The purposes of the Act, as set out by the Government, are to:
- End the perceived abuse of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life;
- Prevent illegal immigrants accessing and abusing public services or the labour market; and
- Reform the removals and appeals system, making it easier and quicker to remove those with no right to be in the UK.
The Act’s main provisions include:
- Requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. This will be implemented on a phased basis with a pilot in one geographical area first. The idea is to prevent those with no right to live in the UK from accessing private rented housing;
- Introducing a new requirement that temporary migrants with time-limited immigration status must make a financial contribution where they are seeking to use the National Health Service;
- Making it easier for the Home Office to recover unpaid civil penalties;
- Requiring banks to check against a database of known immigration offenders before opening bank accounts;
- Introducing new powers to check the immigration status of driving licence applicants before issuing a licence and revoking licences where immigrants are found to have overstayed in the UK;
- Reducing the number of immigration decisions that can be appealed from 17 to 4 while allowing the British Government to return certain harmful individuals before their appeals are heard if there is no risk of serious irreversible harm;
- Ensuring that the courts have regard to Parliament’s view of what the public interest requires when considering Article 8 claims in immigration cases – making clear the right to a family life is not to be regarded as absolute and unqualified; and
- Making it harder for those who try to gain an immigration advantage by entering into a sham marriage or civil partnership.
Many organisations have expressed their concern about the equality and human rights impacts of the measures. The Government will feel that as we draw nearer to the General Election in May 2015, it can point to this Act as evidence to the general public that it is getting to grips with the concerns about the growth in the immigration population in the UK.
The measures in the Act will come into effect from summer 2014 onwards.