From January 2018, banks and building societies will be required to carry out checks on account holders to check they are legally allowed to be in the UK.
Over 70 million current accounts will be checked.
The Guardian stated this will be the “biggest extension of Theresa May’s plans to create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants in Britain.
A former board member of TSB has warned the checks could be an “absolute nightmare” for staff and the best immigration solicitors are worried that innocent migrants could be adversely targeted due to errors being made by bank and building society staff.
Plans to identify over 6,000 overstayers
The Immigration Act 2016 requires banks and building societies to check the identity of account holders against a Home Office supplied database held by the anti-fraud organisation, Cifas.
Safeguards have been included to prevent bank accounts being suddenly closed, leaving the holder with no access to funds for everyday living.
The Home Office, which states the new system is “fair but firm” expects to identify around 6,000 visa overstayers, failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders facing deportation within the first 12 months of the checks being in place.
Migrants who are identified as being in the UK illegally will have their accounts shut or frozen, “to make it hard for them to establish or maintain a settled life in the UK”. Those affected will be able to access their money once they have left the country.
A recipe for mistakes?
The best immigration lawyers and other migrant welfare groups have pointed out the Home Office’s recent quality record and habit of changing guidance arbitrarily means there is a high chance mistakes will be made.
Satbir Singh, the CEO of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants criticised the move stating; “The government’s own record shows it cannot be trusted even to implement this system properly. Immigration status is very complex, and the Home Office consistently gives out incorrect information and guidance.
“Migrants and ethnic minorities with every right to be here will be affected by the imposition of these new checks”.
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Posted on: Friday, 22 September, 2017