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Prevention of illegal working and sanctions applied to UK employers

12 April 2010

The overarching purpose of the sponsor licence system is the prevention of illegal working by making UK employers bear responsibility for employing migrants and by carrying out checks on their employees to make it easier for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to weed out illegal working. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the employers to ensure that the people they are employing are legally allowed to work in the UK in the role offered. Under the Tier 2 Scheme a UK employer will need a sponsor licence to employ skilled migrants to work for them. However, UK employers will also be subject to inspections and sanctions if they fail to comply with the legislation.

The UKBA may carry out visiting officer checks before a decision to issue a sponsor licence is made or after the licence is issued in order to ensure that the information provided on the sponsor licence application was an accurate description of the organisation and to ascertain that the sponsor is in compliance.

Under section 21 of the 2006 Act, an employer will commit a criminal offence if they knowingly employ an illegal worker and no defence may be available to them. On summary conviction, the maximum penalty an employer may be given is a fine of no more than the statutory maximum for each person employed illegally and imprisonment for up to 6 months. Following conviction on indictment, there is no upper limit to the level of fine that can be imposed and the employer may be subject to imprisonment for up to two years.

The defence is not available in cases when it is known that the individual does not have a right to work. Similarly it will not be available if the employer accepted a document used for verification of their employees’ right to work in the UK when it was “reasonable apparent” that the document is false.

The level and form of the sanctions will depend on the nature of the offence. They include civil penalties on a sliding scale (a fine up to £10000 per illegal employee), criminal prosecution (for up to two years), down-grading from A to B, having the licence withdrawn as well as the potential for damage to reputation by being named and shamed on the UK Border Agency’s website.




Migra & Co is a private immigration company, regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), reference number F200900038. This website is not a government website and as such, we are not linked or affiliated with the UK Visas and Immigration. We offer expert legal advice and flexible tailored solutions to both private and corporate clients to ensure that their immigration needs are met. If you wish to download or prepare a UK visa application form, you can do so free of charge by visiting the Official UKVI website.