21 October 2014
The UK government is penalising thousands of people every year who have been legally living and working in the UK for decades, devaluing their existing legal status and often leaving them with no legal right to work or claim to benefits, according to a report from the Legal Action Group (LAG).
So what is happening?
Thousands of long-term residents of the UK – many of whom came to the UK as children and were educated, married and have raised families here – have been caught out by recent legislation. There have been several cases brought to the LAG’s attention which detail immigrants running into difficulties after replacing their original passports. These cases have occurred where the passport holder has replaced their original passport containing an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) stamp and has been issued a replacement passport which lacks this information. Current legislation prevents an employer from taking on a worker without carrying out a prescribed document check to confirm the individual is allowed to stay in the UK and is currently allowed to do the type of work in question.
A particular case was highlighted by LAG in its report as being a typical example of how the system is catching migrants out. It came to pass that a working single-father lost his job and right to claim benefits after a new passport was issued to him which did not contain his ILR stamp. After his employer of 3 years asked to see his paperwork and discovered that he no longer held an ILR endorsement in a valid passport, he was dismissed and forced to borrow money from friends and family before finally winning his case.
This legislation is likely to disproportionately affect the longer-established immigrant communities who have previously relied on ageing papers or documents to prove their legal status and secure employment. The report therefore outlines suggested changes to help address the problem, including the creation of a specialist Home Office unit to deal with such applications, and grant permission for applicants to continue working or to receive benefits while their applications are dealt with.
Who would have thought that replacing an existing passport containing an ILR stamp with a new passport that lacks this information would result in such a dramatic lifestyle change for so many?