The Queen Announces New Immgiration Bill
In her recent speech setting out the Government’s proposed legislation for the year ahead, Her Majesty the Queen announced a bill intended to reform the immigration system. She said “the bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not”. Although the draft bill is yet to be published, the government has provided some broad guidance setting out what the bill is intended to achieve.
- Access to services - The Bill intends to regulate immigrant access to public services, such as the NHS and social housing. It is thought that the Bill will require immigrants to make some sort of financial contribution before obtaining NHS care. It is not known at this stage what form such contribution might take or how it would be enforced.
- Driver’s licences - Illegal immigrants will be prevented from obtaining UK driver’s licences, which will in turn affect their ability to obtain access to paid work/bank accounts and the like.
- Landlords will be required to check the immigration status of all of their tenants. The Government intends to impose tough penalties on those private landlords who do not comply with the requirements, although it is not clear how this rule might be policed.
- Use of illegal labour - The Bill will introduce tougher fines on those businesses that employ illegal immigrants.
- Removal from the UK - The Government expects to introduce measures to make it easier to deport immigrants when required, including where the immigrant has committed a serious crime. It will be more difficult to appeal such decisions. Indeed, only immigrants whose cases that raise important issues will be able to appeal immigration/deportation decisions.
- Public Interest - Applications from criminal immigrants seeking to avoid deportation on the basis of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to family life) will be required to be weighed against the impact on society in general and the victim(s) of the crime.
The new measures are unlikely to have much impact on immigration originating from within the EU, which is expected to increase when restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants are lifted at the end of the year. As such, it is likely that the Bill will have the effect of further restricting the flow of skilled migrants from outside of the EU, a significantly smaller group of people. Further, as mentioned briefly above, it is difficult to imagine how some of the new principles might work in practice. Employers and landlords in particular would be well advised to keep a close eye on the Bill as it passes through Parliament to ensure that they are aware of their precise obligations.