|Photo Credit - Theguardian.com|
On 12 May 2016, the Immigration Act 2016 came into force, making it officially UK law. The importance of this Act to Nigerians, and particularly Nigerian students, who live or intend to migrate cum study in the UK cannot be over-emphasised.
The Act is designed to create an ‘hostile environment’ for those who require immigration permission to work and live in the UK but who do not have it.
Speaking about the new Act, Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire said:
“The message is clear - if you are here illegally, you shouldn’t be entitled to receive the everyday benefits and services available to hard-working UK families and people who have come to this country legitimately to contribute.
“Whether it is working, renting a flat, having a bank account or driving a car, the new immigration act will help us to take tougher action than ever before on those who flout the law.
“It will deter illegal migrants from trying to reach the UK by preventing them from accessing benefits or services in this country and make it easier for us to remove those with no right to be here.”
What are the key changes to the law?
The provisions of the Act that will affect Nigerians living or intending to live, work and study in the UK are summarized below.
Employers who hire illegal migrants and the workers themselves face criminal sanctions of up to five years’ imprisonment. Those who have leave and are allowed to work but who undertake prohibited types of work, for example, Tier 4 (General) students must not be self-employed or work as a professional sportsperson or as an entertainer.
The Home office has also announced that Employers who are Tier 2 sponsors will be charged a £1000 immigration skills charge when they sponsor individuals under these categories. The implication of this for those who seek Tier 2 Visa’s for graduate jobs in the UK is far reaching.
A tenant who is required to have leave to be in the UK but who does not have it can be evicted. This will apply to tenancies entered into before as well as after implementation of this Part of the Bill. A landlord who has reasonable cause to believe his or her tenants have no 'right to rent' but who takes no action against them can be imprisoned for up to five years and/or be fined.
Banks and building societies will be required to check the immigration status of current account holders at a frequency to be set out in regulations not yet published. They will be charged for doing this, and presumably that charge can be passed to customers.
Migrants who are found guilty can have their bank accounts frozen.
The Bill creates a new offence of driving when unlawfully in the UK. The penalty will be imprisonment and/or a fine, as well as immigration sanctions. People and premises can be searched for a driving licence.
If the Home Office considers that a person who has applied for leave has failed to comply with a condition or used or uses deception in seeking leave to remain, that person's leave extended by virtue of section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 can be cancelled. This means that the individual will become an overstayer and will immediately be affected by all the measures summarised above, as well as usually being prohibited from study.
Also, the Government’s so called ‘deport first, appeal later’ scheme has been extended to all migrants (before it only applied to convicted criminals with no residency rights). Any migrant can now be remove to their home country pending the outcome of their appeal against the decision to remove them.
Furthermore, pregnant women can now only be detained by immigration authorities for up to 72 hours (and one week with special permission).
All in all…
With this huge new law, the UK government is again trying to clamp down on illegal migrants. Nigerians who lives in the UK or intend to migrate to the UK should be aware of these changes. A violation of any immigration rule means that their bank account may be frozen, driving licence revoked, and all rights to appeal can only be done after deportation to the home country.
Profile: OMOTAYO Akorede Samuel
Legal Intern at Atlantic Solicitors, UK.
BA (Hons) Philosophy,
Graduate LLB (Presently), Bangor University, UK.