Enforcing Penalties

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) has reinforced the law relating to the prevention of illegal migrant working in the UK. This new Act supersedes the controls previously provided for by section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996.

Committing an offence

As an employer you will be deemed to have committed an offence if you are found to be employing a person aged 16 or over who is subject to immigration control unless that person has current and valid permission to be in the United Kingdom, and the person has valid permission to do the type of work for which you have employed them.

Civil and Criminal penalties

As a employer, if you are found to be employing illegal migrant workers the Home Office will serve you with a Notification of Potential Liability (NOPL) and a civil penalty of up to £10,000 per illegal worker. Criminal penalties may be imposed for employers who knowingly and deliberately use illegal migrant workers which carry a maximum two year custodial sentence and/or an unlimited fine.

Statutory excuse

Employers under the 2006 Act are afforded an opportunity to protect themselves against liability by checking and copying the original documents of a potential employee prior to employing them. In practice if you can prove that you complied with the document checking and storage requirements you may be excused from liability from any penalty, even if it turns out that the person you have employed is subject to immigration control and is working without the necessary permission.

Action by Home Office

If you are found to be employing illegal migrants and are an employer or hold a sponsor license (Tier 2 and 5) you may be subject to any of the following penalties:

  • You may be given a written warning for employing an illegal worker, followed by close attention from the enforcement and compliance teams
  • Your licence may be cancelled and you may be removed from the register of sponsors, which means you no longer are able to sponsor migrants under Tier 2 and 5
  • You may be served with an on-the-spot fine (known as a civil penalty)
  • You may be prosecuted for knowingly employing an illegal migrant worker and be imprisoned for up to two years and/or receive an unlimited fine