Home Office to target illegal immigrants with bank accounts
New legislation now requires all UK banks to check the identity of every current account holder in Britain against a Home Office supplied database. From January 2018, banks and building societies will check 70 million accounts, which will assist Theresa May’s Government in detecting illegal immigrants.
In their first year of checks, the Home Office expects to identify 6,000 visa over-stayers, failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders facing deportation.
Checks are to be carried out quarterly and accounts of those identified will be frozen or closed down. Officials say that freezing accounts that hold a substantial amount of money will encourage account holders to voluntarily leave the UK. Only if they agree to leave the UK, will they be able to access their money.
Immigration welfare campaigners warned that migrants who are entitled to reside in the UK could be identified incorrectly by officials. The Home Office has a poor track record for complying with their own guidance and has repeatedly been exposed for giving out incorrect information. Can the Government be trusted to implement this new system properly?
If customers tell their bank that they have been identified incorrectly, they will be told to contact the Home Office. If customers can prove their entitlement to legal residence in the UK by showing their passport or biometric residence permit, banks will still ask them to deal with the Home Office.
Some Banks have already amended their banking terms of conditions and have emailed their customers regarding “changes to how we check your eligibility to bank with us based on your immigration status”.
Under the Immigration Act 2014, if someone wants to open a new bank or building society account, status checks must be made. However, these changes will require checks to be made on every current account in Britain. The Government hopes to identify those liable for removal or deportation because they are over-stayers, failed asylum seekers or those who have absconded from immigration detention.
Accounts will not be closed if it leaves the migrant without the financial means to live. Account closure can also be delayed to recover debts or deal with complex joint accounts.
These measures may affect legal migrants who do not have permanent leave to remain in the UK, as they may find it more difficult to open a new bank account. However, the Home Office say they will monitor the situation and confirm that banking laws ban discrimination against legally resident customers. Banks will not need to contact account holders to carry out their checks.
These new bank account checks are part of a number of measures that have been brought in by the Immigration Act 2016. Other measures include “right to rent” checks with heavy fines for landlords who let homes to illegal migrants, checks on driving licenses and tougher measures against illegal working.
A Home Office spokesperson said “as approved by parliament in December 2016, from January banks and building societies will be required to carry out regular checks on the immigration status of all current account holders against the details of known illegal migrants to establish whether their customers are known to be in the UK unlawfully. This is part of our ongoing work to tackle illegal migration. People who are here legally will be unaffected.”
Lupins have a team of highly experienced specialists in this matter. If you are unsure about your situation or if you need any assistance in clarifying your status or need advice about regularizing your status in the UK, please contact us.