The Immigration Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 12 May. This Act aims to deter illegal migrants from entering the UK by limiting their access to services and making it harder for them to find work as well as tackling the exploitation of low skilled workers. The Act also makes provision for restrictions on skilled tier-2 visas for non-EEA migrants including a new Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), in order to discourage overseas recruitment. The Act will result in a number of regulations which will be introduced over the coming months. Migrants should be aware of the following measures contained in the Act:
Director of Labour Market Enforcement
- The Act creates a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement who will be responsible for co-ordinating the enforcement work of the three relevant bodies in this area; HMRC, GLA, and the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EASI)
- The Director will be responsible for compiling an annual labour market enforcement strategy, and report on the scale and nature of non-compliance.
- The Director’s remit will cover both direct employment as well as labour providers and include the whole spectrum of non-compliance from accidental infringement to serious crime. It is anticipated that the Director will be appointed shortly.
Expansion of the remit of the GLA
- The Gangmasters Licencing Authority (GLA) has now been renamed the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and will be given greater powers and scope.
Tier-2 Visa Restrictions
- The Act allows for the government to introduce new regulations on Tier-2 visas for skilled workers outside of the EEA.
- The government plan to increase the salary threshold for a tier-2 visa to £25,000 (£20,800 for new entrants), with exemptions for certain professions, from autumn 2016 and to then increase this to £30,000 by April 2017.
- An Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) will be charged to employers sponsoring Tier-2 workers at a rate of £1,000 per Tier-2 worker per year with a reduced rate of £364 for small businesses (as defined by the Companies Act 2006)
Other relevant measures
- The Act will extend the existing offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant to allow for the prosecution of employers where they had a ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that a worker was an illegal worker.
- The Act creates a new offence of illegal working where if a worker lacks ‘leave to remain’ or breach restricted working conditions they could face a sentence of up to 6 months and could have their earnings seized.
- Public authorities will have to ensure workers in ‘customer facing roles’ can speak English to a defined level of fluency.
- Banks and building societies must carry out periodic checks of the immigration status of existing current account holder.