Immigration Act 2016

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The provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 came into force yesterday, 12th July 2016, and introduces a number of new obligations on employers and landlords.

Why has the Act been introduced?

Immigration Act 2016 Employing Illegal immigrantsThe Government is of the opinion that it is currently too easy for employers to exploit illegal workers and, therefore, deny work to UK citizens and legal migrants.  The impact of such exploitation is to drive down wages and competition in the workforce.  The Act aims to deter this and to ultimately encourage businesses to employ UK workers by using the funds raised through the immigration skills charge to improve the skills of UK workers.

The Government is also determined that illegal workers should not be able to access private rented accommodation as this prevents lawful residents from finding a home.  Therefore, the Act also aims to:

  • make it easier for landlords to evict illegal immigrants; and
  • punish those landlords and agents who either exploit or fail to remove illegal migrants from their properties.

Key Features of the Act

The Act creates a number of new offences of illegal working and renting accommodation to illegal workers.  It also extends the existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal worker.

The main features for employers to be aware of are listed below.

  • Creating a new offence of illegal working which will enable the earnings of illegal workers to be seized.
  • Creating a new closure order to combat serial employers of illegal workers.
  • Creating an associated criminal offence of breaching such an order.
  • Creating a new offence of renting accommodation to an illegal worker.
  • Increasing conviction on indictment of knowingly employing an illegal worker from 2 to 5 years, including where an employer would “have reasonable cause to believe” that an individual is an illegal worker.
  • Giving new powers to immigration officers to search and seize evidence of illegal working (e.g. payslips or timesheets) or of illegal renting (e.g. tenancy agreements or letting paperwork).

There are also other changes included in the act which do not yet have a date for commencement.  These include:

  • an immigration skills charge on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside the EEA (scheduled to be introduced in April 2017); and
  • a requirement that public authorities ensure that public workers in customer-facing roles speak fluent English.

Employers’ Obligations

Employers’ obligations regarding any potential employee’s right to work in the UK remains the same.  Checks must be carried out before the employee starts work, records of these checks must be kept and repeat checks carried out as necessary.

Repeated failure to adopt these measures means that under the new provisions the business could be closed whilst investigations are carried out.

Landlords also now need to carry out identity checks in relation to prospective tenants to be sure that the individuals have the right to be in the UK.  The penalty for not carrying out the relevant checks is £3,000 per illegal migrant tenant.