly checks; and
  • any issues with compliance will need to be reported to the FCA in the usual way.

Implications of the Immigration Act

This will place yet a further obligation on firms to monitor account activity. Appropriate systems and checks will need to be put in place to ensure compliance with this new obligation. Industry experts have expressed concerns that these requirements will make it harder for legitimate customers to open bank accounts.

Questions have also been raised about where liability will lie if things go wrong. In circumstances where a search brings up a number of names this may lead to the incorrect bank accounts being frozen or closed which could lead to claims being issued against firms. Appropriate records will need to be maintained to show why decisions have been made in order to evidence a firms compliance with the act.

Firms will also need to ensure its policies and procedures are clear and comply with other legislative requirements.

Who is affected?

You have been refused a current account

Banks and building societies are required to carry out immigration status checks on people applying for current accounts. Under the Immigration Act 2014 they must refuse your application for a new current account (or an application to add you as a signatory or identified beneficiary to a new or existing current account) if you are a disqualified person.

You may be disqualified if you are in the UK and need leave to enter or remain (under the Immigration Act 1971) and don’t have leave to be here. This could be because you:

  • never had leave to enter or remain (because you entered the UK illegally)
  • had leave but stayed after it expired or was revoked
  • are an European Economic Area (EEA) national subject to deportation action who has exhausted all rights of appeal

Your account has been closed

Banks and building societies are required to carry out immigration status checks on people who hold current accounts. If you are identified as being disqualified from holding an account, then, under the Immigration Act 2014 the bank or building society must close your accounts (or restrict access where you are a signatory or identified beneficiary, or the account is jointly held with a non-disqualified person). You may be disqualified if you are in the UK and need leave to enter or remain (under the Immigration Act 1971) and don’t have leave to be here. This could be because you:

  • never had leave to enter or remain (because you entered the UK illegally)
  • had leave, but stayed after it expired or was revoked
  • are an European Economic Area national subject to deportation action who has exhausted all rights of appeal.

The Home Office has the power under the Immigration Act 2014 to apply for a freezing order in relation to current accounts for disqualified person.

Query the decision

If a bank or building society refuses your application for a current account or closes your current account under the Immigration Act 2014, it will normally tell you why. If you believe there’s been a mistake, you should contact the Home Office with evidence of your lawful immigration status. If you have a right to be in the UK, the Home Office will change your details so you can re-apply to open a current account or re-open your existing account.

If you have any further questions or require any assistance relating issues with your bank account give us a call on 020 3695 4626 or email us on enquiries@citylegalservices.co.uk

UK-EU freedom of movement to end in March 2019

Freedom of movement will end as soon as Britain leaves the EU, the immigration minister has said, as the government prepares a survey on the benefits of migration from the bloc.

Brandon Lewis also confirmed that the government intended to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands – a promise the Conservatives have failed to keep since taking office in 2010 – though he refused to say it would be achieved within this parliament.“Free movement of labour ends when we leave the European Union in the spring of 2019. I’ll be very clear about that,” Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

“Obviously, there’s a period of negotiation we’re going through with the European Union at the moment. But we’re very clear that free movement ends. It’s part of the four key principles of the European Union. When we leave, that, by definition, ends,” Lewis said.His comments appear to run counter to recent reports that the government is willing to allow freedom of movement to continue during a transitional period lasting three or four years.

The remarks are likely to alarm businesses, which would have less than two years to prepare for an end to free movement of labour with the EU. However, it could be that while freedom of movement technically ends with Brexit, the arrangements are still replicated during an implementation phase.

In a sign this may be the case, Lewis reiterated the Conservatives’ commitment to reducing net immigration to a less than 100,000 people a year, but he refused to say it would be met by the end of the parliament, claiming that it was impossible to do so while freedom of movement remained.

 

Wrong Brexit immigration policy could leave north-east industries without a workforce

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said he had grave concerns for the north-east’s fish processing, soft fruit and seasonal farming sectors, which rely heavily on EU nationals.

Lord Duncan said there needed to be more focus on how to allow EU nationals to continue to work in the north-east of Scotland after Brexit. He said: “The area I have most concern about is the EU nationals question, particularly on the fish processing side, where upwards of 90% of workers are EU nationals. These are challenging but very well-paying jobs but they are not attractive jobs and so they are filled with migrants in places like Peterhead.

“How do we create a system that allows EU migrants to continue to fill these processing jobs as well as those in farming and seasonal work?”

Lord Duncan said he did not think rural affairs minister Michael Gove’s preferred points-based system was workable. He said: “It needs to be a non points-based system.”

Full story can be read here

Theresa May under pressure to drop migration target after warning over Brexit recruitment crisis.

Theresa May has come under new pressure to drop her target to reduce migration after a report warned that Brexit is already causing recruitment problems for UK companies.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the recruitment industry, said the Government’s failure to outline a post-Brexit immigration policy was adding to uncertainty for both business and EU workers in the UK. REC’s survey of 607 employers found evidence that a growing number are taking on temporary workers to plug gaps caused by skill shortages. Some 87 per cent intend to maintain or increase their use of temporary staff in the next three months.

Kevin Green, REC’s chief executive, said: “Brexit is making the situation more challenging. In London for example, a third of people working in construction are from the EU and it’s difficult to see how firms will manage if their workforce aren’t encouraged to stay in the UK and continue to contribute to our economy.”

Mr Green added: “Decisions about the future immigration system are too important to be subject to political whim – we need policy to be built on sound evidence and data. Businesses need access to people to deliver growth, and that the current UK workforce alone cannot meet demand.” The REC’s “jobs outlook” report said the engineering, construction and education sectors could face unfilled vacancies in September or October.

Full story can be read here

Brexit talks must not lose sight of immigration issue.

We hear masses about a Brexit “Bill” and about the future role of European Court of Justice. But what has happened to the issue of free movement? Wasn’t this supposed to be one of the Government’s fabled “red lines”?

While Theresa May  in her manifesto renewed David Cameron’s vow to bring net migration down to 100,000 a year we have scarcely heard a thing on the subject since the election. There has to be a suspicion that the Goverment is preparing for a climbdown, that it is opening the way for a deal in which Britain would remain partially in the single market with EU citizens free to travel to Britain, to look for work here and to claim benefits here much as before. In fact the Government began to change tone subtly on free movement as early as the first week in April even before Theresa May made her decision to call a general election.

Speaking on a trip to Jordan, about as far from the political fray of Westminster as she has been in recent months, the Prime Minister started to talk of an “implementation period” in which free movement could continue to operate for an unspecified time. There has been a similar shifting of position in the Government’s promise to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already resident in Britain. There is widespread agreement that people settled in Britain should have the right to stay in return for UK citizens resident abroad having the right to remain there.

But there is the issue of a cut-off date: since when should an EU citizen have had to be living in Britain to qualify for the automatic right to stay? At first it was suggested that it should be the date of the referendum: June 23 last year. But the date keeps slipping forward. It now could be any date between when Article 50 was triggered – in March this year – to the date on which Britain officially leaves the EU, expected to be March 2019.

Full story can be read here

There’s going to be ‘chaos’ in the food industry after Brexit, report warns…

A report from food policy specialists has said that ministers need to establish a clear plan for how a new food system will operate. As it stands, the UK gets 31% of its food from the UK and the report’s authors have warned that provisions need to be put in place before Brexit occurs in 2019. The absence of a trade deal could push the price of imported food up by 22%.

Even a ‘soft’ Brexit – which would see the Uk remain in the single market or customs union, could badly impact the food and farming industries.Ahead of the departure deadline, there are thousands of pieces of legislation concerning food which require consideration, covering areas such as agriculture and fisheries.

Author Tim Lang, a professor from City University in London, accused the government of a ‘serious policy failing on an unprecedented scale’ for its handling of the situation. Mr Lang said: ‘The Government has provided next to no details on agriculture and fisheries, and there has been total silence on the rest of the food chain where most employment, value adding and consumer choice are made. ‘With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale. Anyone would think they want a drop into the World Trade Organisation abyss.’He added: ‘At least the UK entered World War Two with emergency plans. No-one has warned the public that a Food Brexit carries real risks of disruption to sources, prices and quality.’

These include a “clear integrated plan for UK food”, new legislation to ‘replace 4,000 pieces of EU law relating to food’ and subsidies to cover the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which the UK is expected to leave. The report, which is based on more than 200 sources, continues: ‘Prices, which are already rising and likely to rise more, will become more volatile, especially harming poor consumers.’

Full story can be read here

 

Brexit could cost UK Treasury tens of billions in lost tax revenue.

The Treasury’s official watchdog has highlighted the significant risk posed by Brexit to the UK’s public finances in a new report.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its Fiscal Risk Report published on Thursday, said that a possible Brexit “divorce bill”, which some have suggested could be up to €100bn (£88bn), would only be a “one-off hit” to the Exchequer and that the far bigger risk related to the damage that leaving the EU could do to the UK’s long-term growth rate.

It said that if Brexit ended up reducing the UK’s annual trend productivity growth rate – the amount the UK produces per hour of labour – by just 0.1 per cent over 50 years, the economy would be 4.8 per cent smaller than otherwise. That would be equivalent to a cost in lost GDP of almost £100bn in today’s money – which would translate into a £36bn hit to tax revenues.

The OBR said there was “no meaningful basis” on which to predict the outcome of the Government’s Brexit talks in terms of the UK’s future trade arrangement, and so it has not assumed any long-term hit to the UK’s productivity growth rate in its current official forecast. However, many private sector forecasters have downgraded their potential productivity growth forecasts for the UK due to the decision to leave the EU, some by as much as 0.3 per cent.

Berenberg Bank has downgraded its base-case estimate for long-term annual UK potential productivity growth from 2.1 per cent to 1.8 per cent due to Brexit. Combining that with the OBR’s estimates implies a £100bn hit to tax revenues over the next half-century.

Full story can be read here

Great Repeal Bill Human Rights Clause Sets Up Brexit Clash With Labour

 

The government has set itself on a collision course with opposition parties by insisting that it will not bring the EU charter of fundamental rights into domestic law on Brexit day.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has made the incorporation of the charter – which interprets EU human rights – one of the six tests he will apply when Labour decides whether to vote for the bill when it returns to parliament in the autumn. The Liberal Democrats have also made it a key demand.

The government believes the charter, which interprets existing EU rights rather than creating new ones, will no longer be necessary after “exit day”, when Britain leaves the EU. But refusing to incorporate it will set up one of a series of parliamentary struggles as Theresa May tries to get the legislation through parliament.

The Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who has said the passage of the bill in the autumn will be “hell” for the government, said: “The charter of fundamental rights is a cornerstone of what makes Britain what we are. I cannot understand what issue the government have with it. Is it the right to life, the ban on torture, protection against slavery, the right to a fair trial, respect for privacy, freedom of thought and religion, free speech and peaceful protest? These are not frustrations, these are integral to what it is to be British.”

The first and most historically significant line of the bill says simply: “The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.” But the legislation also brings EU law into domestic UK law, to create continuity after exit day. And it contains controversial new powers for ministers to tweak laws and create new institutions, where these are deemed necessary to make EU law work when it is transferred to UK law.

Full story can be read here