Exit checks on departure

In our latest blog we shared information on the recent immigration raids by the Home Office. Currently, the Government is working on implementation of exit checks on departure. Immigration is certainly a hot topic on the Government’s agenda at present.

The Home Office estimates that over 100 million passengers travel out of the UK each year, through airports, seaports and international rail terminals.

Currently passengers are only checked for immigration purposes on their arrival in the UK but no record is made of their departures. The numbers exiting the UK are primarily measured using the International Passenger Survey (IPS) based on interviewing willing passengers at various UK ports. It is a small sample and reliant on passengers reporting their intentions honestly. Headline estimates of net migration are only considered accurate to within plus or minus 35,000, although they are considered better when viewed over the long term. The UK Statistics Authority has recognized the limitations of the IPS and has called for action to be taken to address this problem.

Paper-based exit checks were abolished in 1994 and 1998. Since the early 2000s successive governments have worked towards introducing technology-based checks on persons departing the country, as part of the “e-Borders” programme. e-Borders was originally scheduled to be fully implemented by March 2014 but has been abandoned, at least in the form originally envisaged.

The idea behind e-Borders was to require transport carriers to collect passengers’ personal information (such as the biographic information held in their passport) and provide this to immigration and law enforcement authorities in advance of travel. Staff in the National Border Targeting Centre would use this record of travellers passing through UK ports of entry/exit to conduct security checks on travellers, in order to identify persons of interest to the immigration authorities and police.

In October this year, the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, confirmed that the Home Office is committed to introducing exit checks by April 2015 and is currently developing and testing a new Departure Lists system. This will enable Border Control to confirm departure and improve Border Control’s ability to identify those who have overstayed, having arrived after 1 April 2015.

The Government is proposing to give port and transport provider staff a role in implementing exit checks.

Immigration is certainly at the forefront of government policy at present and individuals and companies are recommended to carefully consider any immigration compliance issues they face. Immigration compliance history plays a significant part in any visa application in the UK and also may have an impact on visa applications worldwide. The proposed introduction of exit checks in April 2015 is likely to strengthen the Home Office in controlling the immigration compliance and at the very least will improve the accuracy of the net migration figures that are published.

At Redfern Legal we are focused on the recent developments in the immigration rules and policies and we pride ourselves in providing sound and practical advice to our clients. If you have any questions or need advice on UK immigration, please contact us.

Kasia Janucik