On 10 October 2013, the Home Office introduced new legislation to reform UK immigration laws. Subject to Parliamentary progress and approval, Immigration Bill (HC Bill 110) may receive royal assent in Spring 2014.
The Immigration Bill is comprised of seven parts:
- Removal and other powers;
- Appeals (and article 8 cases);
- Access to services;
- Marriage and civil partnership;
- Miscellaneous; and
- Final provisions.
1. Removal and other powers
The Home Office hopes to have in force from Summer 2014 a system where only one decision is made, encompassing both a person’s immigration status and his or her removability. This decision will apply to those who:
- make applications to the Home Office for leave to stay in the UK;
- have not made an application, but their leave has been curtailed or revoked; and
- are unlawfully in the UK and are encountered by immigration officers.
Immigration officers’ powers
The Home Office wants to:
- put in place an explicit power for Border Force officers to undertake protective searches of detained people for items which might cause physical harm;
- ensure that immigration officers can search for travel documents belonging to detained/administratively arrested people where they are not already held by the Home Office; and
- reduce opportunities for people to seek to delay the removal of those who do not have valid leave by withholding consent to enter and search premises in which travel documents, which could facilitate their removal, are located.
The Home Office endeavours to require:
- the Tribunal to reject bail applications on the papers if they are made within 28 days of a previous application for bail which was refused, in the absence of a material change in circumstances; and
- the consenting of the Secretary of State before bail will be granted where removal is within 14 days of the First-tier Tribunal hearing the application.
From Summer 2014, the Home Office hopes to:
- require those applying for transit visas to enrol their biometric information, i.e. scan of fingerprints and digital facial photograph, before travelling;
- require those applying to become British citizens to enrol their biometric information as part of the application process;
- require non-EEA family members of EEA nationals to enrol their biometric information when applying for EEA documentation; and
- enable immigration officers to conduct biometric checks on suspected immigration offenders.
2. Appeals (and article 8 cases)
The Home Office wants to:
- reduce the number of immigration decisions that can be appealed from the current 17 to four;
- make the appeals process more transparent so that decisions on human rights and asylum claims would be considered by the Secretary of State before they are considered by the Tribunal; and
- set-up an administrative review system to provide a proportionate and less costly mechanism for resolving case working errors.
The Home Office endeavours to:
- ensure that a court, which is considering article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in an immigration case, has proper regard to what the public interest requires; and
- make it clear 'what the public interest requires'.
3. Access to services
Privately rented accommodation
From October 2014, the Home Office wants to:
- ensure that new tenants in private rented housing have the right to stay in the UK;
- tackle rogue landlords who provide substandard or illegal accommodation;
- ensure that landlords in the private-rented sector take steps to check the lawful immigration status of individuals before allowing them to rent or occupy property; and
- introduce financial penalties to landlords who rent to those who do not have lawful immigration status in the UK.
National Health Service
The Home Office hopes:
- to ensure that non-EEA nationals, including international students, will contribute towards the NHS care, which will be available to them during their stay in the UK;
- to exempt certain groups from having to make this financial contribution, where appropriate;
- to ensure that non-EEA nationals with permanent residence will continue to be eligible for the same, free NHS care as a resident British citizen if they continue to be properly settled in the UK; and
- that the Department of Health will separately bring forward proposals to strengthen the arrangements for administering overseas visitor charges.
By enforcing banks and building societies to undertake immigration status checks, the Home Office would like to ensure that migrants without valid leave are not able to open bank accounts in the UK.
By the end of 2014, the Home Office wants to:
- increase the maximum penalty from £10,000 to £20,000 for employing each worker who does not have the right to work in the UK;
- streamline the processes by which an employer can object to and appeal against a civil penalty;
- improve and make it easier to enforce unpaid civil penalty debts in the civil courts; and;
- simplify the right to work checks required, to make it easier for compliant employers to fulfil their responsibilities.
In 2014, the Home Office endeavours to:
- ensure that only those who have the right to reside in the UK can obtain a full or provisional UK driving licence; and
- create powers in law, which would enable the government to revoke the driving licence of a person who did not have the right to reside in the UK.
4. Marriage and civil partnership
From April 2015, the Home Office hopes to:
- extend and amend the marriage and civil partnership notice process to enable the Home Office to identify and investigate suspected sham marriages and civil partnerships; and
- extend powers for information to be shared by and with registration officials.
In regards to the immigration advisers, including those organisations registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (“OISC”), the Home Office wants to:
- ensure that the immediate cancellation of the registration of unfit, incompetent, or defunct organisations;
- allow the suspension of an adviser who has been charged with a serious criminal offence;
- enable the OISC Commissioner to require entry to business premises to conduct inspections;
- allow the OISC Commissioner to require entry to a business operating from a private residence to conduct an inspection or to investigate a complaint; and
- create a single category of regulated organisation.
By 2015, the Home Office would like to introduce exit checks.
The Home Office hopes to:
- amend the criteria which may be considered when setting application fees so that fees may be adjusted in line with the government’s objectives and priorities;
- simplify the current processes for amending fees;
- set-out specific fee levels; and
- enable unnecessary or redundant fees to be removed from the framework.