Have you been wrongfully locked out of your bank account due to your immigration status?
On 30th October 2017 new measures came into force which require banks to check the immigration status of existing account holders. If you are in the UK illegally you will be classified as a “disqualified person” and your account will be closed by the bank.
This sounds straightforward. However, Inspectors sampling the Home Office data base recently found that 10% of persons were wrongly listed as “disqualified persons”. Worryingly this means that persons lawfully living in the UK and therefore entitled to hold a bank account might suddenly find themselves locked out of their own accounts! Without your bank account how will you receive you wages, pay your bills and feed your family?
So what can you do when the Home Office have got it wrong?
What about taking proof of your immigration status to the bank to show that you are lawfully in the UK, such as your British passport or Biometric Resident Card, in the belief that your bank will help you out by contacting the Home Office and telling them they’ve got it wrong? Don’t count on it!
Guidance issued by the Home Office to the Banks advises them that their default position should be to refuse an application or close the account. Only in exceptional cases where there is a definite reason to believe an error has occurred should the bank refer the case to the Home Office for further investigation.
Importantly there is NO requirement for the bank to make any further checks themselves!
Therefore, if you are unlucky enough to be wrongly classed as a “disqualified person” by the Home Office then you will need to argue your case with the Home Office.
The Home Office have provided information on how to raise an issue with them, perhaps not so handy is that the way to raise your issue is via their generic complaints process which promises a response within 20 working days.
In the meantime while your complaint is working its way through their undoubtedly overworked complaint’s process you will left with no access to your bank account! There is no mechanism to allow for emergency access to your bank.
Unfortunately these new measures do not surprise those who regularly deal with the Home Office and their “hostile environment” that they promote to those that they consider to be unlawfully in the UK.
If you require further information regarding your bank account you can access the Government’s guidance by following this link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/current-account-closed-or-refused-based-on-immigration-status
David Gray Solicitors offer expert legal advice on your immigration matter, we can help you navigate your way through complex Home Office systems. Call us today on 0191 232 9547.