Warning Over Rental Obstacle For Foreign Students In UK

By ExpatBriefing.com Editorial 26 August, 2013

A body representing the interests of overseas students in the UK has warned that a Government proposal to require landlords to check the visa status of international students would be "highly damaging to UK recruitment, un-workable in practice and have no practical benefit to immigration control."

Under the proposals, a landlord or letting agency will have to take "reasonable steps" ahead of renting out a property to ensure that a tenant is not an illegal immigrant, or risk fines of thousands of pounds. In the case of citizens from within the European Free Trade Association (the EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), landlords would have to see a passport or ID card. For visitors from other countries, landlords would normally have to check the Biometric Residence Permit of those who have been given permission to stay for more than six months, or a valid immigration stamp in a passport for those staying for shorter periods.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) argues that the move would make the UK a less attractive destination for foreign students, and would damage the UK economy. Its concerns are laid out in a letter from UKCISA CEO Dominic Scott to the Home Office, in response to a Government consultation document.

Scott points out that the proposals would make it difficult for foreign students to secure accommodation ahead of arrival in the UK, and to extend a stay in the UK; foreign students often apply for a visa extension, and the requirement to submit documents - including passports - to the Home Office to facilitate this would make it impossible to extend a tenancy agreement at the same time. In cases where a student is in the process of appealing a decision, there would be "a disproportionately unjust effect," with the student rendered homeless.

The letter further argues that the move would increase and duplicate existing checks already in place on non-EU students, would place a disproportionate load on landlords (who would have to familiarize themselves with immigration stamps and related issues), on international students, and on UK domestic students. The proposals would lead "at the very least" to administrative discrimination, with landlords becoming cautious about renting to anyone who appears to be "foreign." It adds that there is no evidence of international students obtaining privately rented accommodation without having valid visas.

The Government is also considering whether the requirement should also apply to homes that take in lodgers, although lower penalties would apply. UKCISA points out that this may discourage households from offering "host family" accommodation to foreign students who come to the UK to study English.

While opposing the measures, Scott suggests that if extra checks must go ahead, there should be exemptions for those with immigration leave of six months or less, and for all accommodation, including private rental properties, which is used exclusively for students. Further, a letter from the student's institution confirming enrolment should be sufficient documentation.

Tags: Expatriates | Law | United Kingdom | Regulation | Education | Expats | Visas And Passports | Education |


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