Starting January 2018 banks and building societies in United Kingdom will carry out checks to establish if the account holders are residents there. These checks will affect all customers regardless of their nationality.
The exercise is in line with the Immigration Act 2014, which prohibits banks and building societies from opening current accounts for people who are known not to leave or enter UK. The 2016 Immigration Act mandates banks and building societies to monitor the immigration status of current account holders. Over 70 million accounts will be looked at every three months to confirm the immigration status of their holders.
The banks are expected to report to the Home Office the details of any of the names of none residents and freeze or close their accounts. Flagged Accounts will still be frozen or closed even if the owner can provide a passport or biometric residence permit showing that they are legally in Britain. In such cases, banks have been told to adopt a default position by referring the affected account holders with the Home Office regardless of whether they have proof they are legally in Britain or not.
The move is likely to affect largely migrants and ethnic minorities. The move has triggered among immigrant communities, saying most banks might become reluctant to offer services even to legal migrants due to fear of monitoring despite the fact that banking laws ban discrimination against legal resident.
There are also fears that instead of encouraging the illegal immigrants to go home, the checks will simply drive them underground. They also believe the home office is creating a hostile environment for immigrants yet they will be required by the same Home Office to provide proof of address in form of a bank account to support their application for residency.