The UK’s ‘hostile environment’: New Year to bring the first round of quarterly immigration checks on UK bank account holders

New legislation came into force on 30 October 2017 which requires certain financial institutions in the UK to carry out quarterly checks on individuals who hold specified accounts to confirm that they have UK immigration permission. The first round of these quarterly checks must take place by 31 March 2018.


Previously, banks and building societies were only required to carry out these checks on new account holders. Existing current account holders will now be caught by the rules and will have their details checked against the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS) database which holds the details of known individuals who allegedly do not have UK immigration permission the details of which are provided by the Home Office.

Financial institutions are required to notify the Home Office if they find a match on the CIFAS database. The Home Office will then verify the individual’s immigration status and may apply to a court to freeze the individual’s account or to notify the financial institution that it is under a duty to close the account.

These changes have created cause for concern as there are fears that the Home Office records may contain errors, including out-of-date information. There is no designated appeals process against closure of an account and current Home Office guidance suggests that individuals whose accounts are closed following these checks should prepare to leave the UK. Individuals who think they have been wrongly identified by this system are invited to raise a complaint via the generic Home Office complaints process.

These changes are the latest in a whole host of policies introduced by the Government as part of the ‘hostile environment’. Other measures include clamping down on illegal working, restrictions on the ability to rent property in the UK and powers to seize and retain driving licences.

BWB are specialists in personal and corporate immigration and are well-placed to advise those concerned about the hostile environment policies. If you have any queries in relation to this article or would like to seek further advice, please contact Chetal Patel, Senior Associate in our Immigration Department.


This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of November 22, 2017.