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Against the current backdrop of the migration crisis of asylum seekers fleeing Syria and the Middle East, the Government yesterday published details of the Immigration Bill 2015. James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister, explained that the measures send out a clear message to make it “tougher than ever before to live illegally in the UK”. The Bill includes a host of new measures, including a new offence of driving while unlawfully in the UK.
Landlords and Letting Agents will be affected by the Bill, which creates new powers to evict illegal migrants from private dwellings. The controversial new Right to Rent checks, which will be rolled out sometime later this year, will soon require landlords and their letting agents to check the immigration status of any occupiers of residential premises, or face fines and criminal sanctions including imprisonment for up to five years plus a fine.
Employers will also be affected by the Bill. It will become easier for employers to be convicted of the current offence of employing an illegal worker, with a change in the definition of the offence, an increase in the potential imprisonment of the employer from two to five years, and the ability for an immigration officer to arrest an employer without warrant.
Furthermore, employers who use the current points based system to employ skilled workers from outside the EEA using a Sponsorship Licence, may soon face an Immigration Skills Charge, under this Bill. Employers are already only able to recruit from outside the EEA in situations of skills shortage, or where there is no UK based employee who can fill the vacancy. The new charge, seems designed to try to dissuade employers further from using overseas skills, but fails to address the reason that employers are being forced into recruiting in this way in the first place.
The Bill is not yet law, and will undoubtedly be hotly debated and discussed in the coming months. Alongside this debate, the current wave of migrants crossing Europe will presumably soon reach Britain and are likely to have the status of asylum seekers, which is a particularly difficult status for both employers and landlords to deal with. Immigration issues in the UK continue to be a hotly contested area of law and early advice is recommended.