UK banks to check immigration status from January: govt

The UK is beginning to crackdown on those in the country illegally with immigration checks on bank account holders (AFP Photo/LEON NEAL) (AFP/File)

London (AFP) - UK banks will start carrying out immigration checks on all account holders from January, part of a crackdown on those in the country illegally, the government said Thursday.

"From January banks and building societies will be required to carry out regular checks on the immigration status of all current account holders against the details of known illegal migrants to establish whether their customers are known to be in the UK unlawfully," a Home Office spokesman told AFP.

Confirmation of the date comes after parliament in December approved a new Immigration Act, which requires banks to check its accounts and report customers found to be breaking immigration rules to the Home Office.

"This is part of our ongoing work to tackle illegal migration. People who are here legally will be unaffected," the spokesman said.

Earlier legislation prevented migrants illegally in Britain from opening bank accounts, while the new rules go further by tracing accounts opened before the 2014 law and people who have overstayed their visa.

Under the measures the government will be able to apply, without notice, for a court order to freeze the accounts of migrants found to be in Britain illegally.

There are exceptions for joint accounts or allowing a person to access funds to cover living expenses and legal costs to appeal the decision.

The Home Office may also order banks to close accounts, apart from those which are overdrawn or shared with those who would be negatively affected.