Doctors and landlords will not have to become “immigration officers” despite new laws which require them to carry out checks on foreign patients and tenants, the Home Secretary has said.
The government’s immigration bill contains a legal requirement for private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants.
The legislation will also require overseas nationals to prove they are in Britain legally before they can visit at GP or hospital.
They will have to produce their visa before they are issued with a temporary NHS number, a move which doctors have warned will turn them into “border guards”.
However, Theresa May told BBC Breakfast: “This isn’t a questions of suddenly everybody is going to be turned into an immigration officer.”
She said that the checks carried out by landlords will be similar to those carried out by employers, and that the Home Office is setting up a helpline to provide assistance.
Under the plans, students from outside Europe will have to pay a levy of £200 before they are permitted to use the health service.
Mrs May said: “Crucially, in the bill, what we’ll be doing is addressing the issue that people get fed up when they feel that people are able to come into the country and access the health service without having contributed to it.
“So we will be asking for a surcharge – there’ll be a sort of levy on people who are going to be coming here to be staying for a while to contribute so that people can feel it’s fair that actually people are being asked to contribute to public services such as the NHS.
“But also, one of the things the NHS has always been quite bad at is charging people who they should be charging – people who don’t actually have a right to have free access to the NHS, and recovering those costs from them, and we’re going to improve the way that that will be done.”
Under the legislation, which is unveiled today, illegal immigrants will be denied driving licences.
Banks will also be told to refuse to open accounts for foreigners who are not entitled to be in Britain.
The Coalition’s Immigration Bill will also require some foreign nationals to pay a £200 surcharge to use the NHS.
The legislation is the Government’s response to the rise of the UK Independence Party and growing public unease about immigration.
The Bill will give the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency powers to check the immigration status of people applying for a licence. In addition, immigrants who are found to have overstayed in Britain will have their licences revoked.
Bank staff will be legally required to check applicants’ details against databases held by anti-fraud organisations. The Home Office said that such databases hold government data on “tens of thousands of illegal migrants”.
Speaking on ITV1’s Daybreak, she said the government is exploring ways to discourage an immigration influx from Romania and Bulgaria in 2014.
She suggested that they may be denied access to benefits.
She said: “One of the things that we’re looking at is some of the pull factors and separately from the bill some work is being done on the whole question of access to benefits, for example. The transitional controls do come off at the end of the year for Romanians and Bulgarians but we are, as I say, looking at a number of things that I think could make a difference.”
See on www.telegraph.co.uk