When is it OK to Employ Illegal Immigrants?

When is it OK to employ illegal immigrants? | HR Solutions

The news is full of misleading headlines about the immigration crisis in Calais and the impact it will have on the UK.

Whatever the true extent of that situation, illegal immigrants are a serious and ongoing concern for employers. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to tell you everything that you need to know about how illegal workers can affect your business.

When is it OK to Employ Illegal Immigrants?

Firstly, employing illegal immigrants in the UK is never OK. To do so is a serious offence that can lead to fines, sponsorship restrictions, and even a custodial sentence if you are found to have ‘knowingly employed’ someone with no legal right to work in the UK.

An illegal immigrant may be someone who has:

  • Entered the UK without the correct authority
  • Entered the UK under a false identity
  • Overstayed their visa
  • Worked or studied on a tourist visa or a non-immigrant visa waiver
  • Entered into a forced or a fraudulent marriage

A student who works for more than their allowed number of hours could also be an illegal worker.

What are the consequences of employing illegal workers?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are the department in charge of immigration management. They operate a penalty system to punish employers who they find to have been using illegal workers.

If UKVI suspects that you may be employing illegal workers you will receive a Referral Notice.

What do I do if I receive a Referral Notice?

A Referral Notice will inform you that:

  • Your case is being considered
  • You may be eligible for a fine of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker found in your employment

Following receipt of a Referral Notice you will receive an Information Request. This will ask you to confirm the following by a set deadline:

  • Your business details (if you are the employer) or the business details of the actual employer (if you are not the employer of the illegal workers identified)
  • Whether you have undertaken the required document checks of the workers named in the Referral Notice
  • If you have reported any suspicions about the right to work of any of the illegal workers
  • If you have any documentary evidence to support your decision to employ the illegal workers

Following the deadline UKVI will consider all of the information that you have provided and reach a decision.

The Investigation

Section 21 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 states that it is a criminal offence to knowingly employ an illegal migrant worker. Doing so is punishable by a maximum of two years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.

The investigation will consider:

  • The types of eligibility checks you have made on your workers
  • The number of previous warnings or penalties UKVI has issued to you
  • The extent to which you have cooperated with the investigation

You will receive a written notification if UKVI finds that no further action is required.

Warning Notice

UKVI may issue you with a Warning Notice if they find you guilty of employing an illegal worker and you have not received a Warning Notice or a Civil Penalty Notice within the previous three years.

You must also meet the following mitigating factors:

  • Have you reported the suspected illegal workers to UKVI?
  • Have you actively co-operated with UKVI?
  • Do you have effective document checking practices in place?
Civil Penalty Notice

If you are liable and you do not meet the criteria to receive a warning notice, UKVI will send you a Civil Penalty Notice.

The penalties available to UKVI include:

  • A fine of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker
  • Downgrading or removing your business from the register of sponsors

Removal from the register of sponsors will mean that you will no longer be able to bring any migrant workers to the UK or keep any of your existing migrant employees.

UKVI may also publish the details of your business and the offence.

How to Protect Your Business

The penalties that UKVI can issue to your business are severe. Professional HR management can help to protect both your finances and your reputation.

HR Solutions provide an all-in-one automated HR management system. This software allows you to store both shared and private employee information, schedule checks and keep secure records. It is also the perfect tool for running day-to-day tasks such as managing holidays, sickness, absence and more.


Call us on 0844 324 5840 or contact us online to find out more.

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