The University of Nottingham’s Student Union made clear last month that they are against a proposed bill put forward by the government for tackling illegal immigration, because they fear it could have a negative impact on international students.
The new law targets landlords in the private sector, requiring them to carry out immigration checks on prospective tenants, with penalties for landlords who fail to comply and choose to let accommodation to illegal non European Economic Area (EEA) migrants.
For UK-born citizens, the presentation of a passport or naturalisation certificate is sufficient in proving that they are eligible for tenancy. International students would have to present any one of an array of documents, ranging from an EEA or Swiss passport, to a Biometric Residence Permit or Visa stamp depending on which country they are from.
As it stands, most letting agents and landlords only ask to check a tenant’s university identity card, to prove that the prospective tenant is actually a student in order to prove exemption from council tax.
The SU stated, “We are against this proposal as we feel that it could create barriers for our international students, who may find themselves renting sub-standard accommodation as a result.”
A spokesman for the student letting agency Cunningham Lets told Impact that the law is a “double edged sword.” He stated, “I can see the point that the University is making for the private sector, as there will be landlords who won’t bother with that kind of paperwork, but as far as we are concerned, we will be following the rules and will not discriminate between international students and ones that live in the UK.”
A member of the Home Office would not assess any documentation directly, therefore landlords would be required to recognise fraudulent paperwork.
The consultation document provided by the Home Office, does acknowledge that “landlords are not expected to be an expert in recognising forgeries and, if they have taken reasonable steps to satisfy themselves as to the authenticity of the document presented, will not be held liable for being duped by forged documentation unless the forgery is reasonably apparent.”
With the number of international students choosing to study in the UK falling, there is a concern that the new law will make it difficult for international students to find acceptable housing. This may therefore discourage those wishing to come to the UK, as they would be left with sub-standard accommodation.
Opelo Kebaitse, a second year Chemical Engineering student from Botswana, told Impact that she did not think that the law would have as much of an effect on the housing of international students as suggested by the SU.
“Students who come to study in Nottingham would have all of their paperwork approved by the UK Border Agency before they come to study over here. So students with a University ID card would be able to easily demonstrate that they are legally eligible to be in the UK.
With the bill intended to come into effect in 2014, a question mark still hovers over whether such a law would be beneficial in reducing illegal immigration without a direct official checking every tenant’s status.
A clear indication has not been provided by the Home Office of the estimated figures of how many illegal immigrants the law is supposed to stop.