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© Pathfynder Limited 2018. Pathfynder Solicitors is a trading name of Pathfynder Limited, a company registered in England and Wales with company registration number 10170947. The registered address is King House, 5-11 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 4UA. Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, SRA No. 629672.


bank accountsThe environment has become tougher for migrants since 2010 with the Government trying to find ways to make the UK an unattractive destination for migrants. Not only has the Government tried to dissuade people from coming to the UK, it has also sought to make it harder for those who are in the UK unlawfully to remain here. One of these methods is the restriction on access to bank accounts which came into effect on 12 December 2014.

Section 40(1) of the Immigration Act 2014 prohibits banks and building societies from opening a bank account for a person until a status check has been carried out.

If the result of the status check is that the person is disqualified from being eligible for a bank account, the bank or building society must not open the account. However, if the bank or building society is unable to carry out the status check for reasons beyond its control the prohibition will not apply.

What is a status check?

A status check means carrying out a check with a specified anti-fraud organisation or a specified data-matching authority to determine whether a person is lawfully in the UK. The organisations themselves are expected to maintain records based on information provided by the Secretary of State so it is not clear yet how up to date these organisations will be. It is also unclear whether these organisations will be able to obtain information from other sources and how accurate these sources will be. This possibly explains why an exemption exists to enable banks or building societies to open an account where a status check cannot be carried out.

What types of bank accounts are covered?

The definition of bank account in the legislation is quite wide and prevents those unlawfully in the UK from being:

A joint account holder;

A signatory to an account;

A beneficiary of an account; and

Added as an account holder, signatory or beneficiary to an existing account.

Changes made by the Immigration Act 2016

On 12 May 2016 the Immigration Act 2016 came into force. The 2016 Act goes beyond the Immigration Act 2014 and seeks to make it even harder for migrants unlawfully in the UK to open or operate a bank account. Section 40 of the Immigration 2016 Act brought into effect Schedule 7 which contains a series of new sections including:

Requirements for banks and building societies to carry out periodic status checks;

Notifying the Secretary of State that a person who is unlawfully in the UK is seeking to open an account;

Powers for the Secretary of State to apply for freezing orders in respect of these accounts; and

Powers to close bank accounts.

The exact details of the changes brought in by Schedule 7 will be expanded upon in further regulations and we will have to wait to see how these operate in practice.

Written by Shahjahan Ali

Please note that this article is for information only and should not be taken as legal and/or financial advice. Immigration law changes regularly and it may be the case that this page has not been updated to take into account the latest changes. If you would like advice on your personal circumstances, please feel free to contact us.

Restrictions on migrants opening bank accounts in the UK - 15 Aug 2016