After much campaigning and opposition the Immigration Bill received Royal Assent on 14 May 2014 and has therefore become part of UK immigration law.
It is known as the Immigration Act 2014. With this Immigration Act the UK government has, in my view, imposed the largest onslaught against immigration and immigrants in modern UK history.
Penalties involving immigration offences have now been widened to include landlords who must now confirm prospective tenants’ immigration status. This is perhaps the most detrimental aspect of this new law.
As a solicitor specialising in immigration law, I know that some degree of skill and knowledge is required to ascertain what type of visa a migrant has and particularly if they have permission to be in the country.
Permission to be in the UK is very fluid and a person’s immigration status can change overnight. So one minute a person is the subject of removal directions and the next they obtain a visa granting permission to stay in the UK. It is going to be impossible for a landlord to establish a person’s immigration status and the likely result is that the landlord would opt to refuse to rent the property for fear of being on the wrong side of the law.
One terrible effect of this will be that families with a legitimate reason to be in the UK will be denied private housing and they are certainly unlikely to be successful in obtaining social housing.
New government rules will compel local authorities to take account of the length of time someone has lived in an area and strength of local connections during the housing allocations process. So newly arrived migrants will be denied social housing which is a deliberate act of the UK government.
Another unwanted outcome will be that rogue landlords will undoubtedly extort large amounts of money from families unable to prove their immigration status but desperate to secure accommodation.
Also vulnerable tenants may be left without recourse to assistance in cases of housing disrepair for fear of being reported to immigration by landlords. It is likely that landlords will increase the rent for foreign migrants as a form of premium to compensate against any financial liability they attract under immigration law.
Landlords who circumvent their duties under the Immigration Act will be liable to a large fine for each illegal migrant at the property.
All in all, these new requirements will mean that many families will be left out in the cold and homeless.
Other important changes to come out of the Immigration Act 2014 are:
– To reduce the number of immigration decisions that people can appeal from 17 decisions to 4.
– That people can be removed from the UK to await the decision of an ongoing appeal from abroad.
– The right to stay in the UK because of your right to a family life is no longer an absolute right.
– Making temporary migrants pay a financial contribution towards the NHS.
All in all the UK is going to become a very difficult society to live in for all – and not just for immigrants.
By Rachel Toussaint,
The author is a Solicitor and an Immigration Consultant at Rogols Community Action Consultancy, Birmingham UK. Ms Toussaint is a human rights advocate and a specialist in UK Immigration Law, particularly as it relates to families. In her blog (http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com) she shares legal tips for parents to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes.