Until 12 December 2014, anyone with proof of identity and address could open an account at a bank or a building society. As part of the government’s agenda to make Britain a hostile environment, bank accounts were also targeted. After enactment of the Immigration Act 2014, sections 40-42, new accounts could not be opened for those without permission to live in the UK. A ‘status check’ was carried out at the application stage. This also applied those trying to open a joint bank account or being added as an additional account holder.
This mean that those accounts which were opened prior to 12 December 2014 were unaffected. So those who initially had leave to remain or enter, could continue to benefit from having a bank account once their permission to reside had expired.
This will change from 31 October 2017. New provisions under the 2014 Act will require banks and building societies to make ‘regular’ checks on existing account holders. According to the Guardian, there are around 70 million accounts to be checked. All ‘disqualified’ account holders will be identified. This includes illegal migrants and those without leave to remain. Once identified, the bank or building society will be obliged to report details of the person and any associated accounts to home office. The accounts of such disqualified persons will either be frozen or closed.
Further information from the Home Office on the new duties for banks is linked here. Whilst access to frozen accounts will be provided in limited cases, it is likely this will be riddled with difficulties.