On 3 July 2013, the Home Office announced in a written ministerial statement that the forthcoming Immigration Bill will make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live in the UK unlawfully and ensure that legal migrants make a fair contribution to the UK’s key public services.

In conjunction with this, the Home Office has launched two consultations on proposals to better regulate migrant access to health services in the UK and to prohibit illegal migrants from renting accommodation in the UK.

Any new rules are anticipated to take effect in 2014.

Controlling immigration – regulating migrant access to health services in the UK

Following concern by some that the current rules regulating migrant access to the NHS are too generous, poorly applied, and draw health tourists, the Government is seeking views on proposals to better regulate migrant access to public funded health services in the UK. The full consultation paper can be found here.

For a summary of current and proposed NHS access arrangements for non-EEA nationals, please click here.

In short, the only non-EEA migrants who would be able to receive NHS services free of charge would be those who hold indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK.

For temporary migrants, the Home Office is considering a migrant health levy, which would be collected as part of the visa and immigration application process. Those temporary migrants who paid the levy would then be entitled to access most NHS services for free, and this permission would be endorsed on their visas or biometric residence permits. The proposed levy would be set at a flat-rate of not less than £200 for each year of leave granted, the total of which would be payable up-front.

A second option is, instead of a migrant health levy, temporary migrants would be required to take out private health insurance. The Home Office is also welcoming views on such options as using a migrant’s sponsoring employer or educational establishment to provide a guarantee that a migrant’s healthcare would be provided for.

The proposed new residency test would be subject to exemptions for certain categories relating to the UK’s humanitarian obligations and responsibilities under international agreements. Existing exemptions from charges for a number of specific public health services, eg treatment for tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted diseases, would also be retained.

This consultation will run for eight weeks until 28 August 2013, and the public may respond to the consultation by completing an online survey.

Tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation

The Government is consulting on proposals to require private landlords to check the immigration status of new tenants; and the Home Office has published both an overview of the proposal and a full consultation paper.

The proposals will affect:

  • those who are renting out accommodation for people to live in anywhere in the United Kingdom. Potentially, this could include taking in a lodger (or similar) into the home where they are living;
  • a letting agent who provides a service for landlords by finding people to live in rented property or who manages the property for them;
  • a hotel or guest house or provider of similar accommodation taking in guests who stay for three months or more; and
  • those who are intending to live in rented accommodation anywhere in the United Kingdom in the future (potentially including as a paying lodger in someone else’s home).  

Proposed exemptions will include:

  • social housing rented to tenants nominated by the local authority;
  • privately rented homes let to people under the homelessness legislation;
  • accommodation provided to employees;
  • tourist accommodation such as hotels and guest houses where the person is staying less than three months;
  • properties let under short term business or holiday lets (less than three months); 
  • properties rented for commercial use (shops, offices, etc); 
  • hostels and refuges providing crisis accommodation to homeless and other vulnerable people;
  • hospital accommodation of patients, hospices, care homes, etc; and
  • university / college halls of residence, boarding schools, and children’s homes.

The new rules would not apply to tenants who are already living in the property at the time the new rules come into operation.

The proposed checks for landlords are fashioned on the Prevention of Illegal Working checks currently made by employers in that landlords will need to take reasonable steps, before the rental arrangement starts, to make immigration checks on all of the adults (children to be exempt) in order to verify that they are entitled to be in the UK. The Home Office will publish guidance so that landlords can compare potential tenants’ documents against a list of acceptable documents.

The Home Office would operate an enquiry service to help in situations where a landlord is unclear about the documentation he or she may accept or needs to verify some of the less common forms of documents, eg a Certificate of Application, a Home Office letter of authorisation, etc.

Responsibility for completing the checks would normally rest with the landlord; but this responsibility could be transferred to a letting agent where the letting agent agrees to this in writing. Where a property is rented to a company, then the company would be responsible for making checks on people that live in that property.

Under the proposals If illegal migrants are found living in rented accommodation, which is not exempt or for which there are no extenuating circumstances (eg the landlord was deceived by well-forged documents), penalties would be calculated as follows:

  • landlord or letting agent who has not received an advisory letter or notice of liability within the past three years: £1,000 per adult illegal migrant; and
  • landlord or letting agent who has received an advisory letter or notice of liability within the past three years: £3,000 per adult illegal migrant.

This consultation will run for seven weeks until 21 August 2013, and the public may respond to the consultation by completing an online survey.