Legal environment for migrants set to get tougher

9 Sep 15

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A new Immigration Bill anticipated this fall would subject migrants working illegally in England or Wales to imprisonment and wage garnishment, while providing increased penalties for employers and landlords who fail to properly check the immigration status of employees or tenants.

What does the change mean? While the impact on corporate employers of changes regarding illegal migrants may not be direct, the proposals are reflective of the U.K. government’s ever tougher attitude on immigration and its commitment to get immigration “under control,” even at a high cost.

  • Implementation time frame: An Immigration Bill is expected to be introduced this fall.
  • Who is affected: Employers, landlords (corporate and private) and immigrants would all be affected.
  • Business impact: Some business groups have announced their opposition to the Bill as well as to Prime Minister David Cameron’s goal of significantly lowering net migration.
  • Next steps: Parliament would have to approve the Bill before it could take effect.

Background: While details of the Bill have not yet been published, statements from the Home Office in August indicate that it will include strict new measures. Under the Bill, anyone working illegally in England or Wales could face up to six months in prison, have their wages seized and face unlimited fines. The Bill would also make it easier to prosecute employers who know or reasonably suspect that an employee does not have permission to work in the U.K. The maximum sentence for employers found to violate this offense would increase from two years’ to five years’ imprisonment.

The Department for Communities and Local Government announced earlier in August that the legislation would enable landlords in England to more easily evict tenants in the country illegally and to do so without a court order in some cases. Landlords who repeatedly fail to conduct “right to rent” checks (introduced as a concept by the Immigration Act 2014 and recently trialed in the West Midlands) would face fines and up to five years’ imprisonment.

BAL Analysis: Migration to the U.K. is currently under intense political scrutiny, and the new Conservative government appears set to take more radical steps to both crack down on illegal migration and curb net legal migration.

Despite a long-standing pledge by the Conservatives to slash net migration “from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands,” the Office of National Statistics announced in August that net migration reached an all-time high of 330,000 for the 12-month period that ended in March 2015 – a sign that policy initiatives taken over the life of the last coalition government were not sufficiently effective.

Cameron’s government has taken a hard line as it deals with the political fallout from high net migration numbers and the ongoing EU refugee crisis that sees scores of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and seeking to enter the U.K. via Calais. The anticipated Bill, coming less than a year after the Immigration Act 2014 took effect, would make the U.K. an ever more hostile environment for undocumented migrants.

BAL will continue to follow the Immigration Bill as it goes to parliament this quarter and will provide updates on significant developments as they relate to our clients.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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