Business as usual? Hostile Measures Mini Series: Part 2


It's been almost 10 years since Theresa May first introduced the hostile environment initiative. The objective was to make life in the UK very difficult for an illegal immigrant to live. Those who did not have the correct documentation to prove their immigration status would not be able to work, rent, to have a bank account or to obtain a licence to drive.  

Unfortunately in reality, not having the correct documentation also means that "legal" migrants could be at risk if they fall victim to Home Office errors. The online system which allows employers, landlords or estate agents and banks to check one's immigration status is not always reliable and accurate. Home Office errors and relying on them causes huge risks to the employers, landlords and others who are required to check a person's immigration status. An example of this was the Windrush scandal, whereby bank accounts were frozen because the Home Office did not hold records of the person's legal immigration status. As a result, the right to bank was suspended. 

The alternative method to check on a non-settled person's immigration status, will be to do manual checks. Only when the checks are conducted correctly will a statutory defence be established. It is extremely important not to overlook the Home office guidance when conducting a Right to Work (RTW) or Right to Rent (RTR) check. If the checks are not followed strictly, for example only the date of the check was recorded, it would mean that a statutory defence was not established. 

Then, CoVid happened and everything changed and the Home Office had to adapt. The Home Office first published it's adjustments to the RTW and RTR checks on 30 March 2020. The adjustments provided flexibility. Since the adjustments were first introduced, the Home Office extended the end date 4 times; Part 1 of the Hostile Measures mini series sets out a brief overview how to conduct an adjustment RTW check. The temporary adjustments to RTW checks due to COVID-19 will end on 5 April 2022 (inclusive). 

The Home Office are obviously keen to end the temporary adjustments, arguably so that the hostile environment is maintained.  

On 5 November 2021, the Home Office published a list of companies who hold a Sponsor Licence who have been found to be non-compliant between January 2021 - March 2021. The most highest civil penalty fine the Home Office has issued during this period is £90,000 to one Sponsor. The Home Office can issue a civil penalty fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.  

It is important to remember that the Skilled Worker Sponsor licence is considered a privilege, not a right. Employers who hold a Sponsor licence are required to ensure the immigration system is not abused, comply with wider UK law and not behave in a manner that is not conducive to the public good. Now that the CoVid restrictions have eased, the Home Office will revert back to their pre-CoVid practices and make unannounced on-site visits.

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Last updated on 5 November 2021 - Employers: illegal working penalties Quarterly reports showing the total number of fines (also known as civil penalties) for illegal working issued to non-compliant employers in each region of the UK.
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