The Home Office has announced that banks and building societies have started to share details of the current accounts of individuals who known to be living in the UK without an immigration permission. The Home Office has confirmed in a press release issued on 12 January 2018 that banks and building societies have started carry out the checks.
Why must banks make reports?
Following changes to the law, introduced by the Immigration Act 2014, it is already extremely difficult for those without an express immigration status to open bank accounts in the UK. The Home Office shares details of individuals known to be living in the UK without an immigration permission with a fraud prevention organisation, Cifas which then shares that data with banks and building societies. The new rules bought into effect in October 2017 require that where a bank or building society finds that an account is operated by a person disqualified by reason of their immigration status they advise the Home Office. The Home Office will then double check the details before instructing the bank or building society on the action it should take. This can include closing the account.
From 01 January 2018 banks and building societies are also required to carry out quarterly checks on the immigration status of account holders, against the information passed to them by Cifas. Reports must be made to the Home Office.
The Home Office anticipates that around 6,000 illegal migrants will be identified in the first 12 months, through the immigration status checks on current accounts. However, no figures have been published about reports made to date.
Why are the rules introduced?
The rules are introduced to strengthen the ‘hostile environment’ against migrants living in the UK without permission. This is being created by the Home Office to encourage individuals who are unable to successfully obtain an immigration status to make arrangements to leave the UK. Measures taken to create the hostile environment include limitations on right to rent, the right to access the NHS and the right to work and drive in the UK. As with the other changes brought into force to reduce the rights of migrants, the limitations on being able to operate a bank account have been subject to criticism. Home Office data is often unreliable even in relation to the immigration status and rights of individuals. There are concerns that the current accounts of individuals who are in the UK legitimately will be mistakenly closed and that vulnerable individuals whose accounts are closed will be at increased risk of exploitation.
If you are living in the UK without an immigration status, you risk losing your right to operate a current account. If you are unsure on what to do next it is important that you take immigration advice as soon as possible. You must be able to evidence an appropriate immigration status to work, rent property, drive and operate a bank account. Clifford Johnston’s immigration solicitors are able to advise you on your rights and whether you can lawfully apply to obtain an immigration status to re-enter, or remain in the UK to do this.
If you would like a confidential discussion, please speak to our solicitors on 0161 975 1900, or email firstname.lastname@example.org