Having received Royal Assent on 14 May, the new Immigration Bill will make some substantial changes to the functioning of the UK immigration system. While Immigration Minister, Mark Harper persists that the new Bill is a fair adjustment to the current legislation, a closer look at the draft reveals that not only illegal immigrants will suffer from the new measures. On the other hand, some discrepancies in the previous rules have been set right.
In order to investigate the immigration records, the notice period for marriages and civil partnerships in cases where at least one of the partners is a non EEA national has been extended from 15 days to 28 days. This is to allow intelligence-based risk agencies to investigate possible sham marriages and civil partnerships.
If the Home Office is confident of this possibility, it may order a thorough investigation, including interviews and home visits, in which case the notice period can be extended to 70 days.
A negative decision will not only prevent the couple from getting married in the UK, it may also include curtailment of leave or even immediate removal.
Having set the basis of determination as “whether either of the couple may stand to gain an immigration advantage from the proposed marriage or civil partnership”, the new Immigration Bill has now given the Home Office an excuse to ban every non EEA national that wants to get married in the UK.
The number of immigration decisions that can be appealed have been cut from 17 to only 4 possibilities.
Appeals against the refusal of a protection claim (a claim for asylum or humanitarian protection) can be founded on the basis of the removal of an appellant would:
- Breach the UK obligations under the Refugee Convention or persons entitled to humanitarian protection; or
- Be unlawful under Section 6 of the Human Rights Act.
Where an appeal is against the revocation of refugee or humanitarian protection status, the appeal can only be brought on the first ground.
When an appeal is against the refusal of a Human Rights claim, it can only be brought on the second ground.
This means that there will be no possibility to appeal against any negative decision on a visa applied for under the points based system. Refused applicants will be forced to reapply. This will have disastrous consequences for investors, students and every other applicant that will be losing valuable time and money.
Next to the abovementioned constrictions on marriages and appeals, the new Immigration Bill now authorizes the Home Office with more power.
Immigration officers will be allowed to use reasonable force when it is necessary in the exercise of their powers. An undefined notion as “reasonable force” reflects the amount of thought the editors of the Bill have put into this provision. What will follow of this are speculations and court decisions on to what extend we can speak of “reasonable force”. If this Bill had any aim to reduce the backlog of court cases, this clause will not have helped that cause.
Also, private landlords will have to check the immigration status of their tenants, to prevent those with no right to live in the UK from accessing private rented housing.
Unlawful immigrants will furthermore not be able to open current accounts, as banks will have to check every foreign client in a database of known immigration offenders.
In addition, it will be made possible to revoke the driving licences of overstayers.
The government has expressed a sudden attention to the importance of persons who seek to enter or remain in the UK must speak English. This is a valid point, since migrants who speak English will not have a hard time finding a job or integrating in the British society and will be beneficial to every community in the UK.
Alarming is that from now on, little weight will be given to the private life of immigrants, or the relationship they might have built with a qualifying partner when it is established at a time when that person’s immigration status is precarious. A little consideration is appropriate in these matters; the right to private life is still a basic right for every individual. The counteracting of abuse of this right could have been resolved more efficiently.
Temporary migrants will be required to make a financial contribution to the NHS. The question that arises here is if it can be considered fair to take money from people who will not be entitled to benefit from the system.
The purpose of the Bill was to make the UK the least attractive destination for illegal immigrants, while reinforcing the message that the British government welcomes legal migrants who contribute to the economy and society, but this plan might just backfire. Imposing some of these strict arrangements, the government’s attempt to clarify and complete the previous rules might just scare off promising foreign potential and imply serious problems for asylum seekers.
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